GAME REVIEWS

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Sylphia

~ SYLPHIA ~
Compile / Tonkin House
Super CD-ROM
1993

An elusive Compile-designed blaster with a mythological theme, Sylphia is one of the PC Engine games I most looked forward to playing. I found out about it just as it had started to garner attention as a rarity and was becoming extremely expensive, so I had to wait an incredibly long time before coming across a good deal on it. Upon acquiring the disc, I felt so relieved that my search was over that I didn't particularly care whether or not the game itself was very good--but that's exactly what it turned out to be.



Its greatest asset is its diverse enemy cast. This isn't one of those shooters where you face most of the same fools in the fifth level as you do in the first. Cool new creatures pop up every step of the way, with some of the most interesting ones appearing in the stormy sky stage.



The tunes travel an unexpected techno route and are incredibly cool, especially the memorably melancholy title-screen theme. Sadly, the volume of the in-game music is very low, but the turned-down tracks still make good impressions. The bittersweet ending also makes a positive impact, and "stage clear" screens offer stylish previews of what's to come in the levels that follow them.



The weapons are Compile style all the way, but the game doesn't feel like other 16-bit Compile verts (such as Blazing Lazers and Spriggan). This isn't an unwelcome difference, as there are plenty enough of those 16-bit "Aleste-style" shooters. There's still lots of action here; the highest difficulty mode in particular feels hectic in the manner that a good, solid shoot-'em-up challenge should (in other words, it isn't a mere mess of projectiles). And the bosses and midbosses are enormous mythological monstrosities.



The only thing about Sylphia that really disappointed me is its background art. Some strips are bland and boring, while others employ hideous color combinations. There are some cool visual bits (the underwater stretch in Stage 3, the clouds in Stage 7, the aqueduct shown in the following screen) but not enough.



Sylphia won't blow you away. A number of other PCE CD verticals (including Spriggan, Sapphire, and Nexzr) are vastly superior to it. But it's a very good game, one worth purchasing if you find a good deal on it or consider money to be no object.

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