Tuesday, May 21, 2013

I Have a Dream(cast) Review Vol #1: Silent Scope

Availability: This one is widely available on multiple consoles. It started in the arcades but when soon ported over to the Dreamcast and Playstation 2. It would later be ported to XBox, Game Boy Advanced, and even iOS.

Region Played: US

Review: I was a huge fan of the arcade version of this game when it came out around the turn of the millennium  If you never saw the arcade unit for this game it essentially was a similar setup to your standard light gun game except the gun was a sniper rifle. You would actually play through the game looking through the scope. And you know what? It really put you in the experience. It was unlike any other light gun game on the market at the time and since. It must have been pretty successful because there was of course a couple of home ports.
I remember wondering how it would play once it made it to the home market, though. I doubted there would be a special light gun built specifically for this game. It would be like using the Super Scope for the SNES. Also it wouldn't work very well I feel with a standard light gun mainly because I don't know how it could be done. What Konami did was possibly the best thing they could do at the time. They put the scope right there on the screen which you move around with the joystick. It's essentially the same sort of aiming as in any other light gun game when you don't have the gun. Not anything new and it'll never have the same charm as the arcade version, but it's still a pretty cool game at home.

As I talked about in my Nights review it's really hard to look back on some of these shorter games with how long games have gotten on average these days. There really aren't many (if any) arcade style games or arcade ports of games anymore, and if they are like that they're usually shovelware. And Silent Scope isn't shovelware but rather the former. It's a port of the arcade game and it's portrayed the same way it was in the arcade. With that said a game like this is more about the high score than just finishing the game. Going through the game's six stages will only take a person around an hour or less, reminding me quite a bit of Virtua Cop for the Sega Saturn. In an era where it seems like every game need to fill around 8-10 hours minimum that feels frightfully short. There are different paths you can take but that's mostly to make the game harder or easier. So technically you could play a different game each time but it's not enough to expand the experience a whole lot. But for anyone who grew up in the 90s and experienced a lot of light gun games including Area 51 or Time Crisis you should expect this short time frame because they were originally in the arcades. How often is there an arcade game that lasts literally hours?
Come to think of it, I've had something of an "issue" with arcade ports on home consoles for some time (as I take a sidetrack for a little while). I'm not against porting them to home consoles cause it brings the experience somewhat home. I'm thankful for this cause there are some pretty amazing games in the arcade and if my only access to it was based on if a machine was near me then I would be pretty SOL in time. One of my favorite franchises of all time, Tekken, is an arcade port that has become an even more successful home console game it seems. When was the last time you played any Tekken game in the arcade? Of course depending on which game from whatever generation on whichever console the quality of the port but one this is still key. The main game/experience is there. So what's my issue with it? It's the total package. The thing is that you're getting the arcade game, a game that isn't designed for length outside of a high score, so it could end pretty quickly. This is fine and dandy for an experience IN the arcade, but at home when your playing time is restricted by how mad mom will get instead of running out of tokens it can make for a light package in a big box. I was always much more okay with this for games either back in the Atari age or in modern compilations. Especially in more recent generations of gaming it just seemed odd to have an arcade game that would only take an hour or two to complete with limited additional features (if any at all) right next to the latest massively expansive RPG that takes 80+ hours to complete but they're being sold for the same price. All I've got to say is thank goodness for digital downloads as of late cause this is at least helping fix the problem. Anyway, maybe this topic is set for another posting as it's getting longer than I anticipated. Moving on.

So the experience may be short for Silent Scope but is it at least entertaining? Definitely! While elements were compromised in the transfer it's still an overall good experience. I've never been a fan of light gun games using the cursor on screen to shoot as it is difficult to aim and shoot quickly especially in a tough spot. In this case it's even harder cause not only are you doing that but you're also doing it with the image enlarged. It's hard to tell EXACTLY when the enemy will show up in your crosshairs providing you with quite a challenge on top of the very tight clock you have to fight. But it is a smooth and fast-paced experience that always stays exciting and is rarely annoying. It's hard to say much else about the gameplay outside you point and shoot. However one thing I notices with gameplay is when you change the difficulty it changes how the gun will handle. Quick and easy on a low setting. Much slower and sluggish with a higher setting (more realistic?). Despite the difficulty change you still have the option of holding down the left trigger button which will "pull out" from the sight giving you a view of the entire area and you can navigate quicker. But again it's tough to then tell exactly where the enemy will be once you zoom back in. And if it seems like I'm talking about nothing but how hard the game is, that's because it is.
I would mostly attribute the difficulty to the handling of the controls. Unfortunately while this is a faithful port of the arcade game, being limited to moving the joystick around instead of a gun controller it does make it more difficult to aim exactly where you need to (i.e. headshots for more points and extended time). However the game itself doesn't really let up. Even on the easiest setting you have a very limited time to beat a level without having to use a continue. Oh, and on the subject of continues, you have to be really good to get far. I was surprised to see that the continues are very limited in the home version. It's either 0, 1, 2, or "Extra." So you essentially would need to play through flawlessly, with only a couple continues, or in the case of "Extra" you would need to time and time again get a 100% accuracy rating in each section to earn another one. While this is a good method to increase the play time (I was jumping in again and again from the beginning but making only a slight advance) it is a bit harsh for the people who shelled out the cash for the home version. At the time any person could have taken the money they bought the game with and gone to the arcade to play through the entire thing, no matter how bad they are at the game, for less. Whereas with the home version you have no way around it unless you're really skilled. That or I imaging there's a Game Shark code or something for more continues. At the same time I'm glad it is the way it is cause then the player would lose interest pretty quickly after those first couple runs through. I guess I could always do training mode if I want to get better...
The main comparison that keeps coming to mind for the overall experience seems to be Virtua Cop. Despite the games being just as different as they are similar one thing does come to mind, the continues. Virtua Cop allows a large number of continues which makes it easy to blaze through once you get even half way decent at it. Silent Scope on the other hand makes you it's bitch even on the easier settings and it doesn't give away continues so easily. What makes this different is that a game like Virtua Cop could more easily be put down and forgotten cause eventually you'll be going through the motions, knowing everything that's coming. But with Silent Scope it is actually a rough challenge to complete it once, ONCE! Sure in the arcade you could keep feeding it quarters no matter how bad you are. But at home it's a different. At home it's a challenge. And you know what? I'm okay with that. I spent a lot of time just playing the first level over and over again before I changed the difficulty. But I was having fun despite the difficulty.

The gameplay, while rough by comparison to the arcade version, is still a well done home experience. Not an amazing experience but worth picking up if you have a Dreamcast. It's only a few bucks cause it was a common/popular title so you really have little to nothing to lose. I have a special place in my heart and game library for this arcade title. Still one of my favorites from the turn of the century and I imagine it'll stay there for years to come. Now if I can just get my hands on a cabinet.

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