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RELEASE DATE (NA): September 1990 GENRE: Platformer/Run'n'Gun
// review by SoyBomb

Y'all ready for a journey?

The NES has its major players. The Super Mario Bros. series. The Legend of Zelda games. The Mega Mans (or should this be Mega Men?). The Castlevania trilogy. Tetris. Contra. Metroid. Double Dragon. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Dragon Quest. Punch-Out. But for every heavy hitter in the library, there is a hidden gem that, for one reason or another, failed to reach a large-scale audience. One of those is, indeed, Journey to Silius, a Sunsoft-developed title that may not be long but certainly provides a heart-pounding journey into the world of future technology gone berserk.

The year is 0373 in the distant future. It is a dismal dystopia, with a severe shortage of breathable air and quality root beer. The Earth suffers from a massive overpopulation problem; humans now live in various space colonies. Our focus is on Space Colony #428, located within the Silius Solar System. Jay McCray plans to move there, as his father had helped develop the station there. Unfortunately, it's utterly destroyed by terrorists, so those plans get scrapped. One day, Jay finds a floppy disk (they're still using floppy disks in the future — like I said, it's dismal) containing the colony blueprints and a message from his father, advising him to seek revenge should the colony be destroyed, which it was.

Jay is the only human in the game, and everything else is a robot, either small or gigantic. This theme of battling against technology stems mostly from the game's initial conception as a Terminator game before the license was lost for reasons unknown. Jay will need to blast his way through a TON of crazy robots with various attacking patterns through five stages. Yes, there are only five levels in the game, but they are each a lengthy endurance round with plenty of robots and other nasty traps to get in your way. With VERY limited health drops, Jay's got his work cut out for him. Furthermore, this is not an infinite continue kind of game, so stealth and good stage memorization is a requirement!

ABS: Always be Silius shooting!

As a funky run'n'gunner, Jay starts out with just a puny little pea shooter that can only shoot left and right, but as time progresses, you'll gain access to new weapons, such as a homing missile, a shotgun, or a laser shooter. While all of these are more powerful and effective, there's a drawback: they all have very limited energy, and all six of the supplementary weapons share the SAME energy meter for some reason. You can refill them with the blue energy boxes some enemies drop, but their use will need to be strategic. More often than not, it's better to rely solely on acting covertly and not just running in like a maniac with plasma shooter a-blazin'. It's wisest to conserve energy for the final bosses of the stages, all of whom offer a crazy challenge (particularly the last one, which I was tempted to whip out the Game Genie for).

Controls are pretty spot-on, tight and precise, as is typically the case for most Sunsoft games of that era. Any major gaffes are usually a cause of inadequate skill, rather than poor programming... mostly. The final two stages, and particularly their boss battles, are a testament to true platforming finesse and capability. Only those pure of heart and callused of thumb will be able to really make it this far.

The game looks great, down to the rather detailed and even slightly dank surroundings. The bosses look pretty darn menacing, but they're nothing compared to Jay, who's sporting a wicked pompadour that can't be beat! As well, in typical Sunsoft fashion, the music is absolutely top-notch with expert level use of the NES' limited sound chip to create spine-tingling basslines guaranteed to flare up a rave in your basement.

I'd also be remiss if I didn't talk a little bit about the title. "Journey to Silius". I understand that it is, indeed, a journey to Silius, but why "Silius"? Is it pronounced as SIGH-lee-us? Or am I correct in how I pronounce it, as in "Silly us! We left the oven on!" ...errr, ahem, moving on...

Despite the game being rather hardcore as I approached the end (those pair of final bosses would make anyone sweat profusely, no matter how skilled), I'm overall quite impressed by Journey to Silius. I knew Sunsoft was capable of great NES games such as Blaster Master and Batman, but this lesser-known title deserves just as much attention. Although it's not readily available on any digital marketplaces, if you're lucky enough to stumble across a cartridge of this and can actually play it, give it a try — it's worth the journey.

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