Sunday, 10 January 2016

Silkworm (Tecmo, 1988)


Developed by Tecmo Co, Ltd., and released originally for the arcades in 1988.

Commodore Amiga conversion programmed by Ronald Pieket-Weeserik. Commodore 64 conversion programmed by Warren Mills. Amstrad CPC & Sinclair ZX Spectrum conversions programmed by Nigel Brown. Atari ST conversion programmed by John Croudy. Graphics by Edward "Ned" Langman. Music and sounds by Barry Leitch for Imagitec Design Ltd. Project management by Simon Pick. Produced by the Sales Curve Ltd. Published in 1989 by Virgin Mastertronic, except the Atari ST version published in 1990.

Conversion for the NES developed and published by American Sammy for the North American market in 1990.

---

INTRODUCTION & GAME STATUS


Although I can't claim to be much of a fan of shoot'em-up games, the two Silkworm games have always held a strange appeal despite my never having really put much effort in playing either game all that much. The reason for this more than likely being that both games require two players in order to have a full experience, and back in the day I didn't really give much value to these kinds of games. So this shall be the first comparison made with a more significant help from my friend SJ, to get some insight into the two-player experience, but this time, we shall be only focusing on the first game because it has enough versions for one comparison.

The original Silkworm was a fairly successful arcade shooter, which somehow felt more at home on home computers, which is likely why Random Access designed the so-called sequel straight for the home computers. Both Arcade Museum and MobyGames only have one vote for the original Silkworm, the former having 3.75 and the latter 3.4, each out of a total of 5.0, but since it's hardly reliable to accept the score of a single voter, we shall have to focus on the scores voted by computer gamers. 72 Lemon64 voters have given it a score of 7.8, while at the sister site, LemonAmiga, 179 voters have given it a whopping 8.21. For some reason, no-one has voted the Atari ST version at Atarimania, but 4 voters at MobyGames have given it a score of 2.5, while the in-house critic has given it 80/100. At World of Spectrum, their conversion has been given a very nice 8.17 by 53 voters. Questicle.net has given the NES version a respectable B grade. From the Amstrad community, we have two scores once again: at CPC Game Reviews, a reviewer has given it an 8 out of 10, while at CPC-Softs, the score seems to be a more plausible 15.17 out of 20.00.

---


DESCRIPTION & REVIEW


What we have in Silkworm is a fairly basic, but no-nonsense side-scrolling arcade shooter - probably at its purest. It's at best a co-operative two-player blast-out, in which you and your partner control a road vehicle labeled as a Jeep and a helicopter with no particular brand in mind, shoot everything in front, behind, above and below of you while dodging enemy bullets and rockets, land mines and other regular military-based shooter game's hostile elements. If you have no partner, you can choose to play a single-player game with either of the two vehicles, but that's only half of the fun.

And that's pretty much all I can say about it as a review. Games of this kind are designed as co-operative two-player action games, and playing without a partner will make you miss the point. Silkworm focuses so much on this particular idea, that it's increasingly useless to play it without a partner. So, as a single-player game, I cannot give it very high marks. Also, compared to some later co-op two-player shooters, Silkworm is hopelessly outdated in almost every way, and gets a bit  boring a bit too easily. But it definitely has its place in the history of shooting games as an early example of how to get variety into otherwise endlessly repetitive gameplay. And it's not wholly bad - it can even be a good bit of fun, for a coffee break, as it was intended. Arcade games rarely require more than that.

---

PLAYABILITY


Playing Silkworm is fairly straight-forward, as it is a prime example of an automatically scrolling shoot'em-up. What I mean by "fairly" is, that while the basic gameplay is not much more than keeping your fire button swiftly pressed down and moving your joystick - or D-pad, if you're playing on the NES - wildly around, there is a bit more to it than you would think. In the original arcade version, at least, there are three action buttons for both the Jeep and the Helicopter, which would suggest that a home conversion will not likely be completely accurate in the basic gameplay terms. The Jeep's buttons are: 1 - shoot forward, 2 - jump and 3 - aim backwards. The Helicopter's buttons are: 1 - shoot forward, 2 - shoot down and 3 - aim diagonally. Although not all of these actions are pivotal to the gameplay, each of them have their occasional uses, and this has been taken into account when trying to decide which actions should be left out, if needed. Oh, and I almost forgot to add: there is no inertia involved here, so controlling either vehicle is easy and instantaneous.

Obviously, the NES version is able to do the most with two action buttons on the controller. For the Jeep, B shoots, A jumps and the D-pad's up and down directions adjust the weapon's aim. For the Helicopter, B shoots forward and diagonally, while pushing A changes the Helicopter's alignment, enabling it to shoot diagonally and straight down. For all the other versions, the Helicopter has no different shooting aims, and the Jeep jumps by pushing the joystick up, but with the fire button down and moving the joystick up and down, you can aim the main weapon.

There are some noteworthy details in Silkworm, that known them may help you get into the rhythm of the game. First of all, there are some basic upgrades you can collect, such as a turbo-mode (you move faster), and two weapon upgrades - a twin-rocket and a firing rate enhancer. It should be noted, though, that if your fingers are quick enough and you have the required dexterity, you can also shoot quicker by tapping the fire button very fast, at least before you get the firing rate enhancer. The speed-tapping method is hardly needed, though, unless you die somewhere later in the game, where the game turns into something of a bullet-hell that is so popular with Japanese indie developers nowadays. You will also come across these cloud-looking bonus items, that mostly appear from destroying landmines; for most versions, picking one up will provide you with a shield for a limited time, and picking another one while wearing this shield blasts a smart bomb, killing all the regular sort of enemies on the screen. Be warned, though, that if you shoot the cloud while it's waiting to be collected, you will descrease its strength significantly.


Also worth noting is that most of the enemy land targets have their armour's strength inversely proportional to their shooting abilities - the more bullets or rockets are thrown at you, the more likely they are to be destroyed with less hits. Added to the other constant mayhem, there are also end-level bosses that don't take much figuring out how they are to be handled, as well as mid-level bosses, which have a certain weak spot that's more difficult to reach with the Helicopter. You can actually apply some sort of strategy to dealing with these mid-level bosses - the game has a kill counter, which decreases as you destroy enemies, and once it reaches zero, the mid-level boss appears. Since these take quite a lot of hits before they go down, you might want to keep your kill counter movement as low as possible, so you can get to the end-level boss without having to deal with the mid-level boss. Of course, coming to contact with a mid-level boss is inevitable, but avoiding this inevitability will likely keep you alive longer.

Now we come to the actual gameplay differences. In most versions, the end-level bosses take turns between a huge helicopter and a huge tank, but for the SPECTRUM and AMSTRAD versions, they had to cut it down to only featuring the huge helicopters for all levels. The NES version does the complete opposite, and gives you a different end-level boss for every level, which is a bit peculiar. Also, in the arcade version, the "final" boss battle has an altered version of the huge tank, you can't seem to be able to kill. At least, me and SJ weren't able to destroy the tank after well over 15 minutes of trying on the medium difficulty level. But apparently, there is no ending in the arcade version, as the game would loop onwards from level 8 once you have gotten past the final boss, so that renders the arcade game slightly less appealing. All the home conversions end after level 11, but the rewards for finishing the game can be brutally different. If you happen to be the sort of gamer whose primary motive is to find good endings, the NES version should suit you very well indeed, and the C64 version should be left alone. All the other versions have an actual ending and some text afterwards, but I will not spoil it too much in the next section. Oh yes, and as you might have guessed, the end-game boss in the NES version is VERY different from the other versions.


Although the above should be plenty enough to worry about, there are some even more drastic changes made to some of the home conversions. The most worrying one might well be that apart from the NES version, none of the 8-bit versions have continues - one Game Over and you're back to the beginning. Very frustrating. The NES version has continues, but you are always taken back to the beginning of the current level instead of a closer checkpoint. As a lesser nuisance, the NES version doesn't have a kill counter, and will put you against two mid-level bosses in every level, but I guess that's the price you pay for getting the full upgrades compared to the other 8-bits, where you are only able to get a twin-cannon. On another note, the AMSTRAD and SPECTRUM versions force you to play a two-player game, since there is no option to play a single-player game, and the main menu only gives you the control options for both players.

If the differences had ended there, I would have been a happy blogger, but alas, the basic gameplay mechanics differ quite a bit in pretty much all versions - the game speed differs drastically, the difficulty differs slightly, the damage your weapons do and the different enemies take differs notably in some versions, and even the enemy attack patterns differ notably.

It is quite clear, that by default, the ARCADE version is the most difficult one of the lot, as it is the fastest one, and proportionally, the Jeep and the Helicopter move slower to their surroundings compared to any of the home conversions. It also gets you into that bullet-hell sort of area much too soon for my tastes and abilities. Even with a good amount of practice, we still had to use a couple of credits with SJ during the first level already. I have to admit, I didn't find the arcade version in its default settings all that enjoyable, but for the amount and implementation of gameplay elements, it is clearly superior to the conversions. So, if you want to save yourself the trouble of trying to soldier on through the game by using a hundred credits, MAME has this nice menu structure where you can change the game settings with virtual dip switches. There are five difficulty levels in Silkworm, and the game is set to level 3 by default. Also, you can select the number of lives you start with between two and five, so that could be quite helpful as well. If you really want to go hardcore, you can even change the score values for giving you extra lives in such a way that the game will never give you extra lives, but the default setting is really the best way to go.


Compared to the original, the next in line in terms of game speed are the 16-bits. The ATARI ST version has a bit of choppiness in its scrolling, but it's virtually the same as the AMIGA version. Still, this means that the AMIGA version is more enjoyable of the two. The difficulty level on the 16-bit home conversions is much more humane than in the original, as the bullet-hell portion of the game starts notably later, and you have the chance to get used to the game by then, as well as gain some good upgrades for your Jeep and Helicopter. To make up for the lack of arcade-level difficulty, the AMIGA and ST versions inform you after level 8, that from that point on, continues are off.


The C64 version is closer to the original in difficulty, as it is in game speed. The difference is, although it doesn't have as much of stuff coming at you all at once, all the enemies have more hit points than they do either in the arcade version or the 16-bits. The scrolling is smoother than on the ST version, though, and the enemy attack patterns are a bit more traditional. But, the lack of continues paired with the difficulty level makes this one the most unappealing version of the lot - unless, perhaps, you happen to be a hardcore 2D shooter fanatic with magical skills.

In terms of difficulty, the NES version might parallel the 16-bits quite well, but it is arranged so differently that it's hard to tell. The game speed is similar to the 16-bit versions, too, and as I said, the upgrades make up for the fact that after Game Over, using a spare credit takes you back to the beginning of the level, but overall, I still think it's one of the better balanced versions of the game you can play at home. That said, it's difficult enough for me to recommend this to be played with a friend, rather than alone.

As the SPECTRUM and AMSTRAD versions give you no other choice but to play with a friend, you would imagine the game to be so difficult that the co-pilot was necessary. This, unfortunately, is not so. While the difficulty level is still high enough to warrant helpful memory POKE'ing for a virtual single-player mode, the first couple of levels are still easy enough to keep the Jeep from harm's way with the Helicopter, if you're quick enough. By default, these two versions are a bit slower than any of the other versions, and once the screen starts getting filled with enemy sprites, you will witness increasingly drastic slowdown. This, on the other hand, gives you more time to react to everything happening around you, so it's not that bad, but it certainly lessens the effect of simulating an arcade game. Apart from what has been told already, there are some other things missing from these two versions - mostly terrain-related enemy positioning, but also some towering obstacles that you need to shoot your way through, along with a couple of less important enemy types.
 

I'm still very much aware that it's unfair to compare an arcade game to its home conversions, but the point still isn't in seeing, whether any version would beat the original - very rarely the case is so, even when the game is originally made for home computers. The point is to see, how they all compare to the original, and in this particular case, which version offers the best alternative. Obviously the original takes the first spot, but apart from that one, how do the other versions line up? Points will be taken off for unfairness, lack of features (such as weapon upgrades), and unnecessary amount of content cutting.

1. ARCADE
2. COMMODORE AMIGA
3. ATARI ST
4. NES
5. COMMODORE 64
6. ZX SPECTRUM / AMSTRAD CPC

---

GRAPHICS


You're in for a real treat this time, I tell you. The width of difference between the 7 versions this time is so vast, that it's almost useless to even include them in the same comparison. But now that we've gotten past the inevitable pre-content hype, let's start this properly with the even more inevitable comparison of loading screens, where available.

Loading screens and their originator. Top row, left to right: ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC.
Bottom left: Commodore Amiga. Bottom right: Arcade, intro sequence.

Of course, in the arcade version, there is no real loading screen, unless you count the test screens and scrambled characters and such scrolling counter-clockwise in a circle as such. And that's not something you really need to see here - get your own MAME and hunt the game down if you're interested in that sort of thing. Most of the home conversions took their loading screen from the arcade version's title sequence, which shall be shown in full in the next picture. The helmet looks a bit odd on its own, since it's not featured in the cover art, and it has no real meaning in the bigger scheme of things, because the original game lacks a proper plotline. But, it's just something to look and ponder at while the game loads, so why not. Although the 8-bit versions of the helmet look a bit naked without the extra text bits, at least the C64 loading screen has the game title present. And before the single Amstrad fan reading this might say anything, yes, the colouring in the CPC loading screen is the closest to the original from the 8-bits. Also, the AMIGA loading screen (nope, the ST version doesn't have one) fixes the unmirrored number sixes in what I think is a virtual HUD shown in front of the helmet - nice touch!

Title screens. The four leftmost pictures in the top row: Arcade. Top right end: Commodore Amiga.
Bottom row, left to right: Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, NES, Atari ST.

The arcade title sequence in full regalia features the distributor's intro screen (Presented by Tecmo), then the helmet you saw already, and finally the actual title screen, within which the title menus are displayed. Once you insert a coin into the machine, you will see the blue rectangular things filling the background and the text changes to inform you of the amount of credits you have at the moment and the amount of score you need to get extra lives. In the home conversions, nothing so spectacular happens; the title screens stay very similar to what they look like here, only the text bits change, if at all. In the case of the AMSTRAD and SPECTRUM versions, this is all you get.

Controller options from Commodore Amiga (left), Atari ST (middle) and Commodore 64 (right).


I had to include the rest of the control options as a separate collage, primarily because of the much more graphically made screen on the 16-bit versions. Concerning those two, then, I think it's nice to see the graphicians having taken the trouble of actually styling the function keys correctly for each system.

Screenshots from Level 1. Top left: Atari ST. Top right: Commodore Amiga.
Middle row, left to right: ZX Spectrum, Arcade, Amstrad CPC.
Bottom left: NES. Bottom right: Commodore 64.

Into the action, then. While Silkworm has the feel of just another side-scrolling shooter, what it can offer more than most other games of its kind at the time is background graphics. Well, sure, there are dozens of different enemies to see in the game as well, but the backgrounds are really what make this game such an interesting one graphically. At least in case of the original ARCADE version, it is, and the 16-bits mimic the original as well as they are able to. Heck, even the less powerful NES and C64 put on a good show in making the backgrounds seem as varied as possible within each level, even though they admittedly fall slightly behind their more powerful cousins. Only the AMSTRAD and SPECTRUM versions focus entirely on getting the game to scroll as smoothly as possible, and then drain that fine attempt down the toilet by throwing more sprites on screen than either machine's memory is able to handle. Whoop-te-doo. Anyway, I cannot do a very detailed comparison of the background graphics, because this game would need videos to show that sort of thing. But what I can tell you straight away, is that while all the other versions with proper backdrops feature some sort of parallax scrolling, the NES version is the only one that only has one background layer, which makes it look considerably cheaper than would be advisable.

Screenshots from Level 2. Top left: Commodore Amiga. Top right: Atari ST.
Middle row, left to right: ZX Spectrum, Arcade, Amstrad CPC.
Bottom left: NES. Bottom right: Commodore 64.


Here, we have more proof of the lack of memory on the AMSTRAD and SPECTRUM versions, as coming to the end of level 2 lets you down with the same end-level boss that you killed in the previous level. And it shall be the same thing over and over again, until you finish the game, which gets a bit boring. Elsewhere, there aren't that much of problems. Only the NES version looks a bit curious, as the backdrop looks very different with the red, kind of deserty colouring, as opposed to the lush green hills.

Since that wasn't as informative as it could have been, let's take a look at the information panels. There are two clearly different arrangements here: the original, which has been successfully copied for the AMIGA and ST versions, and the simpler arrangement made for the 8-bit home computers. The only real difference is, that the simpler arrangement doesn't have the ranking tags as clearly shown. The NES version also has its very own arrangement of the info panels: it doesn't feature the lower one at all, since there is no use for displaying the time your current credit has been in use, and the NES version doesn't have the mid-level boss counter either, since it will always come at certain points in each level. Also, the way the ranking tags, scores and life indicators are placed is very different from any other version, as the tags are placed near the center for both players.


One randomly chosen frame from the blinking alarm when you approach an end-level boss.
Top left: Atari ST. Top right: Commodore Amiga. Bottom row, left to right: Arcade, Commodore 64, NES.


When you get to the end of a level, the game plays an alarm of sorts, and in most cases, also gives some sort of a visual signal to warn you of the end-level boss approaching. Unsurprisingly, the SPECTRUM and AMSTRAD versions have this more or less omitted, although you might notice a similar occurrence happening to having a smart bomb exploding, if there are any regular enemies on the screen when you reach that area. Once again, the limitations of still pictures come forth, as I cannot show you here, how the screen flashes with a certain way in each version when the alarm comes, but I guess the pivotal point is, that some flashing does happen, and the background turns darker for the duration of the boss-fight. The NES version takes the darkening a bit too literally, since after the flashing alarm has been shown, the screen turns completely black, and then you find yourself in a separate empty boss-fight arena of sorts with just a blue floor underneath you, where the end-level boss then will appear.


Screenshots from three randomly chosen later levels. Top left: Arcade. Top right: NES.
Rows 2, 3 and 4, top to bottom: Commodore 64, Atari ST, Commodore Amiga.
Bottom left: Amstrad CPC. Bottom right: ZX Spectrum.

Since there are literally dozens of different sorts of little enemy sprites in the game, and many of them use their own specific sorts of bullets or rockets or whatever, it wouldn't be a particularly sensible thing to assume that I would make a comparison of them all. No indeed, I'm not even going to make a separate comparison of all seven different versions of the two player vehicles, because frankly, I'm a bit too lazy for that at the moment (although I would be interested to know, why is the Jeep's colour in the NES version blue?). Instead, for the above picture, I have chosen three random screenshots from later levels, just to show you more of the same. 

But what I want to talk about now is the annoyingly reluctant-to-die mid-level boss, which you saw some screenshots of earlier already. What it looks like reminds me of... uhh... I don't know, a cross between a helicopter and an aardvark, I guess. Well, this ugly, annoying thing that looks similar enough in all versions, differs in its manner of getting built. At least none of the versions skip the building process, but some of them have it comparatively short, which I think is really the preferable way, because it's such an annoying thing to look at and try to destroy. In most versions, the first thing to appear is a fiery centerpiece with the top propeller attached to it, which comes from a direction programmed differently for almost every version. The C64 and NES versions are the only ones that doesn't feature this bit. Next, the aardcopter-thing's four or five other parts fly on the screen from the right side, and circle around the fiery centerpiece for a while, before clinging themselves onto it, and thus forming the awkward-looking thing. Again, the C64 and NES versions do this relatively quickly, with every piece finding their spot in just one spin. I'm not saying that it's as impressive graphically as the more long-winded versions of the same procedure, it's just less irritating on the long run. If you're looking for something more impressive, the original along with the 16-bits are the way to go.

Counting bonuses after finishing a level. Top row, left to right: Arcade, Commodore Amiga, Atari ST, NES.
Bottom row, left to right: Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum.
It's difficult to say anything worth printing about bits of text, when you're supposed to talk about graphics. When you finish a level, you get the bonus counters, which are styled in such a way as to necessitate some comment. But then again, this offers an opportunity to talk about the game's fonts as well. While the game logo uses an explosive version of a Stencil font, the other, more frequently used font in the game is an old-school space-age font that was popular in the late 1970's and early 1980's. I found one True Type font called "Data 70", which is almost exactly the font used for the basic text bits in Silkworm, which I think is a bit odd, since the game doesn't really have that much to do with science-fiction. Curiously, only the AMSTRAD version differs from this norm, and it uses something even less interesting and over-utilised, but I haven't bothered to find out that font's name.

In the ARCADE version, the bonus points are displayed as largened, metallic versions of the same font, with yellow lining around the numbers, and the only other version using a similar style is the AMIGA version, but otherwise, the Amiga's bonus screen is less colourful. For the NES, AMSTRAD and SPECTRUM versions, the enlarged font for bonus points is completely different, and the only ones that have no difference in any of the text bits in the bonus screen are C64 and ATARI ST, although at least they have more colour than the SPECTRUM bonus screen. Not that this has much worth in the overall graphics scores.

Exclusive things from the NES version. Top row: intro plot sequence. Bottom row: a couple of random end-level bosses.


Having come a bit later into the game, the NES version was made to feature something that was completely missing from the original arcade game - a plotline. You can see the intro sequence just by waiting a while in the title screen, but in order to witness the rest of it, you will have to complete the game. Or watch it on YouTube, whichever you prefer. In addition to the plot sequences, the NES version also has completely exclusive end-level bosses, a couple of which are shown above, and some of which you already saw earlier in the other screenshots.

High Score tables: Arcade (left), Atari ST (middle) and Commodore Amiga (right).


For the last bit of screenage, I would have included the Game Over screens as well, were they not so completely devoid of anything interesting. So, to describe them in a few words, most versions just display a simple red "Game Over" text on top of the screen where you died, and some versions have it shown in the information panel. The ARCADE version seems to be the only one, in which you get a separate Game Over screen, and even there, it's that red text in the middle of the screen, with those blue rectangles in the background you saw earlier.

As for the High Scores, it seems like only the original and the 16-bits feature proper high score tables. The main difference is, again, the blue rectangles in the background of the arcade scores, although the more useful difference is that you can write only three letters on the arcade scoreboard, while the ATARI and AMIGA versions allow a whopping seven letters. The NES version doesn't even have a scoreboard, so I don't really know why did they insist on having a score counter. The other 8-bit versions have a "top score of the day" feature, because tape releases usually didn't have high score savers.

And now, I only have to put these in some sort of an order. While the arcade version is the original, and its dedicated hardware gives the developers plenty of opportunities to do magic that should be impossible to do on home computers, I have to say that the COMMODORE AMIGA version is really damn close to being as pretty as the original. The ATARI ST version isn't too far away, either, but its scrolling is a bit on the jittery side, so it shall have to lose a point for that. But there is something in these two that the original version doesn't have: an ending! And what an ending it is - Michael Bay would be proud. I will not show it to you here, because I want you to experience it for yourselves, but it really is better to have a showy ending than loop the game for an infinity. That said, the NES version has an even bigger ending due to its added plotline, and all the other home conversions have some kinds of endings as well, but their level of prettiness is not quite as mentionable. Apart from the endings, though, the 8-bits have a surprisingly clear order, since the SPECTRUM and AMSTRAD versions have no actual background graphics at all, and the NES version doesn't have parallax scrolling.


1. COMMODORE AMIGA
2. ARCADE
3. ATARI ST
4. COMMODORE 64
5. NES
6. AMSTRAD CPC / ZX SPECTRUM

---

SOUNDS


There is no point delaying the inevitable: the 48k SPECTRUM version has no sounds at all, so it shall automatically lose this section. But concerning the 128k version, the situation could well be quite different.

The original ARCADE soundtrack doesn't really have all that much to it. There's a very 80's police-type action theme that reminds me of Dempsey and Makepeace, if anything, that is played during the majority of the game. Only when you get to fight the end-level bosses, the music segues into something more hesitant and laden with elements of suspension, but has more melodic elements as well. It's difficult to describe it any more clearly, but you could find similar kinds of tunes from any Japanese shoot'em-up from the late 80's and early 90's. On top of that, there are some obvious shoot'em-up sound effects that are played alongside the music, but my problem with the arcade version is, that it all sounds very plastic and tinny, kind of like 16-bit Sega games, but perhaps even less refined. Perhaps it's a matter of taste as usual, but I would rather listen to Rage Against the Machine than Justin Bieber.

For the C64 version, the conversion team decided not to include any music in the game at all. Instead, they focused on doing great sound effects, which they admittedly did well enough. But they did make a SID version of the basic in-game tune, and planted it into the tape loader. It's much more powerful here than it is in the original, which makes it all the more of a pity, that it wasn't to be included within the game. However, the sound effects offer an interesting alternative to the usual feast of shooting: you never get to hear your own shots being fired. Instead, every time you hit an enemy, you hear a small tap sound to acknowledge a hit, and the explosions are complex and noisy enough. In addition to that, there are different sounds for enemies shooting, picking up bonuses, and there's a little tingle-effect when you reach the end-level boss. Even some enemies' movements make a bit of sound. But one thing that I unfortunately cannot claim the C64 version to be in terms of sound, and that is rich in variety.

I might have been a bit ungenerous by starting so negatively with the 48k Spectrum, but now we come to the 128k version, which has much in common with the AMSTRAD version, since they both use a similar sound chip. Once the game has loaded in, you are greeted with a very good rendition of the same tune that was only included in the loading screen on the C64, if not even slightly better. The percussions in particular sound very nice on the AY-chip. But again, there is no music during play, and the sound effects in the 128k SPECTRUM and AMSTRAD versions utilise no low frequencies at all, so all the action on screen doesn't really correlate to the lack of testosterone coming from the speakers. Most of it is just shuffly noises and occasional strange beeps, which are even less descriptive than the weirdest noises on the C64. Sorry, but that's just wrong.

As with the graphics, the NES version has gone a bit overboard with the sounds as well. The whole thing starts off with a loud explosion, as the title screen kicks in. If you care to wait for more than a few seconds, the introductory plot sequence will kick in, and there's our first new tune, which is completely through-composed, is at the same time very militant, even more theatrical and thus very characteristically Japanese shooter-like, and it lasts for about a minute. The in-game tunes are pretty much the same as they are in the arcade version, but somehow, they manage to sound more at home here on the relatively humble 8-bit Nintendo. Of course, the inclusion of these tunes in their proper context can easily be attributed to the cartridge media format, which can handle quite a lot of more information at once compared to what even the 128k versions of AMSTRAD and SPECTRUM can handle. And naturally, we get some obvious-sounding sound effects on top of the music as well. Then, there's at least a second new tune that I managed to come across, which is the bonus counter thing between levels. Short, but sweet, and completely fitting for the game.

Perhaps I shouldn't be too surprised at this point in my retro game blogging career, but the ATARI ST still manages to surprise me by how much its soundchip's output sounds like things on the AMSTRAD CPC and 128k SPECTRUM. The theme tune sounds very similar, but the sound effects have some more character to them - perhaps even a little more of attack than on the said 8-bits. But considering the possibilities of a 16-bit machine and the amount of data one floppy disk can hold, it's a surprise they didn't bother to include any more music in here. As it is, the soundtrack on the NES version is much more preferable.

Naturally, the AMIGA having a sampler instead of a synthesizer for a sound chip, doesn't make it difficult to guess how much better the sounds are here than in any other version. Too bad there still isn't more music than in most of the 8-bits or the ATARI ST version, but all that it has sounds powerful, energetic and more realistic than in any other version. For this reason alone, I recommend the AMIGA version above all else here. That said, the NES version comes a close second.

1. COMMODORE AMIGA
2. NES
3. ARCADE
4. ATARI ST
5. COMMODORE 64
6. AMSTRAD CPC / ZX SPECTRUM 128k
7. ZX SPECTRUM 48k

---

VIDEO LINK

 

Yes, we have a video link for a change. With permission from Gaming History Source channel on YouTube, here you can see for yourselves, what I've been trying to babble on about for the past 5 million words or so. If you skipped to the end of this comparison and saw the link for this video before you were meant to, you can blame yourself for having missed the perfect place where I had an opportunity to say something like "Wait for it..." but didn't. Well anyway, here we go... 




---

OVERALL


That's about the most I am willing to do to make a presentable comparison of this particular game at this particular moment. Silkworm is doubtlessly graphic-heavy to the extreme, and thus unnecessarily difficult to dig into in any further detail, so it's really a matter of trying to get the most of the rest of it. Usually, playability is without doubt the most important part of any game, but when we're dealing with such a repetitive arcade shooter that's heavy on graphics, the varying backgrounds become hugely important. So, this is how the unforgivably mathematical results look like this time:

1. COMMODORE AMIGA: Playability 5, Graphics 6, Sounds 7 = TOTAL 18
2. ARCADE: Playability 6, Graphics 5, Sounds 5 = TOTAL 16
3. ATARI ST: Playability 4, Graphics 4, Sounds 4 = TOTAL 12
4. NES: Playability 3, Graphics 2, Sounds 6 = TOTAL 11
5. COMMODORE 64: Playability 2, Graphics 3, Sounds 3 = TOTAL 8
6. AMSTRAD CPC / ZX SPECTRUM 128k: Playability 1, Graphics 1, Sounds 2 = TOTAL 4
7. ZX SPECTRUM 48k: Playability 1, Graphics 1, Sounds 1 = TOTAL 3


Before any of you begin yelling at me again, "why does Spectrum/Amstrad only get one point for whatever": it's because it placed that low in each section of the comparison, not because of their actual worth, when taken the hardware into consideration. I've had to comment on it on so many occasions, that I decided to do a pre-emptive strike of sorts here. The scores are mathematically counted, and so their fault must be mathematical. One plus one plus one equals three. Having gotten that out of the way, I would point out that for a change, the mathematical scores actually concur with my opinion regarding this game's versions.

That's it for now, but the Silkworm saga will continue in the comparison of SWIV... although I have no clear idea when this is going to happen. But it will. Thanks to SJ for filling the role of the very important second player in this game, and for some insight and great discussions regarding Silkworm and these sorts of games in general - the co-operation shall continue eventually. And thanks to you lot for reading once again, hope you liked it! Comments are welcome as ever! See you next time!

No comments:

Post a comment