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Journey to Silius

The world of video game development is often a rocky road to getting a finished product to market.  The majority of games released can often yield many interesting stories about features that were planned, elements removed, or even odd changes of genre.  Not every game turns out the way the designers hoped or expected which is usually the reason bad games turn out that way.  Sunsoft’s Journey to Silius is one such case as it began life as a licensed product only to become something mostly original.

Journey to Silius was released in 1990 worldwide.  In the future the Earth is facing massive overpopulation leading to the creation of space colonies.  But not everyone leaving the planet is a saint.  During construction of Colony #428 it is obliterated by terrorists, killing Jay McCray’s father and his research team.   Following his father’s will Jay sets out to protect the remaining colonies and get revenge.

Originally conceived as a tie in to the Terminator those plans fell through so Sunsoft made minor alterations and created an original intellectual property.  In some respects they didn’t do much to hide the Terminator connection but it was enough to avoid getting sued.  Regardless, Journey to Silius is an original action romp that doesn’t break any new ground but still provides enjoyable thrills in the same vein as Contra.  This is a great game that has gone under the radar and deserves a much higher profile and for fans of run and gun action games is probably the next best thing after Konami’s classic.

Through 5 stages you control Jay as he battles the terrorists and their mechanical army.  The standard pea shooter is complimented by 6 additional weapons you receive after defeating each boss.  These weapons use a separate bar for ammo that depletes faster depending on the weapon.  Bottom line, get real comfortable with the pistol, you’ll be using it a lot.

The controls are pretty smooth for the most part aside from the jumping, which is a bit floaty.  This isn’t much of an issue as there is very little platforming, it just sticks out considering the rest of the package.  There isn’t any one feature that helps the game stand out, all of the mechanics are done solidly, and the game will remind you of Contra in many facets, the biggest reason being the difficulty.

Although there are only 5 stages each is extremely long and will throw a mélange of enemies at you in droves.  You are severely underpowered compared to the forces you face since you’ll want to conserve gun ammo for the bosses.  Many of the larger enemies require far too many shots to kill regardless of the weapon equipped and you’ll face several in rapid succession.  Even conserving ammo doesn’t make much of a difference; the bar depletes far too fast and you’ll once again have to make do with the standard pistol.  It seems unfair that the game goes out of its way to force you to use that damn gun, increasing the difficulty artificially.  You only get 3 continues and it seems quaint considering the number of levels, but a password feature would have been appreciated.

Like nearly all of Sunsoft’s NES games Journey to Silius shines when it comes to the presentation.  You can clearly see many traits of its lineage in the graphic design; the color scheme and many of the background elements look as though they were ripped straight from Blaster Master or even Batman.  They did their best to remove as many references to the Terminator but you can still see trace elements like some of the enemies and the most blatant, the final boss.  That is obviously the T-800.  More power to them since Hollywood didn’t notice or care.  The soundtrack is incredible, a hard rock soundtrack that matches the action perfectly.  Unlike most NES games, the tracks are sufficiently long and don’t loop repeatedly.

It doesn’t rise to the same level as the Contras and Mega Mans of the world but it doesn’t need to.  Journey to Silius is enjoyable despite its few issues and went under the radar at release, much like Metal Storm.  You can probably buy it for a few bucks now and I say go hard.  Shedding light on games like this is one of the reasons I enjoy working on this site and I recommend this game wholeheartedly.

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