Culture of Gaming

Hidden Gems Retro: Silent Bomber

Year: 1999
Developer:  CyberConnect
Publisher: Bandai
Rarity: ✭✭✰✰✰
Value:  ✭✰✰✰✰

In the mid 90’s, Sony launched their PlayStation console, its CD-Rom video game format was new and exciting. The formats capacity for storage and cheap production costs meant the PS1 would often be chosen by game developers over Nintendo’s N64, often due to its lower capacity cartridge format. The PS1 was also a console that developers found much easier to work with and so it was chosen over Sega’s Saturn which was considered less so (the Saturn’s developer kit also arrived late). So, the PS1 gradually became a certain favourite for developers and as a result, many contributed to creating the second largest physical media video game library to date with well over 2,000 titles (the Ps2 being the only console to outnumber it). Because of this, the PS1 has a superabundant collection of overlooked and underappreciated titles.

Silent Bomber is one of them, it’s an explosive arcade-style action title published by Gundam obsessives Bandai and designed by Japanese developer CyberConnect. Lately, CyberConnect is most notable for creating titles in the .Hack and Naruto Shippuden series. Interestingly, they were at one time involved in the development of the Final Fantasy VII remake, but their involvement has since ceased and if Silent Bomber is anything to go by, they would have surely contributed some real quality.

Released in 1999, Silent Bomber was a bit of a late arrival coming less than 6 months before the launch of the PlayStation 2, with the PS2 being a hot topic, PS1 titles struggled to get noticed in an already saturated library (though titles would still be made well into the early 2000’s).

Jutah in an early boss encounter.

Player’s take on the role of Jutah Fate (pronounced Utah), a silver-haired bio-engineered soldier recently released from prison after serving time for war crimes committed during a past mission (which functions as a flashback in the game’s tutorial). In the present day, he and some criminal cohorts are part of a covert military operation, their mission now is to board a ship called the Dante, a ship armed with a superweapon known as the Fermion Cannon and hellbent on using it to destroy Jutah’s home planet, Hornet.

With Hornet unable to defend itself, Jutah and his convict collaborators invade the ship with the intention of destroying the threat from within, piece by piece. Of course, it’s not going to be easy while the Dante is equipped with serious defenses that include an army, tanks, gun turrets and giant bosses. Jutah too has some tricks up his sleeve with his arm cannon (pun intended) capable of firing a variety of powerful sticky bombs. When the mission to board the Dante does not quite go to plan Jutah is separated from his crew and it ultimately falls upon him to destroy the Dantes defenses and take the space cruiser down. The basic story is far from one of Silent Bomber’s outstanding features but with such slick gameplay, who cares?

In a 3rd person perspective, players manoeuvre Jutah while utilising his awesome arm cannon to fire sticky bombs of different types at a variety of enemies. Napalm bombs explode in flames which burn for several seconds causing continuous damage and are effective against biological and slow-moving enemies. Gravity Bombs are rather unique, they create miniature black holes that draw enemies to it and having the benefit of stopping groups in their tracks while conveniently drawing in Jutahs bombs. Paralysis is a more electronic form of attack particularly damaging to mechanical enemies while halting enemy movements. Players can switch between bomb types as they wish to allow for various combined attacks.

It’s not entirely about shooting robots in the face with cool pyrotechnics, Jutah can also jump and bound off of walls acrobatically dodging enemies and projectiles and climbing to hard to reach areas. He can also jet across the screen with a boost manoeuvre that allows for some swift dodging. All this bombing and dodging creates an action-packed, explosive and chaotic gameplay experience.

In between stages players can increase Jutah’s attributes, these are labeled Bomb, Range, and Shield and are regulated by the number of E-Chips that he obtains, special items that are hidden throughout levels. These attributes can alter the number of sticky bombs that can be planted or fired in sequence (which all must explode before Jutah can plant more), the amount of damage that Jutah can take and the range and distance that which Jutah can aim his sticky bombs. All three attributes are delimited to the number of E-Chips in possession. How to distribute these E-Chips is up to the player, adding an element of strategy. The aiming of Jutah’s sticky bombs are confined to a conical lock-on aiming reticle, once the reticle connects with an enemy, Jutah is then securely locked on and can fire his bombs while he moves. Aiming is directed in a similar fashion to games such as Super NES and Mega Drive/Genesis classic Mercs with aiming confined to the direction in which Jutah faces.

The E-Unit Customizer gives players a chance to try different strategies.

Jutah can also plant bombs directly where he stands, which is useful against enemies in hot pursuit by planting the bombs in their path. Bombs placed in the same spot or many bombs attached to an enemy make for a larger explosion which can also destroy nearby enemies. In one boss encounter (a tricky one at that) Jutah faces a seemingly indestructible enemy and one that is out of direct range of his sticky bombs. The giant enemy launches spinning blades which move in a pattern across a platform and then retracted. To defeat the boss Jutah must attach his bombs to the spinning blades and detonate them when they return inside the bosses giant body, the more he attaches before they are retracted the more damage is delivered.

Silent Bomber’s multiple boss encounters are one of its finer aspects, they are varied with each offering a different challenge that will test players resourcefulness, reflexes, focus and determination with nearly all requiring multiple attempts to defeat, especially those later in the game.

While it is a PS1 game, many of which have not aged well, Silent Bomber is a well presented smooth playing game. Enemies look good with impressive animations, explosions and flames look great and levels while a little lacking in variety are well designed, balanced, and nicely detailed futuristic environments. Cutscenes, though not very impressive by today’s standards, also look good and are well animated. However, while the cutscenes look great, the quality of English region voice acting is a little lacking.

Silent Bombers sounds are solid, explosions have an impact, not a single enemy is silent with all movements and attacks accompanied by sound contributing to the on-screen mayhem. However, Silent Bombers soundtrack is its only notable weakness. Its electronic soundtrack is a little repetitive with nearly all stages featuring similar songs, though this is hardly noticeable during play.

Once again, the PlayStation has a plethora of similar titles, and many equally worthy of praise (which no doubt will be seen in future Hidden Gem Reviews), but not many are as fun, visceral, addictive and pick-up-and-playable as CyberConnect’s Silent Bomber.

So, is it rare? Thankfully, It is not. While you may have trouble finding a copy in the wild, many retro dealers with a substantial PS1 collection will likely have one nor will you have any trouble finding an online seller. Is it valuable? It is not. You can find a copy for less than 10 bucks for sure, or even way less than that.

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