Here's a game for all you manly-man, "I can beat any game in existence", rough-and tumble sort, courtesy of Treasure and Working Designs- Silhouette Mirage will no doubt go down as one of the harder Playstation games ever made. And one of the most unusual, as far as its story, character design, and gameplay goes. Originally programmed for the Sega Saturn, SM was one of that systems' better showcases of pure 2D power, and Treasure did a remarkable job of bringing it over to the PS, considering that Sony's box has all the 2D capabilities of a Snickers bar. Players control one Shyna Nera Shyna (or Shyna for short), Messenger of Justice, as she races to save Edo from being destroyed. The game has 7 stages, each one telling a bit more of the story, and you'll be kept guessing about the intentions of the assorted characters you meet throughout the game until the very end.
SM outclasses most of, if not all of it's 3D competition in terms of all-out action, and after one trip through the game, you'll be left wondering why more games like this don't exist, although I can see some of you whiners out there going on about the games' massive difficulty, especially in the later stages. But SM rewards the novice with enough lives and credits to complete the game the first time out, and accomplished gamers will find more than enough challenge here to play and replay the game. In fact, the first time one fires up the game, there is only one option available- multiple replays are necessary in order to access all of the options, which comes off as a sort of challenge to the player who thinks they can do it all! Here's a handy tip: SAVE the game whenever it asks you to, as it's no fun to re-do the level that ate up most of your lives over and over!
Shyna's got moves galore, some friendly parasites/weapons that can be purchased from an odd-looking shopkeeper throughout the game, and the ability to attack or defend using either "silhouette" or "mirage" attributes. You start the game off in a (necessary) training level, which is interrupted as a horde of cute enemies with super-heavy firepower arrive to "delete" you. As you make your way through the game, newer enemies and bosses are identified, and ususally their weaknesses are pointed out, but occasionally, you have to a bit of deductive thinking as you try to avoid being blasted into dust. Like going up against a walking gunner mech that can only be defeated by reflecting its shots back at it, or a chance meeting with a grim reaper boss that is almost as hard as the final stage in the game, or the weird battle in a huge bowl of soup (!!!), each of the many bosses here takes much skill and dexterity to kill. Some of them go down really quickly, if you have the right weapons, while others take what seems an eternity (and lots of lives), before wisecracking their way to oblivion.
Working Designs has done a really great job in its translation- the voice acting is dead on, and if you're a big Treasure fan, the strangeness of the whole thing will have you totally entranced in the game, while those new to their work may be a bit thrown off at the Tim Burton meets Toriyama artwork. You won't be seeing this game made into an anime anytime soon, I can safely say that! SM features loads of special effects forgotten in this age of Squaresoft and 989 Studios, such as 2D sprite scaling and rotation, and you'll have a smile on your face, as each boss encounter is more visually impressive than the last. There is a bit of slowdown here and there, but considering all the stuff going on when it happens, you'll forgive it. The game also supports both the Analog and Dual Shock functions, and the control is amazingly precise when using the stick. You actually can finish the game without using all the moves, but replaying the game, I found myself experimenting with different tactics to get through a particular level or two. Musically, the game has some really, really strange themes, but again, it fits what's going on just perfectly.
Never a company to shoot for commercial success, Treasure has created yet another odd, highly frantic, and immensely enjoyable action shooter in Silhouette Mirage. I really wish that someone would finally get around to porting over their other Saturn classic, Radiant Silvergun- but I guess that's up to whomever decides to tackle that particular task. Working Designs is the perfect company to do this, with their track record of bringing over some of the more unusual Japanese releases, but then again, I'd prefer a Treasure collection in that case- Imagine playing Alien Soldier, Yu Yu Hakusho, and Rakugaki Showtime, all in English, by year's end? If you're looking for something a LOT different than the usual sequel-fueled sequels coming out, and feel up to the challenge, give Silhouette Mirage a shot- you definitely won't be disappointed!
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