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Captain Silver (NTSC) Review

Developer: Data East Publisher: Tonka
Release Date: 1989 Also On: None

Now this one brings back some memories. As I’ve said before, my
neighbors owned a Master System and my brother and I would frequently stop
by to play different titles like Thunder Blade. I remember the day they
brought home Captain Silver from the mall. The cover makes it look like a
lot of fun; you have your main character, Jack, fighting with a pirate
skeleton in the riggings with some other pirates swashbuckling far below.
Looks great, who wouldn’t want to take on a good “pirate” game once in
awhile, especially one with pirate skeletons? Perhaps that isn’t the best
lead in, but it doesn’t matter, because this game is one of the best
examples in video game history of how money issues may have effected a
game’s release and ultimately led to utter ruin. Yet again, I’d say we have
here another reason why the SMS failed in the states. Why?

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Well, the game is pretty fun, I have vivid memories of watching it. However,
I also remember when I looked over the manual and wondered a few things. We
all did, in fact. Where is this witch character, the Dragon, the Cyclops and
the Banana King? Speaking of them, the first two, where are their levels?
The box itself says four levels but the manual mentions six. Why? The truth
may be never known, but for some ridiculous reason Tonka decided to take an
entire megabit out of the US release of Captain Silver, eliminating all of
the fun and stripping it down to almost nothing. I remember thinking it was
an easy game, never really figuring out until years later why the characters
were missing, but after finally playing the PAL version, I can say with
certainty that one should never, ever purchase the NTSC version, unless you
want the box art. I myself got a copy to switch the cartridge with the PAL
version for only this reason. This review is specifically directed towards
the sad title presented in the US, not the one from Europe and Canada, so
keep this in mind. I will be reviewing that version separately after this
depressing glance into the depths. It’s difficult to review this having
played both versions, so in this review I’m going for a bit of a different
approach, I’m judging it in terms of what’s missing and what’s left over.

Graphically, too much has been taken out of the NTSC version of Captain
Silver to remotely match the detail and variety of the PAL release. The
title screen is the same, I like the glowing eye in the skull and crossbones
and the start screen with Jack moving his sword to his head in dueling
fashion. It’s a nice touch before each round begins. Jack kind of has this
funny walk, which is the same as the PAL version. It’s almost like he’s
puffing his chest out a bit too much or something. It doesn’t look awful,
but the way he moves doesn’t suggest he’s looking for buried treasure. It
looks more like he’s trotting off to the store to pick up some herbal chai.

His sword movements are cool though, really captured well I think, he
appears to be almost pulling some fencing moves when he attacks. Some of the
enemies look kind of silly though, like the knife pirates on the ship who
walk back and forth. They almost move like zombies, one arm sticking
straight out waiting for something to run into them. Just doesn’t look
right. This is pretty much the basic stuff that remains without getting too
detailed, now let me comment on what’s missing.

The first level is organized the same and has that nice “old world” feel to
it to create the mood. However, three features have been stripped here, one
that’s incredibly important. The little “sewer rat” does not make an
appearance near and the around the fountain, the mini witch that flies around
and attacks a bit before the boss is gone, and, most importantly, said boss
is no longer present. The only “boss” in the first level for this version is
the “Piper,” who appears before the fountain. However, he’s hardly a boss or
a challenge, so it’s pretty lame. Where the giant witch is supposed to be
you simply walk to the position where she would appear and the level ends.
Really ruins it taking out the main enemy. I wouldn’t have minded the rat
and the smaller witch, but the boss? Come on, it has the most detail in the
entire level. The even sadder part is that on the NTSC box, she is actually
present in one of the screen shots on the back. They really, really didn’t
try with this one.

Level two is essentially the same thing for the most part. You’re on a
pirate ship, climbing up riggings, taking out different pirates and seg
gulls and then taking on the boss. The major difference here is that this
large, bald pirate, who is also actually on the back of the box in one of
the screen shots, is missing. Doesn’t take too much away I suppose, but he’s
the hardest character next to the boss on the this level, so it also effects
the score. The boss, Captain Cappard, is the same in both versions and helps
to end it well, thankfully.

Here’s where it gets worse. Levels three and four are completely gone, just
taken out and not even stripped down. They’re just not there. This is simply
awful as they not only drew the story and action together more, but they
have some excellent details and animation, not to mention two of the coolest
bosses in the game. They, of course, also added to the difficulty. The
Cyclops makes no appearance and neither does the Dragon. Really
disappointing. This drops the score of this version down quite a bit. Having
done this to the original game, they really should have fixed the manual
because it just leaves you wondering and then crying when you figure it out.

Level five is pretty much the same. It’s on the outskirts of an island as
you move towards the interior. The little piranhas are missing from the
rivers, but they weren’t much to look at anyway and there weren’t many of
them. Also taken out are the “Native Bowmen.” They weren’t too integral to
the gameplay for the most part, but they did add more variety to the level
and helped it appear as more of a fourth world civilization to add to the
mood. Other than this you still have the turtles you have to ride on to
cross some of the water hazards, Native Spearmen, poison frogs and the like.
All animated decently. However, this too is completely ruined because the
most detailed character in this level, the boss “Banana King,” is missing.
Not only does this make the level incredibly easy, which I’ll get to later,
but he simply looked interesting to begin with. Well, he’s gone, just like
the witch in the first level. You walk to where he would have been, and the
level ends. Another piece of the game altered to nothing.

The final level doesn’t fare much better than the others. A huge portion of
it is missing, you don’t go through the same jungle section as you do in the
PAL version, and thus never get to see the panthers or other enemies. When
you finally make it to the end, the scenery in the background is thankfully
the same. Looks really nice and opens up the island around. As you approach
the end, there’s a tree and the Ghost of Captain Silver appears. Thankfully,
they weren’t stupid enough to take the final boss out since this would have
made no sense. He’s the same as the other, looks pretty cool I’d say,
however, they ruin even this because the ending has been stripped down to
simple text with no graphics to go along with it. We just can’t win with
this version can we? Overall, because of these major differences, the NTSC
version of Captain Silver fails miserably. It looks awful when you see the
other, and even if you didn’t you’d know something was amiss from the manual
or the general feel of the game. It simply looks incomplete, like a
prototype instead of a finished product.

The sound is a bit better. I like the opening title theme, has this mystical
feel to it, and the first level reminds one of the classic “sea chantey,” so
the programmers did a good job of capturing that feeling. However, said
theme then repeats in the second level and the final two levels of this
version repeat as well. Level three, which is actually level five in the PAL
version, has a great drive to it that increases the intensity. Lots of
variations on the sounds in this piece, but it’s a shame they used it again
without a bit of revision. However, this is exactly the same in both
versions, so it’s not another case of stripping down the original. It was a
fault I found in the other. Repeating themes are okay at points, the final
two levels for example are fine though they repeat, but the first two don’t
match as well. The boss music is excellent, so that brings the score back up
just a bit. The sound effects, however, could have been a lot better. Jack’s
jump sounds more like he’s letting loose some flatulence, which is kind of
funny because the graphics when he jumps almost look as though the “gas” is
throwing him off the ground. Sword slashing sounds more like a wind up toy,
very hard to describe, but regardless of what you think it sounds like it
doesn’t sound like a sword flailing about. Enemy death sounds also resemble
bodily emanations, while others sound almost like a jack-in-the-box popping
open. Very odd. I think they could have done a lot more with the effects,
and there in fact aren’t that many to begin with.

As you can probably assume already, the gameplay in the NTSC version of
Captain Silver is just terrible. With four bosses missing, two stages
altogether, several enemies, and a major portion of the final level, it’s
quite obvious this is not nearly as tough as the PAL version. It’s downright
pathetic in fact. Basically, it’s the same concept, but with the levels and
certain aspects missing it really loses its feel. Jack is trying
to find the treasure of Captain Silver. So, he starts out in the town there,
then gets on a ship, then goes to the island and finds it after mingling
with the natives.

Jack can jump and swing his sword, as well as get a few
power ups. One lets you jump higher and is only a short duration power up,
but you mainly use it only to get special items, so it doesn’t matter
anyway. It would have been nice if you had a timer for this power, because
otherwise you have to assume it’s not there anymore and this can lead to
falling into a pit or something else. Other than this, you can collect a
time stop icon to do the obvious and a protection potion, which gives you an
additional hit. You die in a single hit otherwise.

Along with these, you’ll occasionally see a fairy flying towards you, or you can purchase her in the
store. For each fairy you get, she’ll reward you by powering up your
cutlass. It can only be powered a maximum of three times, and each time it
is you have the ability to shoot out stars. First one star, then three, and
finally five. It’s a pretty cool feature. There are also letters scattered
through the levels. As you collect them, you’ll see the words “Captain
Silver” fill in at the top. Once you collect all of the letters, you’re
rewarded with an additional life. You only have three lives to start and
three continues, which can only be accessed using the code mentioned in the
manual. Why make a code and not just a continue screen if it’s in the
manual anyway?

So with all of this you run through the game and defeat the final boss.
However, again, there are two entire levels missing here and even without
them you’re missing two bosses. This really, really brings the difficulty
factor down a ton because one of those bosses, Banana King, is probably the
most difficult enemy in the entire game. There simply isn’t enough challenge
here with everything missing and the trip to Captain Silver’s island is
ruined without the boat level and cave level. They really draw it together
as a whole and playing the NTSC version just makes me sick. Even before I
saw the real version I thought it seemed very strange and it wasn’t because
of the features in the manual that were missing, it just didn’t play right.
The NTSC version is very disappointing in this category.

Aside from the missing features, I must say I still find Captain Silver to
be a pretty creative game. They took a classic theme and turned it into a
platformer. Still, with everything missing it makes the NTSC version really
worthless in the end, so I have to still give a low score in this category.
Some of the most interesting features in the original are just gone. The
Dragon, the boat level, the Cyclops, Banana King, come on guys. At least you
could have erased them from the manual so I wouldn’t have spent years
wondering about it. Thus, aside from the creativity still remaining, I have
to drop the numbers down because the most creative features, in my opinion,
are gone.

Replay? Why in the world would I want to play this incomplete game ever
again? There’s no reason to, considering that the PAL version plays with no
difficulty on an NTSC console. This version is way too short, way too easy
and doesn’t provide the same ending as the other so in spite of being easy I
have no reason to play it. It’s just not any fun at all, even if you didn’t
know about the other version, and this drops the score straight to the
floor. I think you know about game length already, it’s not there. You could
probably run through this game in under fifteen minutes because so much has
been cut out. Thus, an hour long game has been chopped down by forty-five
minutes. Thanks, thanks a lot Tonka. Good job, I bet all of those SMS fans
in the 80s felt real good knowing you took care of them so well. There’s
simply no reason to play this unless you want to see exactly how bad it
fares in comparison to the PAL version.

In conclusion, let the NTSC version of Captain Silver serve as a reminder to
all future video game programmers who are porting original titles of what
not to do, and let it stand further as yet another possible reason why the
Master System did so terribly over here. Sure, it’s not like the original
version of this game was the greatest thing ever, but it certainly was a lot
of fun. It’s just the simple fact that Tonka felt so restricted in their
funds that they had to take a nice title and make it worthless. That’s just
an assumption, but it has to be the reason. Why would anyone have wanted to
buy this? Why did my neighbors? Well, it was on sale, I seem to remember it
was in a bargain bin for five dollars at the time. I wonder why. Steer clear
of this one and head straight to a European auction site or someone you know
overseas. If you find the other, switch boxes, because at least that aspect
of the NTSC version is presentable.

Graphics: 2.5
Sound: 4.5
Gameplay: 1.5
Creativity: 4
Replay Value/Game Length: 0.5
Final: 2.6
Written by Stan Review Guide