Who remembers the NES game Journey to Silius? Probably not a lot of you, but let’s take a… journey back… to… Silius.
But first, allow me to set the stage. JTS was released in several countries in the year of 1990; Europe, Australia, Japan on August 10 and in North America in September of 1990. All the while this was going on, Germany was being reunified, the Hubble Telescope was launched, Nelson Mandela was released from prison, Margaret Thatcher resigned as Prime Minister of the UK after a little more than 11 years. In the fall the first web server was created giving birth to the foundation of the internet, and Encyclopedia Britannica saw its highest all time sales. This year also gave birth to Emma Watson and Kristen Stewart.
The fall of 1990 was an era of 8-bit home entertainment, VHS cassettes and regular cassettes. A place where Home Alone taught us all that the kid left alone in a house was ok, the Disney Afternoon reigned supreme, lip syncing was not ok and it was ok to laugh at an over weight Chris Farley, who in turn introduced us to a van down by the river.
I was the plucky age of 9 whole years, in the 4th grade, and I probably didn’t get this video game till sometime in 1991.
JTS at first glance is your run of the mill side-scrolling run and gun video game. It was developed by Tokai Engineering and published by Sunsoft for the every popular Nintendo Entertainment System. The game takes place in the year 0373, a new calendar for an over populated Earth, which has led to the increased emigration to space colonies. The player controls Jay McCray, his father is a scientist for space colony 428 in the Silius Solar System. Jay prepares to move there, however the space station is destroyed by terrorists. Everyone on board is killed.
Back at Jay’s dad’s home, he finds a floppy disk (remember those?) containing the complete Silius Solar System colony plans, but also a personal message to Jay… asking that he complete the projects, should terrorists succeed in destroying the colony. Jay sets out to battle the terrorist responsible for the the destruction of the colony, he does this in order to protect the colony plans and more importantly to avenge his father’s death.
Sounds simple enough right? Scroll to the right and fire a gun with unlimited ammo, all the while collecting gun power ups and fighting bosses. But the back story is amazing.
Journey to Silius was supposed to be based on the first Terminator movie, Sunsoft lost the license during development, so they had to rework the plot and the graphics. But the similarities are still present, I even thought of them way back when, the 90s to be precise.
The backgrounds are ruined cities.
You fight Machines
And who’s the last boss?
The controllable character for the Japan/Europe version looks more like Kyle Reese in the future.
Sure all those similarities could be brought up for just about any run and gun side scrolling game from this era, but the most compelling evidence to me is the opening narration, wait till the end to hear a similar piece of music;
I love how haunting the music is in the prolog, it’s 8-bit and it can still communicate desolation and despair, simply stunning.