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Silver Surfer (NES) artwork

Silver Surfer (NES) review


"I’m not sure who Emperor is or what his powers are, but if the best he can do is stand in back of a wall of guns and immediately give up the ghost after they are destroyed....well, he’s a pretty sorry excuse for a villain. Usually, boss fights are the awesome part of superhero games, as players are going against well-known bad guys with a slew of cool abilities and powers. Here, the Surfer is taking on a bunch of (for the most part) no-name chumps that really aren’t much more than regular foes that take more damage before falling."



Back in the day, I spent my fair share of time reading comic books. I always liked seeing what dudes like Batman, Spiderman and assorted X-Men were up to, and I must admit, I always did love seeing how those geekish, horny artists would consistently draw super-powered chicks to look like call girls and/or porn stars with enhanced crime-fighting abilities.

I never paid much attention to the Silver Surfer. To me, that was one stupid idea for a hero. When I think “surfer”, I think about that Bodhi guy Patrick Swayze played in Point Break (“Little hand says it’s time to rock and roll.”), not some android-looking chump zipping around outer space. Unfortunately, someone apparently thought this loser was actually cool and made a video game based on his ability to fly on a magic surfboard. So, in 1990, Silver Surfer was released on the NES and all fans of quality shooters collectively groaned.

Ol’ Shiny, working as the herald of the planet-eating Galactus, is told to retrieve some multi-part gizmo from a group of low-level Marvel characters like Reptyl and Possessor. Apparently, this is the sort of device that can’t fall into the wrong hands and apparently, the five chaps that each have a piece of it are the type of no-goodniks Galactus is worried about.

To start his adventure, Surfer gets to pick which of five worlds he wants to visit first. All five (as well as the sixth stage, which is only unlocked after this quintet is completed) are divided into overhead and side-scrolling sections -- with both styles being equally annoying.

Initially, the Surfer’s pea-shooter weapon is pathetic, but as he powers it up and gains option ships (one for side-scrolling sections, two for overhead), he does become more than a match for virtually all foes. However, he never gains the ability to overcome his cumbersome body.

My main problem with this game is that, like most shooters, running into walls and enemies is a lethal mistake. However, those games tend to put players in control of a slender, maneuverable ship -- not a tall, awkward guy on a board. During the side-scrolling stages, the Surfer’s height make dodging the various obstructions very difficult. Move to the top-down stages and our hero now is skinnier than the average ship....but also longer. I suffered more stupid “bump the ceiling” or “tap a wall” deaths in this game than in just about any other shooter I’ve played.

And those deaths are far more frustrating than in most shooters. Most of these games either resurrect ships right where they got blown up or use a checkpoint system, so players don’t lose too much ground. Silver Surfer sends a player all the way back to the beginning of whatever stage they were on....even if they made it all the way to the end of the third section and were killed by the boss! While the first and second sections aren’t particularly long, it’s still kind of cheap to make players go all the way through ones they completed in order to get back to the one where they died. There aren’t too many things that sap a player’s desire to beat a game more than dying a cheap ceiling-tapping death only to find out they have to regain an ungodly amount of ground before getting back to that point.

Especially when the game isn’t really that memorable. Silver Surfer has some very nice eight-bit graphics, with all six levels looking different from the rest and with most of them having some nice touches. The green-tinted castle in Mephisto’s (the one villain I recognized) domain almost gave me a Castlevania vibe -- especially when flying past massive engravings of the baddies’ head. However, they all played the same, with small enemies coming out of the woodwork for the Surfer to vanquish. I thought there’d be some strategy to fighting them, as the Surfer can position his options to fire in front, to the sides or in back of him -- but I was wrong. I don’t even need all of my fingers to count the times where I actually needed to reposition them to take out frustratingly-placed foes. For the most part, I just focused all my offense straight ahead and that worked out perfectly fine for me.

The boss fights were even lamer. With the exception of the final battle, all of these supposed super-villains would quickly fall before a brief, concentrated burst of fire. Crap, most of the sissies didn’t even do much of anything besides hide in back of a slew of weak enemies and either surrender or flee after those foes had been blasted. I’m not sure who Emperor is or what his powers are, but if the best he can do is stand in back of a wall of guns and immediately give up the ghost after they are destroyed....well, he’s a pretty sorry excuse for a villain. Usually, boss fights are the awesome part of superhero games, as players are going against well-known bad guys with a slew of cool abilities and powers. Here, the Surfer is taking on a bunch of (for the most part) no-name chumps that really aren’t much more than regular foes that take more damage before falling.

Then again, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that a third-rate hero would wind up in a third-rate game. Sure, Silver Surfer might have some decent graphics and I have to give the designers a bit of credit for at least trying to give the game a bit of depth by allowing players to adjust how the options fire, but this is simply a very poor game. There are too many cheap deaths which are far more punishing than they should be. But without them, this would be a non-challenging offering with some of the weakest bosses I’ve ever seen in a shooter. Regardless of the few positives I could see in Silver Surfer, this game is a failure both as a shooter and as an attempt to promote a Marvel character.

Rating: 2/10

overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (May 30, 2007)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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