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Sunday, 22 May 2016

SWIV (Storm, 1991)

Developed by Random Access for various platforms, and released by Storm in 1991.

Designed by Edward "Ned" Langman, Ronald Pieket-Weeserik and Daniel Marchant.

Commodore Amiga and Atari ST versions programmed by Ronald Pieket-Weeserik and John Croudy; Graphics by Edward "Ned" Langman; Music and sound effects by Andrew Barnabas.

Amstrad CPC, MSX2 & Sinclair ZX Spectrum 128k conversions team: Programming and sound effects by Ken Murfitt; Graphics by Tahir Rashid; Additional CPC programming by Javier Fafula; Spectrum loader code by Steve Snake; Spectrum and MSX music by Sound Images.

Commodore 64 conversion team: Programming by Robert Henderson; Graphics by Robert Whitaker; Presentation screens by Paul Rogers; Music and sound effects by Martin Walker.

Acorn Archimedes conversion team: Programming by Nigel Little; Music and sound effects by Andrew Barnabas; Published by Krisalis Software Ltd. in 1992.

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INTRODUCTION & GAME STATUS


You all remember Tecmo's Silkworm, that brilliant co-operative two-player shoot'em-up, right? Well, Tecmo wasn't involved in the second entry in the series at all - instead, it was made directly for home computers by Random Access, who were responsible for converting the original Silkworm to home computers. At the time, there was some debate as to whether or not SWIV was a sequel to Silkworm or not, but I'm guessing that was just pirate talk, because it is clearly indicated in the game manual, that SWIV is clearly a sequel, however unofficial. So of course, as a sequel of sorts to the Silkworm comparison from December, we decided to drive this matter to some sort of a conclusion. This results in the comparison of the newest game from the time prior to the 8-bit home computers' commercial death in 1993. And as was previously suggested, SJ has come to help me with the game's pivotal two-player mode, that made the first game so brilliant.

Many of my friends considered the sequel to be much more entertaining for whatever reason, but it seems the game didn't get as solid conversions for all platforms it was made for, so I can't imagine it was quite as popular everywhere as the original. Starting with the Amstrad version, it has some unfortunate scores: a dismal 4 out of 10 at CPC Game Reviews and a similar 8.50 out of 20.00 at CPC-Softs. The Spectrum version fares quite a bit better, with a score of 8.19 out of 38 votes at WoS. At the Lemon websites, the C64 version has been given a 7.9 by 59 voters, and the Amiga version has another glowing score of 8.37 from 245 votes, ranking it at #88 in the Top list from at least 50 votes. Amazingly, the Atari ST version has a rating of 8.9 out of 10 at Atarimania, although there are only 7 votes. Still, not bad at all. The game wasn't very well known on the MSX, probably because it requires an MSX2 or a rarely utilised memory expansion for its little brother, so there's only one vote given to it at Generation-MSX, with 3.5 stars out of five. Finally, since the Acorn Archimedes version is even more of a rarity, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that I couldn't find any scores for it.

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DESCRIPTION & REVIEW


Much like the original Silkworm, what we have here is a very straight-forward shoot'em-up, which is designed to be first and foremost a co-operative experience. Instead of a horizontally scrolling side-viewed game engine, this one has a bird's eye view vertically scrolling one. The vehicles from the first Silkworm remain the same, a Jeep and a helicopter, but their weapons have been altered in some ways, and now you have to go around obstacles on the Jeep. However, the most interesting change in gameplay has to be, that the whole game is played in one huge segment, at least ideally. True to its arcade origins, the arguably unfortunate inheritance has been a ridiculously high difficulty level. Surprisingly, that hasn't really made the game any less fondly remembered, but I guess SWIV was given a bigger lifespan by adding elements to some older arcade shooters, such as Xevious and Spy Hunter - nostalgia was starting to become a solid feature in gaming as early as 1991.


It cannot be denied that SWIV will most likely be considered as one of the best 16-bit shoot'em-ups developed for home computers of all time, because it really is that good. You just have to be one of those gamers who can get themselves in the "zone", as it were, or have otherwise exceptionally good hand/eye-coordination skills and superb reflexes in order to get anywhere in the game. Even though you can easily learn everything you need to know about SWIV and get somewhat into the rhythm of it, the unfortunate fact is that it will get stupidly busy at some point, and it's practically impossible for most of us to beat without cheats. But then, arcade games have always been like that, and this is nothing if not a pure-blooded arcade game in spirit and style.

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PLAYABILITY


While the original Silkworm, being originally an arcade game, had three fire buttons for each player, developing SWIV primarily for home computers necessitated the reducement of fire buttons. Now, the helicopter has only one button, which works well enough, and the Jeep has an additional jump button reserved from the keyboard (Alt), which basically makes controlling the Jeep from keyboard more logical. As you might have imagined, this is already where the differences start to pile up: the Jeep doesn't jump in any of the 8-bits.

But I'm getting ahead of myself here, let's rewind to the title screen, where it all must begin. In the original AMIGA and ST versions, you start the game by pressing the fire button on either controller, which will start the game with either the Jeep or the helicopter. The other player can only join the game once the game has already started. If you wish to change the controls, press HELP key anywhere in the title sequence. The ARCHIMEDES version is a straight port from the other 16-bits, so the same rules apply, apart from the controls menu being accessed by pressing F1. The C64 version is the only one of the 8-bits that follow this fashion, as the SPECTRUM, AMSTRAD and MSX versions force you to choose the number of players and their chosen controllers in the title screen - joining the game on the fly is not allowed.

Although I didn't write a separate loading section this time, it's necessary to touch the subject briefly, because it affects the gameplay and design rather drastically. The original 16-bit version uses a dynamic loader, which allows the game to run from the beginning to the end in one big sequence, with barely any pauses. If emulation is to be believed, the ATARI ST version loads data slower than the AMIGA version, but it's an insignificant inconvenience. I can't say one way or another about the ARCHIMEDES version, but it plays similarly enough to the previous two. The 8-bits load the level data in parts, so the level design is forced to chunks through necessity.

Now, on to the game itself, then. SWIV, as the game manual says, stands for various different things. While the plot is of very small consequence in this kind of a game, the primary objective of your mission is to Verify the existence of the enemy's Secret Weapons Installations and destroy them. The secondary objective is Interdiction: the destruction of all enemy Vehicles and other units by military force. You are also warned of the enemy's secret weapon, the enhanced SilkWorm IV homing missile. (Additionally, fans of the game like to think the abbreviation also stands for SilkWorm in Vertical.)

As before, the Helicopter can fly above everything, so only collision with enemies and their bullets will harm it. However, by default, the Helicopter can only shoot forwards (and down). Choosing the Jeep doesn't make things easier, because you will bump into buildings and other solid things on the ground level, and although it can shoot in any direction you drive towards, because if you keep the fire button down while moving around, you will lock the weapon into the direction you started shooting into, so tapping the fire button is necessary for shooting into the direction you want. That said, keeping the fire button down makes your chosen vehicle shoot at a quicker rate, compared to tapping the fire button, which is contrary to the norm. Singularly for the C64 version, the Jeep's shooting style has been radically altered: you can now move around and keep the fire button down, and you will be shooting two kinds of projectiles simultaneously - some sort of missiles straight up and smaller bullets into the direction you're driving to. I guess this was altered as a compromise for not having the jump feature. Happily, all versions feature the Spy Hunter pastiche of being able to jump from your car into a speedboat whenever necessary.

Many of the enemies from the original Silkworm have been reinterpreted here, most notably the mid-level bosses that look like a cross between a DIY-helicopter and a giant ant. Some of the enemy behavious has been drastically altered for the C64 version, making it more hectic an experience overall than most other versions, and there are some new enemy additions in the GBC version, that weren't present in the original 16-bit game. But getting back to that ant-copter, destroying one of these will again reward you with plenty of bonus tokens, which you can shoot to alter their purpose. On the 16-bits, the tokens include bonus score, additional missiles, shooting range spreader and a shooting speed upgrade. Also, if you shoot a bonus token about 50 times, it will turn into a new item with a star icon, which will give you a weapon that will shoot in all eight main directions, but it's not as effective as a fully upgraded spread-gun, for instance. I cannot say, whether this feature has been translated for the 8-bit versions, because I haven't been able to make the star items appear yet, so if anyone confirm their existence, please do so. For the SPECTRUM, AMSTRAD and MSX versions, you only get a spread/missile number upgrade and an extra life token for options. The C64 version features the same tokens as the 16-bits, but each of them are represented as letters instead of pictures.

Before I move on to the more drastic differences, I should probably mention the shield bubbles that were also copied from the original Silkworm. They can be obtained by shooting certain objects on the ground level, but once the bubble appears, you need to collect it or shoot it often enough to make it act like a smart bomb. Very much like it was in Silkworm. Well, this isn't interesting as such, since it's all to be expected, really, but the interesting part is, the SPECTRUM, AMSTRAD and MSX versions don't feature the shield bubbles at all.

I'm guessing the reason for this is, because the three above mentioned versions never really reach the bullet-hell mode as the original 16-bit game does - there is never enough action on the screen to make them feel as hectic and arcadely difficult as the original. That said, the SPECTRUM version scrolls notably quicker than the original. Unfortunately, the same scrolling speed and framerate wasn't reached on either the AMSTRAD or the MSX versions - I even tested them on openMSX and Sugarbox (as suggested) for accuracy. The C64 version, on the other hand, scrolls notably faster than even the SPECTRUM version does, and still, it manages to reach an unnecessarily high level of bullet-hellishness. It should be noted, though, that the game is quite a bit shorter on all the 8-bits, completely missing some segments and also having most areas shortened to fit the memory. So, because of its shortness and comparative easiness on the 8-bits, only two credits have been given to start with, so if both players are in, there will be no extra credits. On the 16-bits, there is one extra credit, so even with two players in, one of you can afford to lose all your lives once before you run out of credits.

There is one more notable difference between what can be counted as the three basic versions (16-bits, Spectrum variants and C64), and that is the screen size and your area of movement within it. On the 16-bits and C64, the whole screen (or at least the inner part of it) is reserved for the action, with as little room left for the info bits as possible. The SPECTRUM variants have a quarter of the screen's width reserved for a solid info panel, which leaves less room for the action. As for your movement, on the 16-bits you can actually get yourself half-way outside the screen through any border, although it's only helpful at the bottom of the screen. All of the 8-bits keep you strictly within the borders.


It's almost impossible to give scores here, since all the versions that clearly differ from other versions are so clearly different, that they should almost be considered as different entities. If you want to play an arcade-quality shooter in arcade difficulty, you really have no option but to go with any of the 16-bits. And since the AMIGA and ST versions came first, that's what we must compare the rest of them to. The SPECTRUM, AMSTRAD and MSX versions don't offer nearly as much challenge, so they're more comfortable in that sense, but of course, they're lacking content. The C64 version falls exactly between the other three 8-bits and the 16-bits.


1. AMIGA / ATARI ST / ARCHIMEDES
2. COMMODORE 64
3. SPECTRUM / AMSTRAD / MSX2

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GRAPHICS


I think this section is pretty clear from the start, at least for the winner(s), considering that the 16-bits already win easily by the sheer amount of graphics, nevermind the quality. But we do need to compare the lot, instead of just pick the winners and losers, and the only place we can start from is the title sequence.

Title sequences from the 16-bit versions. Top left and right: Commodore Amiga. Middle left and right: Atari ST.
Bottom row: Acorn Archimedes. All the other stuff are randomly from Amiga and ST.


As you would expect from an arcade game, there is no actual loading screen, and to perfect the illusion, Random Access decided against having one - at least on the 16-bits. The first graphics you will see here is a pixel-perfect rendition of the cover art, followed by a nice sequence of high score tables for both the helicopter and the Jeep (which you shall see later, at a more proper time), pictures and technical data on the two Interdiction Vehicles, as well as the obligatory credits and copyright screens. As a nice surprise, though, all the game's development team members for both 16-bits and the 8-bits have been drawn as funny cartoony faces. The ARCHIMEDES version naturally has a new face to replace the bunny, and the text bits haven't got as much colour in them. Also noteworthy is that the ATARI ST version has a vertically narrower screen, which makes the title have a bit of a squeezed look, and the picture cut from top and bottom.

Loading screens and title sequences. Top row: Commodore 64.
Bottom row, left to right: ZX Spectrum 128k, Amstrad CPC, MSX2.


It will come as no surprise, considering the previous section, that from the 8-bits, only the C64 version features a similarly grand title sequence as the 16-bits, but the difference is - in addition to the lower quality graphics - that the actual title screen only features the credits, and is loaded after the previous sequence, which features the title/loading screen, as well as the Jeep and Helicopter info screens and high score tables. For the SPECTRUM-based versions, there's only a title screen and a high score table shown after the game has loaded, and there's a unique loading screen on the SPECTRUM version. The other two only have the title logo and "loading.." printed onto the loading screen.

Screenshots of the first section (leading up to the first boss fight)
from Commodore Amiga/Acorn Archimedes (top row) and Atari ST (bottom row).


The 16-bit version of the game is a bit difficult to divide into sections, since it's all one big continuous game, so I have divided the graphics based on the 8-bit sections. The first section is clearly divided into two parts, which are a mostly destroyed third-world village and a stretch of desert with pyramids and various other buildings, most of them armed with vastly destructive weapons and other fearsome machines. What practically marks the end of each section are end-level bosses, most of which are some sort of massive armed buildings or vehicles or whatnot.

As you might have gathered from the previous picture, two of the three 16-bits look exactly the same: AMIGA and ARCHIMEDES. The ATARI ST version differs a great deal by a vertically narrower screen, but other than that, the only notable difference is that the scores and other text bits at the top are plain white instead of three shades of blue. Mind you, the screen size doesn't really affect the gameplay any notable amount, since the game still scrolls very slowly. However, it doesn't change the fact that the ST version is technically the worst of the 16-bits simply because of this little thing.

Screenshots from the 8-bit versions of section 1, left to right:
Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum 128k, Amstrad CPC, MSX2.


I believe this compiled set of pictures should prove a point, and render further inclusion of screenshots of at least the MSX version futile, if not the AMSTRAD version as well, seeing as they both look so very much like the SPECTRUM version, placed right next to the C64 screens. As you can see, the only difference between the MSX and SPECTRUM versions is the slight differences in palette, and what you can't see here is that the MSX version, rather expectedly, scrolls a bit slower than the SPECTRUM version. The AMSTRAD version features a differently coloured info panel, but that's about it, at least so far.

For the duration of the first section, the C64 version features as little of changes in background graphics as the other 8-bits, but at least there is more colour, more screen width, a higher scrolling speed and less obtrusive info bits. The wider pixels, while holding more colours in them, are displayed more to their disadvantage here than usually, because the hi-res monochrome sprites on the other three versions rarely get mixed into the background graphics so badly that you would have a hard time seeing anything. That said, the C64 version has more action on screen, and using layered sprites to give the illusion of hi-res graphics would have probably made that slightly less possible.

Screenshots from the second section, from top to bottom:
Commodore Amiga/Acorn Archimedes, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum 128k/MSX2, Amstrad CPC.


The so-called second section is where things really start to differ. For one, they had to make up a new end-level boss for the 8-bits in order to justify the cut-off point. Of the three most similar 8-bit versions, screenshots from the AMSTRAD version still had to be included, because it didn't have any colour variations in the background, unlike the other two. The C64 version has a notably different kind of a background after the water segment, but suits the purpose just as well as the other 8-bits. The 16-bits have another brief area before moving on to what the 8-bits refer to as the third section - a sandy kind of a surface, in which you can leave tire tracks with your Jeep.

Two of my favourite things about the original version are included in this section: the watery part, as it brings Spy Hunter to mind, and also the area after that one, which features a couple of enemy types that have been blatantly copied from Xevious. And these are just the first examples of many nostagic items to be featured in the game. One of the areas where the 8-bit versions failed to deliver were precisely these bits, although one could argue, that the C64 version had some Contra-like fire projectiles here. Also, while the C64 version has the same end-level boss fight as the other 8-bits, the SPECTRUM variant's end-level boss looks a bit Transformeresque. It's these little fun details that make the game so much more fun than you would first expect.
Bonus items. Top: 16-bits. Bottom: C64.
Middle: Spectrum variants.

Screenshots from various later sections on Commodore Amiga.
What I think is the most clearly demonstrative bit in all three basic versions regarding their differences are the bonus items. The SPECTRUM variants have only two bonus items (and no bubbles), while the C64 version features enough stuff to make it feel closer to the original 16-bit game, but everything looks considerably less detailed and designed for memorizing, rather than reflexes and intuition.


Here's a compilation of 8 screenshots from the further levels from the AMIGA version - which, of course, are appliable to the other two 16-bits. What I noticed by comparing the number of different areas was: in addition to the sandy bit at the end of section 2, there is a big complete section, which would place between the third and fourth sections, featuring a wasteland filled with big enemy debris and wintery areas (for Jeep and boat), which is missing from the 8-bits. That's at least 10 minutes of playtime. 


Screenshots from later sections on ZX Spectrum 128k (and MSX2).
Remarkably, the SPECTRUM variants have more sections translated from the 16-bits than the C64 version, but the sections are in a weird order (the final two bits being originally after what are the two yellow screens here on the 16-bits), and the blue section with the bomber plane and its aftermath are exclusive for this line of conversions. There's no denying this version looks good for what it is, but the lack of colour does take its toll on a game that relies almost entirely on the graphics to give any variety.

Screenshots from later sections on Commodore 64.
Then again, I cannot in all honesty say that the C64 version is that much more colourful. See section 1 from earlier: entirely brown, no variety in shading. Section 2 is the only one that has more interesting use of colour, with purple bits and green areas, as well as the necessarily blue watery bit. Section 3 here is again predictably brown, much like it is on the 16-bits, with some blue watery bits included in the middle, and because of the lack of those icy sections, the fourth section is again very grey, with only some hints of yellow for lava (?!) and blue for those electric things. Happily, the much-needed colour variety comes along with all the different enemies, so perhaps it's still quite a bit better than the monochrome presentations on the SPECTRUM variants.

Game Over screens and high score tables. Left: Amiga/ST/Archimedes.
Middle: C64 (no Game Over screen) Right: Spectrum variants.

Not every game has their own endings, but since this one does, I'm not going to spoil it for you, even if it's not all that much to see. Hence, the Game Over screens. Surprisingly, there's some actual diversity here this time, although it's pretty much the 16-bits versus the 8-bits. On the 16-bits, you can see some stats for your game, before having the possible opportunity to write your initials on the scoreboard. The SPECTRUM variants only have a fairly boring Game Over screen with just the said text, and then move on to the high scores. Weirdly, the C64 version doesn't even have a Game Over text - only the real ending has anything remotely informative. It just goes straight to the high score tables. What's noteworthy about the C64 version's high score tables is, that in the title sequence, you get to see similar renditions of them as are seen on the 16-bits, with the mushroom cloud in the background, but once the game has actually loaded in, the high score table is shown without the background image.

The one thing I cannot with any real credibility deal with here is the variety in animations, at least by showing you any screenshots, because it would be an idiotically long process to make the comparison in the style fitting for the blog. But from what I could gather, is that while the SPECTRUM variants have a few of the animations made in better detail than the C64 version, there are quite a bit less of them, and the sprite animations on the C64 version aren't too bad, either. There's no use in talking about the 16-bit versions, really, because you already know what the deal is.

And so it is, then, that some fairly minor things make some of the versions depart from the others of its kind, and thus the scores will be given as follows:

1. COMMODORE AMIGA / ACORN ARCHIMEDES
2. ATARI ST
3. COMMODORE 64
4. ZX SPECTRUM / MSX2
5. AMSTRAD CPC

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SOUNDS


What is an arcade shooter without properly massive sound effects, hopefully sampled? Well, not an arcade game, I guess. But of course, literally speaking, neither is SWIV, but it does have all an arcade game is supposed to have in a slightly different package - even the sounds. Musically, though, the theme song is very much Amigaesque - this cannot be denied. Clocking at around 4 minutes and looping from 53 seconds to infinity, the tune focuses highly on odd synth harmonics and mechanical noises in an early 1990's rhythmic environment, but there is a certain element of danger throughout the song. The only other tune I remember hearing in the game is played when you get to enter your name on the high scores list, which is a strangely constructed piano ballad with heavy improvisation on drums towards the end of the loop. Nice idea, but a tad awkwardly executed.

Of course, the ARCHIMEDES version sounds exactly the same as the AMIGA version, apart from having a slightly lower sample rate, but the ATARI ST version uses the AY-chip to produce all the sounds, so it's bound to sound a bit different. And different it certainly is, as the music doesn't use sampled instruments at all - it's an altogether very 8-bit sounding affair. Also, while the songs are essentially the same, the title tune is shorter and loops from the beginning, and the beginning part is also very different, with a bit more attempt at sounding like a part of the same tune. It's not nearly as ominous, but it's not too bad. The high score tune is similar enough.


The C64 version's completely new title tune was composed by Martin Walker, and it sounds very different, too. I can hear traces of many other classic C64 tunes here from some better-known SID masters, but the name-dropping aside, the new tune offers a very atmospheric alternative to the original tune. It's a surprisingly slow tune (not too slow, though) with a gravitas rivaling the likes of Platoon's level 2 and Master of Magic. It has a fairly military feel to it, with a heavy basis on the snare drum beat, and as is natural, some very nicely dark harmonies and melodies. I can't say it's better, or at least more fitting than the original, though, but it's very good on its own right. There's another new tune for when you write your name on the high scores table, which is a bit less descriptive, but has an unexpected nice little touch of being in 5/8 time signature.

Again, the SPECTRUM version beats its two cheap ports by having music - the AMSTRAD and MSX versions have no music at all. The title tune and high score tune have been translated rather successfully from the ST version, with only a little less power in the performance. But if I'm completely honest, I prefer the original tunes to the C64 ones, so the SPECTRUM version gets some bonuses here.


SWIV's sound effects are very much what you would expect: shooting noises, explosions, HUGE explosions, mechanical noises, very short bonus item pick-up jingles, that sort of stuff. There is nothing in there that could be considered too much - in fact, there's almost too little of sound effects, but considering it's a 45-minute almost non-stop blastfest if you manage to beat the game, you'll get easily tired of all the shooting and explosions and all the other sounds, so it's nice to have a breather every now and then.

Naturally, the ST version's sound effects have a more bleepy feel to them, but they do their job, if not nearly as handsomely as those on its two 16-bit rivals. The SPECTRUM variants don't have the sound for your shooting included, but otherwise sound surprisingly similar to the ST version. By contrast, the C64 version sounds very busy with every sound effect having some sort of delay effect or some other thing to fill the empty spaces between all the other sound effects, and I'm not sure if that's a very good thing either. I suppose, for the sheer amount of sounds, as well as the use of the sound chip, the C64 version is technically more impressive, and since SWIV is all about massiveness and arcade-like elements, the C64 version's sound effects wins the other 8-bits by a margin.

1. COMMODORE AMIGA / ACORN ARCHIMEDES
2. ATARI ST
3. COMMODORE 64 / ZX SPECTRUM
4. AMSTRAD CPC / MSX2

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OVERALL


And that's another comparison all but wrapped. SWIV is one of those games that were natively 16-bit, and performed to their advantage in every possible way on the 16-bit machines. Considering it was released in 1991, this is not a particularly surprising thing, but it acts as a good example of how games should have been considered to be written for the 16-bits many years prior to this. Well, it was really about time things started moving on with the times. Anyway, here are the inevitable mathematical results...

1. COMMODORE AMIGA: Playability 3, Graphics 5, Sounds 4 = TOTAL 12
1. ACORN ARCHIMEDES: Playability 3, Graphics 5, Sounds 4 = TOTAL 12
2. ATARI ST: Playability 3, Graphics 4, Sounds 3 = TOTAL 10
3. COMMODORE 64: Playability 2, Graphics 3, Sounds 2 = TOTAL 7
4. ZX SPECTRUM 128k: Playability 1, Graphics 2, Sounds 2 = TOTAL 5
5. MSX2: Playability 1, Graphics 2, Sounds 1 = TOTAL 4
6. AMSTRAD CPC: Playability 1, Graphics 1, Sounds 1 = TOTAL 3


Okay, I realize this will very likely earn me some negative comments, because none of the versions in the lower half play as badly as this makes them seem, but that's not the point. The point is, they don't play, look or sound similar enough to the original, which explains the low scores. Frankly, I'm not really sure about the scores for the C64 version, because I'd actually rather play the SPECTRUM version, mostly because I'm not good at these sorts of frantic shooters. Indeed, I'd rather play the SPECTRUM version than the original, because of my lack of skills. But you see, SWIV is an arcade game at heart, only made for home computers, and the 16-bits were the only ones that were able to make it feel as such - particularly AMIGA and ARCHIMEDES. SWIV is also a surprisingly fair game for the pseudo-bullet-hell that it is, because like countless many other shooters, it needs to be memorized to some point, and your skills are the only thing that will help you get anywhere. It's one of the most perfect shooters to hone your skills, if anything, but you do need to play the original for that.

I think this would already be quite enough of Silkworm for one blog, but since there are some sequels to be considered, I might as well write about them here, so let's move on to the other SWIV titles now...

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FURTHER SEQUELS


Of course, having been such a successful unofficial sequel to one of the best co-operative shooters, SWIV had its own run of sequels, or perhaps remakes if you prefer the term. The most immediate sequel was made for both Super Nintendo and Sega Megadrive (or Genesis), for which Storm released the game in 1992 as Super SWIV and Mega SWIV, respectively. For the North American market, the game was named Firepower 2000, and released by Sun. The same game was squeezed into the Game Boy Color in 2001 by SCi (short for Sales Curve International) and the Conversion Company, and was rather confusingly released merely as SWIV.

Left: Super SWIV (Super Nintendo) - Right: SWIV (Game Boy Color)


This sequel features not only cutscenes, new kinds of special collectable weapons that can be gathered into an inventory, new enemies and even in-game music, but most curiously, the screen push-scrolls left and right as you move around in the otherwise familiarly vertically scrolling map. True to the game's arcade heritage, it's still hard as nails. The GBC version features no two-player mode, even though the technology for connecting two GBC's together for co-operative playing existed. Also, Mega SWIV has a notably different structure and some adjustments made to your weaponry, but gameplay-wise, it still has more in common with Super SWIV than the original.

Screenshots from Mega SWIV (Sega Megadrive/Genesis)


In 1996, SCi developed and released the final part in the series, SWIV 3D (also known as SWIV 3D Assault), which was only released for DOS and Windows-based PC's. This is pretty much a complete redesign of the game, barely recognizable as one of the series. First off, it's in voxel-based 3D, and the new engine practically necessitated a more free-roaming style in gameplay. That said, SWIV 3D is a mission-based game, and you are still guaranteed to go through a lot of trouble, true to form.

Screenshots from SWIV 3D (DOS version)


The way SCi managed to keep the spirit of SWIV alive here, was the inclusion of the Jeep as a secondary vehicle you must use at certain points in the game, as well as some of the weapon upgrades and shield pick-ups. However, SWIV 3D feels more like a more arcadey version of another 16-bit classic, Hunter from Activision, which did its own thing much better than this here tried to. Yes, this game was a bit of a failure, if only for one good reason: it shouldn't have had SWIV in the title. As its own entity, separate from the series, SWIV 3D isn't actually a bad game - it just doesn't pay enough tribute to its predecessors.

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Okay, that was a relatively quick one, but I hope it still did the trick. Many thanks again to SJ for participating in the process, we'll see what the blog's future brings for him. Thanks to you for continuing to read, see you next time with something lighter!

2 comments:

  1. Sorry, Which is the MSX2 version?

    There isn't a MSX 2 version, but for MSX 1, porting from Zx Spectrum!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, there was some sort of a mix-up here. I'll have to fix this one when I have time for it.

      Delete