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Captain Silver (PAL) Review





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

Ahhhh, sweet, sweet luxurious release. After the grueling, terrifying look
at the NTSC version of this title, nothing beats a relaxing trip back to the
way things were meant to be. Before I begin, let me state at the outset that
I will be referring to the other version of Captain Silver as a marker of
this version’s differences at some points, but mainly I will be analyzing it
as it is in its fully programmed state. However, I suggest the reader refer
to my separate review for a bit of background in case I make some sort of
reference without even realizing it. Still, it’s good to know what you’re
missing in the other as well. At any rate, the PAL version of this game is
the complete version. Nothing has been taken out at all, you get the full
game in its most complete form. As such, it presents quite well with only
some minor problems and mistakes here and there. Overall, it’s a nice title
and certainly worth owning, especially if you’ve been wanting to see what
you’ve been missing.

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Graphically, Captain Silver is well done. The title screen opens with a nice
“skull and crossbones” logo complete with a single, glowing green eye. Each
level is introduced with a screen of your character, Jack, moving into a
fencing stance. There’s a nice border around the screen suggesting artwork
from the late 1700s with a Romantic feel to it, so nice job with that, looks
like someone did their homework. Overall character presentation is done
well, with only some minor problems. Your character, for example, has a
really goofy walk that doesn’t seem to capture the sense of adventure the
game is attempting to portray. He has his chest puffed out like a rooster,
with an arrogant step suggesting he’s a little to “in” with the upper class.
Eugene Onegin comes to mind (boy what a pompous reference). Most of the
enemies are decent, but a little more could have been done as far as their
movements and details are concerned. A few characters have this “dead,”
zombie-like gait while others, like the “ghost skeleton” later on, are a bit
awkward in their movements. He steps too lively for the undead, unlike his
live counterparts, and sort of swats at you with his sword. Not so intense
there buddy, calm down. For the most part, it seems that the minor enemies
in Captain Silver were given the least attention. It tends to not be too bad
overall because they generally look good, but there is this sense of being
stiffed by the programmers somewhat.

The level arrangements and bosses, however, are quite nice with few details
that could have been worked out better. Level one is a small village fitting
the time period well. Level two is a pirate ship complete with riggings to
climb over. The forecastle (quarters below) are a bit weak and don’t really
suggest these pirates have been doing too much other than hording icons for
you to collect to get extra lives. Oh well, I guess a game can only do so
much. The next level, removed from the NTSC version completely, takes place
on a rowboat Jack is riding to the island where Captain Silver’s treasure is
hidden. Excellent job with the backgrounds. Other than the end segment of
the final level, I’d have to say the backgrounds in level three are the best
overall, excellent suggestions of depth. The only problem here is that Jack
is simply standing on top of a magically moving boat. I’m not sure how else
it could have been done, but they should have done something else because it
just looks silly with him standing in the middle of it. It would take quite
a bit of balance to even do it for a few minutes. Level four is situated in
a series of caves. Pretty basic overall, nothing too noteworthy in this
segment. Level five takes place in a jungle. Good job with the environment
here, definitely captures the feel of a fourth world rainforest complete
with natives, little creatures and various plants and such. The final level
takes place in the island interior, where you move around rocky crags, some
more jungle and finally an outcropping that opens out with excellent
background scenery. I’m not sure why I found this small section so
interesting, but it had a lot of detail and good usage of colors.

The bosses are graphically one of the best parts of the game, right up there
with the ending credits. The first is a giant witch who drops pumpkins, the
second is a pirate captain, the third is a Cyclops who lobs boulders at you,
the fourth is a dragon spitting fire, the fifth is a mysterious being called
the “Banana King” who attacks you with this morning star type weapon and the
final boss is, of course, Captain Silver (his ghost, actually) who fires
flaming arrows while he jumps about. The Witch, Cyclops, Dragon and Banana
King were removed from the NTSC version, which is quite unfortunate because
they really display some of the SMS’ capabilities well. Excellent color
schemes and wonderful animations. The Dragon, for example, has a long,
segmented neck attached to its head. To top it all off, if you beat it, you
are treated to a text ending with wonderful little pictures to go along with
it. Very nice job and then the final screen is a giant close up of a book
with “End” next to it that simply looks too 16-Bit to even be called 8-Bit.
Incredible. This entire bonanza, unfortunately, was also removed from the
NTSC version, replaced with simple text. Overall, the graphics are pretty
nice with only some minor problems mentioned above. However, I feel this is
somewhat offset by the ending and the bosses, which really add a lot of
variety.

The sound in the PAL Captain Silver, for the most part, shares the same
faults as the NTSC version, aside from the fact that there are an additional
two songs present. These are the one for the ending and the one for levels
three and four, which as I said are completely missing in the latter
version. Here you have the opening theme, between-level intro track and main
level themes. Again, the “sea chantey” thing they have going for the first
two levels is nice and the more intense song for the final two levels is
quite fitting. I only wish they didn’t use them twice in a row. I mean,
sure, the first song definitely feels like I’m moving Jack in some European
coastal city or something, but why do you have this same theme for the
pirate ship? It just doesn’t work. I really wish they did a bit more and
added two more songs. In the PAL version, the additional theme for levels
three and four is another song similar to the final two levels in the
feeling it creates. It works wonderfully on level three as you ride the
boat, but it doesn’t work at all in level four in my opinion because here
the music seems to need a more “mysterious” feel to it since you’re in these
haunted caves. Yet again, to top it off, you
have the same bland sound effects throughout and many which just don’t make
any sense. The programmers decided to use this “fart-like” sound for almost
everything including Jack’s jumping. Really didn’t like the sound effects.
If Jack’s sword didn’t sound like a wind-up toy I may have scored a bit
higher, but it just sounds awful. I was disappointed overall in this
category.

Now then, as opposed to the NTSC version’s cut down difficulty and gameplay,
the PAL version has much more to offer. You’re given two additional stages
as well as three additional bosses, which all make it a lot harder and a lot
more fun. Some of the enemies not present in the stripped-down Captain
Silver make it more difficult as well; the Native Bowmen being the first
that come to mind. Basically, Captain Silver is a platformer where you control Jack, who is trying to find the treasure of Captain Silver. You swing a sword, jump and
collect various power-ups as you move through the levels, fighting enemies
and bosses.

The power-ups are a nice touch, but not completely. One gives
you an extra hit (you die in one otherwise), one gives you extra time, one
gives you a magical star you shoot out when you slash your sword and the
other makes you jump higher. The stars can be increased to up to five flying
out at once, a big help later on and all throughout the game. The jump icon,
however, is completely useless. The only times you need it are to collect
two power-ups in the game that are too high to reach otherwise, even so it’s
not like you’ll lose the game if you don’t collect them. I really
have this thing about power-ups that aren’t integral to overall gameplay.
Just throwing them in there for the hell of it isn’t worth anyone’s time.

You’ll also occasionally see coins, jewels and crowns, which give you more
money to purchase power-ups at the stores you come across. With this you are
given three lives to start, but you gain more as you collect bars with
letters on them. As you collect them, the words “Captain Silver” at the top
of the screen fill up and when completed gives you an additional life. This
becomes integral early in the game if you want to make it through to the
end. Just like the NTSC version, the programmers threw in this continue
feature that is almost a secret code, but it’s mentioned in the manual.
Without the manual you might figure it out, but I always found it stupid.
Why not just program it so that at the title screen you just select
“continue?” Sega did this with the continue feature in a lot with their
Master System games, but I don’t know why. Other than this, the only problem
I had was Jack’s jumping abilities. He doesn’t jump terribly or anything,
it’s just not entirely up to par. You’ll get used to it, though.

So with all the basic elements you run through the six levels fighting
enemies and bosses and get to the end. The difficulty in the PAL version is
significantly stepped up with two additional levels and three more bosses to
contend with. The Witch is pretty easy, but the Cyclops and his level take
some practice to get through. The Dragon’s cave isn’t easy either and it
should probably take a new player several tries to defeat him. If you make
it to the fifth level on your first few attempts, chances are you’ll lose
all your lives and use all your continues.

The level itself is fairly
difficult, but the boss, Banana King, is without a doubt the most difficult
feature in the entire game. It took me several days to defeat him and a
dozen tries or more. He looks simple but really increases the difficulty
factor. Not in a bad way, however. The final level is moderately difficult
and with the additional distance to travel in the PAL version it shouldn’t
be a breeze. The Ghost of Captain Silver isn’t the most difficult of bosses,
I’d rank him third in the game, but he’s definitely not easy. Beat him and
you get an excellent ending sequence. With only some minor flaws, the
gameplay in this version is certainly much, much better, providing a more
interesting and entertaining game as a whole.

As far as creativity is concerned, the PAL version of Captain Silver is
quite creative, I’d have to say. The atmosphere is great, the enemies and
bosses are well done with only the problems I mentioned above and the ending
really draws everything together for a well-developed game. With some
further work it would have been better, but I think the programmers were
generally creative with this one. I can’t think of any other game like it
from the 8-Bit era. A little more variety with the music would have been
good and some fine tuning of the graphics, but as a whole nice job in the
presentation and very creative. Took the classic platformer schema and did
something new with it.

I’d definitely come back to this game in the future. I’ve played it several
times, in fact, even after beating it, despite any of its flaws. It’s a lot
of fun and just the right length where you’ll probably take a few days to
get through it but when you do it will only take a little over an hour or
perhaps less to complete it. In addition, you’ll likely want to come back
to it just to have some fun. Nice job with all of this, and a huge step
above the stripped down NTSC version, which probably only takes about
fifteen minutes, no joke. The PAL Captain Silver is the only version you’ll
come back to if you’re insane enough to own both.

In conclusion, Captain Silver is an integral piece of any Sega Master System
fan’s collection. Of course, remember, I’m speaking only of the PAL version
here, the NTSC version is completely worthless and should only be purchased
to either have the most complete and thus sick collection in the world or
simply to see how bad it can be when a company has to save money by
stripping down an otherwise fun title. Do what I did, purchase the PAL
version for the gameplay, but purchase the NTSC version for the box art and
manual. Switch them, and throw out the remains, because they’re worthless.

Graphics: 7.5
Sound: 5.5
Gameplay: 8
Creativity: 8.5
Replay Value/Game Length: 10
Final: 7.9
Written by Stan Review Guide