Silver Surfer - Retro Reflections - TBT

Silver Surfer by developer Software Creations and publisher Arcadia Systems—NES Throwback Thursday review written by Hamza. 1990.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Silver Surfer on the NES has the cosmic-power (see what I did thar?) to both attract and offend. Badly.Its intense difficulty was intimidating and spiked several times during the gameplay. At times it would spike so badly that Sonic would have a hard time jumping over it; and at other times it would spike so badly that MegaMan would have a hard time jumping over it. See? Silver Surfer is easily one of the most challenging games I’ve played and certainly the least rewarding of all, because all it shows for your pin-point precision timing and tremendous effort is a half-baked image of the Surfer in a victory position as if he just won the marathon. Who does he think he is? Usain Bolt of the Cosmic Universe? The fastest man in all of space? Embarrassing!

Why has GamesRadar called it one of the worst video games is, frankly, quite beyond me. If its low rating and the bestowed title comes from the fact that this game is the most anti-superhero game ever made; or that the titular character has to fight through seemingly anachronistic enemies with zero boss battles... then yes, Silver Surfer can be called lacklustre, uninspiring and tame, but not the worst. In fact, I dare say this game is one of the enjoyable on the NES. With the graphics style and a majority of the gameplay very reminiscent of NES’s own Section Z and Gradius, Silver Surfer is a shooter that alternates between top-down and side-scrolling – a similar move that was adopted by Axelayto more critical acclaim 2 years later on the SNES.

With the strong difficulty in check, Silver Surfer is pretty much standard fare that only shows glimpses of ideas or something different... but these expectations are always betrayed by the game’s ugly habit of rehashing itself, to the point where it almost becomes a horizontal escalatar, coming back to square one after a few intense minutes. Further, like most pain-in-the-butt games, Silver Surfer adopts the “contact upon death” mentality that I still to this day cannot understand or does good to whom. Sure, the developers may have been having a nerdy, half-suppressed laugh about this, but this is beyond frustrating and the complete opposite of all that is fun. It’s as if games with this feature are begging to be a nuisance. I’ve seen Dennis the Menace behave better.

Now, the story of Silver Surfer goes like this; a terror “from the beyond” is threatening the universe, and presumably Earth, since sci-fi and comic book writers cannot contain themselves from terrorizing and annihilating their own home. Humans and their weirdness! Galactus summons the titular character and tells him to collect the scattered pieces of the Cosmic Devicefor reasons I have forgotten. There are five worlds and one can play them in any order as they wish. I suggest leaving the top right world for the last, for the boss of that stage, Firelord, seemingly keeps flipping the bird at you. Intentional or not, that effect is best saved for last.

When I say boss, I mean it in the most casual sense of it. The boss is nothing more than a big collection of pixels that requires five more hits than the common enemies. That’s it. No epic Metroid-style battles or such. The, er, battle, as it supposedly calls itself, is nothing more than staying in one position, shooting enough cosmic power, then quickly descending or ascending to avoid the boss’s projectiles. Repeat until boss is dead.

When you finish the five stages, Galactus then tells you to go to the Magik Domain to finally put an end to the aforementioned “terror from beyond” menace by laying dirt to the main enemy who I believe was created specifically for the game. I’m no comic-book junkie but I haven’t seen that character before. The Magik Domain turns out to be nothing more than a series a minty green top-hat projectiles and of the same color squashed top-hats – if you think I’m joking, check it out for yourself. Also, small skeletons with large heads also make an appearance that made me question both the boss’s nature and the supposed ‘humor’ of the developers. The skeletons resembled that of babies, and that had me worried. Unlike in the previous chapters, the boss battle here is long and surprisingly extra-challenging. The purple and green villain keeps going back and forth across the screen, while shooting yellow bolts in both a straight and angular fashion. The straight ones can be easily avoided but it’s the angular ones you should watch out for. After when that’s done, Silver Surfer takes the finished Cosmic Device from Galactus and keeps it on a very high kitchen shelf... out of the reach of human and non-human hands alike!

Silver Surfer on paper and in reviews may sound as a badly realized game, but when you play other titles on the NES and then this, you will realize Silver Surfer was just being an obedient student of the requirements of the NES and nothing more. It's just its uninspired gameplay, as well as its difficulty, and reluctance to give its superhero titular character something heroic and dashing to do, Silver Surfer failed to blow me away and didn’t provide enough incentive to warrant replays from me.

Despite the negativity the world bestows upon it, almost everyone, including I, come to this universal conclusion that its music is arguably one of the coolest on the NES, and the single redeeming factor from the game. The music... is AWESOME! There is no other word to describe it. Its energetic tone and fast rhythm almost makes it an epic on a smaller scale. *sigh* if only the game were like that; because frankly, Silver Surfer had the potential of being one of the greatest scrolling-shooters on the market. The other feature I enjoyed was the movements of the Surfer himself. When you pressed down, he would slightly bend down and the upper deck of his board would be revealed; likewise, in opposite, when you press up. When you press back, he would tilt the board in his direction. These little effects were satisfying, and anytime you feel the game is giving you a temper, just press any of the directional buttons and calm yourself a bit.

In conclusion, Silver Surfer on the NES is not a bad game at all, no sir. Though I played it only once, I found the game enjoyable and provided adequate fun for 1 hour. But that’s how it’s gonna remain; Once! Once! Once! Once! No twice!

Score: 5.5 / 10



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