30 Days of Dreamcast Day 3 – Silver

Silver
Publisher: Spiral House
Developer: Infrogrames (Now Atari)
Genre: Action RPG
Release Date: 06/29/2000


I missed Silver when it first came out. I still remember reading about it in the Official Dreamcast Magazine and how the writers there claimed Silver was going to revolutionize RPG’s and would be the ultimate RPG for the Dreamcast. Still, I just never managed to play it. I was busy with Evolution, Grandia 2, and Record of Lodoss War. Then I imported the Sakura Wars Collection and that was it. The Dreamcast was dead stateside and I eventually moved on to the Game Cube and then to England and before I knew it, it was 2009 and I still hadn’t played Silver.

So now, with this “30 Days of Dreamcast” feature we’re doing here at Diehard GameFAN , I’ve been given the excuse to finally go back and play this. Was Silver as amazing as ODM’s writers made it sound, or was this just hype to build up attention for one of the few RPG’s on a dying system?

Let’s Review

1. Story

Silver‘s plot is rife with cliches and really doesn’t stand out in any way from the pack. In fact, it’s the poster boy for generic RPG’s. You play as David, a young villager who somehow has a suit of full plate armour. The evil wizard, Silver, runs a Magocracy on the island of Jerrah and one day he sends out his loyal minions to kidnap women from various villages, including David’s wife. Silver’s right hand man also kills your grandfather for kicks and this leaves David alone, vulnerable and having to join up with a group of rebels led by the Duke. What follows is an exceptionally linear quest involving David and his partner du jour tracking down eight orbs before finally confronting Silver and…oh, wait, surprise! He’s not really the last boss. There’s a super secret even more evil bad guy behind it all.

Although the story is bereft of any originality, unforeseen plot twists or characterization in the five minute or so CGI demo that plays if you just leave the game in your Dreamcast without hitting any buttons. It has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the game, instead choosing to talk about the life of Silver and his arch enemy Nemesis. Yes, his arch enemy is named Nemesis. Oy. It ‘s convoluted and nonsensical and it involves magic paintings and beheadings, but it is far more interesting than the rest of the game. Why the dev team would but so much story and narration into a CGI opener most people would miss and giving the antagonist more of a back story than every other character combined, but they did. I would have really preferred to see this story be the one you played through, but instead got a typical paint by numbers action RPG.

Story Rating: Mediocre

2. Graphics

Silver is the ugliest Dreamcast game I have ever played. At times David, your partner and his opponent are nothing but blobs in the screen. I wish I was exaggerating when I say that at times the graphics are as detailed as something from the Atari 2600, but it’s true. This is a bit of irony as Infogrames would eventually buy and change their name to Atari.

The best looking thing in the game is that demo that plays if you leave the game alone, and even that was PSX or Saturn quality in terms of visuals. The actual in-game visuals are so awful you’ll have trouble believing this is a late Dreamcast period game that was also released for the PC. At the time the PC was the go-to for the best graphics available, and this? This was something that would have looked merely mediocre in the 16 bit era. The fact this was made two generations later is almost appalling.

The game is set with rendering static backgrounds like an Adventure game, while your characters run around stabbing things. On rare occasions your characters will be at the forefront of one of these screens and you’ll be able to make out that they are humanoid. Most of the time, the game’s camera is panned so far out you and your opponents are blobs. Half the time I couldn’t even tell you what I was fighting unless it was a boss, and then it was only because they were usually oversized.

To say Silver is an ugly game is an insult to ugly games. Even the ugliest Sega CD game I own looked better than this. It’s no wonder that Spiral House only ever made two games, this and Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare Ugliest. Dreamcast. Game. Ever.

Graphics Rating: Worthless

3. Sound

The best thing about Silver is the voice acting cast. Every does a great job with their roles, and although none of the characters have any true personality or depth to them, the voice cast does their best to make them come alive. As one might expect, the villains have the best voices – all of which have that stereotypical slightly smug post British accent one tends to hear in their generic RPG’s. Still, they do sound ominous. The other actors aren’t as great, but there’s not a bad one in the lot. One of the few things that kept me playing this game was the voice cast, so kudos to Spiral House for getting at least one thing right.

The music, however, is like the rest of the game, utterly forgettable and generic. There’s not a single track in the game that you’ll remember five minutes after you turn the game off. If you’re looking for a thrilling collection of epic fantasy tunes full of string instruments that harken back to the days of games like Dark Wizard, you’re going to have to look elsewhere.

To sum it up: Great voice cast + mediocre music = best thing about Silver

Sound Rating: Good

4. Control and Gameplay

Silver has some really odd controls, and by odd I mean bad. Your main form of attack is using a sword. There are different attacks such as a lunge, backspin, jab and the like. However there are two problems to the actual controls. The first is that the sword controls are controlled by pressing a different direction on the analog stick. The same analog stick you use to move. This causes all sorts of complications, as you might imagine, such as not being able to move and attack. You ALSO have to use the R trigger in order to attack. Without it, you’ll just move around the screen. There is one attack, the quick jab, that you can use by pressing the A button, but again, aiming is impossible.

Controls for magic, special attacks, ranged attacks and orbs are equally as bizarre in terms of layout. Special attacks are supposed to require a charge, but this rarely works. Even worse, you have to go into a menu of options, pick the special attack and then charge the button, which takes you out of the game. There’s no rhyme or reason to the charge and there are times when I held down the button and nothing ever happened. There will be lots of times you have to go into the menu, which is a giant circle, each containing different options. The problem is that each section, is designated by a circle with a picture rather than a description of what each sub-menu is. Most of the pictures are hard to tell what they are, so you’ll have to memorize what they stand for. Even then when you go into items, you face the same problem. If you want to heal yourself, you’ll go into the food menu, the icon of which are three orbs. Then you can pick a food item from what you’ve collected like bread or cheese, but if you want to know how much each heals you up, you’re out of luck. To find out any stats, you’ll have to go into your character sheet and scan through all the items there. Only there will you be given a synopsis of each item in your inventory. If this is the case, why even have the sub-menus? They could have easily just made the character screen a simple easy to navigate menu.

Gameplay is exceptionally awkward due to the pre-rendered backgrounds. This means the levels are actually smaller than they appear and that they are staircases and doorways you can’t actually use. The only way to find what openings are real is to hold down one trigger and then pump the next. This brings up each opening, one at a time, that are currently on the screen. Again, this makes it more like a point and click game, but with hideous controls.

Finally there is saving. Each save spot can only be used once. However there are save spots every two to three screens, so it makes me wonder why the game didn’t just have a “save anywhere” function. There is so much within Silver that makes no sense and this is a perfect example. Controls are some of the worst I’ve ever encountered in an action RPG. The game can never decide if it wants to be a hack n’ slash or a point and click adventure game and because of it, it sucks at both.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Bad

5. Replayability

With so much of the game being painfully generic and the best being a barely functioning badly designed mess, there’s no reason to ever play this game after the first. Due to the extreme linearity of “Bad script, go collect an orb and repeat eight times with no substance in between” there’s not really much of a reason to even finish your first playthrough unless you’re just curious about trying all the different sidekicks that you can collect and use.

This is a game to stay far away from, especially if you’re looking to preserve happy nostalgic memories of the Dreamcast.

Replayability Rating: Worthless

6. Balance

There is no real AI in this game. When you encounter enemies, they just run around the map haphazardly. Sometimes they attack you, sometimes they walk right by you. You’re never in any real danger of dying throughout your entire experience with Silver, but just in case the game gives you so many health recovery items that even if you absolutely sucked at playing this, you’d be able to breeze through this no problem.

Leveling up is a strange experience as well. You don’t earn any XP, so there’s no point in killing everything you encounter. Instead, you level up at the end of a boss battle with a little pose and special “Ta Dah!” music. Of course, because your levels gains are at specific moments, you never really feel like you are, “role playing.” Nor do you ever feel the benefits of leveling up. In fact, the whole leveling up bit feels tacked on to make this categorized as an RPG rather than a generic action game with awful graphics.

When a game is this easy and it robs you of the whole point of playing a hack and slash, you have to wonder what went out in those early strategy meetings when they planned this game out. It’s even worse when the controls are this bad and you can still walk through the game with your eyes shut.

Balance Rating: Bad

7. Originality

I think it’s fairly safe to say that Silver and originality have very little to do with each other. Even nine years ago, when Silver first came out, there was nothing truly novel about it, unless you want to count the awful control scheme for the game and the attempt to bring back the visual glory of the Commodore 64.

Silver is completely and utterly devoid of any innovation, new ideas, outside the box gameplay or anything resembling creativity.

Originality Rating: Dreadful

8. Addictiveness

The unusualness of the opening cut scene that had nothing to do with the rest of the game had me pretty intrigued at first, but by the time I fought the first boss (An Incubus) I was pretty bored due to the lack of any reward, a generic story, and easily the worst graphics I’ve ever encountered on the Dreamcast. Couple this with the linear story and by the time I had captured my first two orbs, I was wondering how anyone made it through this game. Much less finished it or even god help us all, enjoyed it.

Great opening vignette that suckers you in, but everything else is pain on a GD-Rom.

Addictiveness Rating: Dreadful

9. Appeal Factor

Even when Silver first came out, the people that gave it high marks said it wasn’t as good as what you could get on the PSX or Saturn. They also advised waiting for games like Grandia II to come out. They were right. Even now, with a copy costing about five dollars with shipping, Silver isn’t worth playing. It’s worth burying in a junkyard with all those copies of E.T. for the 2600.

Who would like this? Dreamcast collectors and that’s about it. I’m sure there Tare people that loved this game when it first came out. Every game is someone’s favorite after all. I am sorry to say though that fans of Silver will probably find this game is nowhere as good as they remember it.

For me, Silver is a perfectly example of a poorly designed RPG in every way. It’s not a game I would recommend to any one, nor one I can see anyone taking any enjoyment away from.

Appeal Factor: Dreadful

10. Miscellaneous

There are no bonuses, no multiple endings, so branching storylines or ways to customize your character. It’s extremely linear, ugly as hell, trite, cliche and the only good things I can say about it are, “Nice opening cut scene even if the graphics were a few years behind the times” and a great voice acting cast. I hate to say this, but Silver is a perfect example of why the Dreamcast fared so poorly stateside. Sega should have been bringing out games like Sakura Taisen or really pushed the other RPG’s for the system like Skies of Arcadia and Record of Lodoss War. Instead Silver got attention and when it turned out to be well, crap, it made fans skeptical the RPG’s coming after it like the aforementioned SoA or Phantasy Star Online would be any good. Silver is one of the worst games I think I’ve played on the Dreamcast, after Illbleed, but at least w had a highly original concept and weird puppet clown sex.

Miscellaneous Rating: Worthless

The Scores
Story: Mediocre
Graphics: Worthless
Sound: Good
Control and Gameplay: Bad
Replayability: Worthless
Balance: Bad
Originality: Dreadful
Addictiveness: Dreadful
Appeal Factor: Dreadful
Miscellaneous: Worthless
FINAL SCORE: VERY BAD GAME

Short Attention Span Summary
This is one of the worst games I have played in a long time, but sadly it’s not the worst game on the Dreamcast (I’ll leave that one for Mark B. to talk about) . Silver is amazingly sloppy and generic in nearly every respect, from an opening CGI sequence that has nothing to do with the rest of the game down to awful controls that have to be better in the PC version. How anyone ever managed to eke even a sliver of enjoyment out of this title is beyond me. I think I owe my Dreamcast an apology for ever putting this GD-Rom inside it. Sorry little dude.

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    • Alex Lucard

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