Sunsoft comes in hot with their second NES release this year, with Journey to Silius. This game was originally shown off at a previous CES as The Terminator, based on one of my all-time favorite films, but something must have fell through and Sunsoft couldn’t secure the license. With a few nips and tucks, some sprite changes, and a reworking of the story, we’ve now got an original sci-fi action game where you play as Jay McCray on a mission to avenge his father’s murder. Somehow his name just doesn’t have the same ring to it as Kyle Reese or Sarah Connor, but we’ll let it slide.
Journey to Silius takes place in the future on the Silius Space Station. Jay’s father was recently killed by terrorists and you are trying to obliterate this group for revenge and to save the space station. Like their February release, Batman, this is an action game, but it plays closer to a run ’n gun shooter like Contra (minus the two-player option) with just a hint of Mega Man. Jay is initially armed with a handgun and your objective is simply to shoot all the menacing robotics and destroy the security systems throughout the mission.
At the end of each stage there will be a boss fight, usually a hulking machine that must be taken out by finding its weak spot. There are additional weapons that you can find throughout the stages, including a machine gun, rifle, homing gun, grenade launcher, and missiles. You can choose which gun you want in the menu screen, however ammo is limited and you must restock as best you can. A drawback is you don’t have the ability to shoot up or diagonally. On the positive swing, you have a health bar instead of one hit kills. There is some platforming to be found throughout, especially in the final stages, but it’s minimal compared to Batman.
This game will be forever remembered and praised for is rocking and high energy soundtrack. Composer Naoki Kodaka also scored Fester’s Quest, Batman, and the incredible Blaster Master. The title screen theme may be the strongest opening track on the NES we’ve heard so far. We are then greeted by sinister music as the story of Jay’s father is presented to us through a cutscene (thank you Ninja Gaiden for creating this new popular trend).
The first four stages all have different songs and all are extremely memorable and go great with the sci-fi space setting. It’s very difficult to pick a favorite from the bunch. It should come as no surprise that the boss music and ending theme are also wonderful. Does it have the best soundtrack on the NES? It’s debatable, although Mega Man 2‘s shadow looms large.
The graphics are very strong throughout the game. I especially love the opening stage as the futuristic backgrounds of outer space make for exciting visuals. There’s not a whole lot of variety in the remainder of the stages as you infiltrate underground and deep into the terrorists’ base. Jay and the enemies, especially the bosses, are animated with great detail and look very sharp and all of the bosses are enormous and take up a huge portion of the screen. However, nearly all of the enemies are robotic machines and aren’t going to be ultra memorable like iconic villains in other games.
The biggest flaws with this game are its length and lack of a two-player mode. Journey to Silius has only five stages, and although they are fairly difficult and you have a limited number of continues, a skilled player could probably finish this game over a weekend rental. The game has a lot in common with Contra, but the biggest differences are the lack of a co-op mode and the visceral high speed action and energy that series is known for. Jay moves much slower than Bill and Lance, and can only shoot straight on. It’s not the bullet blitz that we see in the later stages of Contra series and your weapons aren’t nearly as cool as the Laser and Spread guns of those games. The opening clip gives us a nice setup to a story, but after that we get nothing in between the stages. This is not uncommon, but I was hoping for another Ninja Gaiden after seeing the opening and was subsequently a little letdown.
Even with these little quibbles, the game is one of the better ones on the NES and probably won’t get the recognition it deserves thanks to its wacky and rather generic name. It’s too bad Sunsoft couldn’t keep The Terminator name because it would have surely garnered many more eyeballs.
Journey to Silius Review
- Graphics - 8.5/108.5/10
- Sound - 10/1010/10
- Gameplay - 7/107/10
- Lasting Appeal - 6/106/10
Final Thoughts: GOOD
Journey to Silius has one best soundtracks on the Nintendo, wonderful future-themed visuals, and is a great single player action game. However, the short length and absence of multiplayer knock it back a few points. We’ll forever wonder how different this game would be if it had the Terminator rights. This is a game that any Nintendo owner should experience and will certainly have a great time with, but it may be a better valued as a rental.