Ever read Treasure Island?
All the way through, I mean.
No? Me neither.
Nowhere near as interesting, however, as this little game from back in the day released on the Arcade in 1987, later on for the Sega Master System and, only in Japan, for the NES.
Captain Silver took various sea-set adventure-related ideas: Peter Pan, Treasure Island, Sinbad The Sailor, Jason & The Argonauts, and somehow formed a game every bit as busy and as chaotic as you’d expect.
First, I should point out that yes, this is indeed another one of those Arcade games with a rather sluggish translation on the Master System. Sluggish but not completely invalid, however.
You play as the epically-named Jim, a sword-wielding blond dude with an Aladdin-style vest, as he sets off on a quest to find Captain Silver’s treasure. Along the way, of course, he faces bucket-loads of monsters and baddies.
The first stage is set in some cozy little town which would be much cosier without all the bizarre creatures roaming around its streets. One of which will probably haunt my dreams for the rest of this week.
Oh look, a cat!
An adorable Cheshire cat, just like in that story!
I bet he’s here to give me that key and maybe spit out some health at me.
Is with this cat?
This demonic toothless cat suddenly jumps down at you as your love of cats, if you had any, diminishes by 60% in one single unsettling jolt.
As for this guy:
I can’t even describe what I’m looking at right now so let’s just move on.
The gameplay, you’ll notice right away, is rather slow. I mean, it’s easy enough to move in different directions and attack but jumping and walking feels like it takes forever. The pace was much faster in the Arcade version, to the point where the whole thing was an almost psychedelic experience.
The music is 8-bit at its most 8-bit, if that makes any sense, and the sound effects are, for lack of a better word, crazy.
Just a side note: the music in question changes when this jester guy pops up and shoots musical notes at you, which is a bad thing in that world I imagine.
Graphics-wise, you might have noticed that the game isn’t exactly a feast for the eyes.
It’s a pretty ugly game throughout and yet, somehow, it’s still a little better looking than the original which had a truly weird colour palette packed with pastels and bland backgrounds which didn’t stand out whatsoever.
To use an artistic, potentially pretentious comparison: while the Arcade version was like a good expressionist painting, this one’s like a bad impressionist painting.
But enough about art, let’s look at some messed-up witches:
Which reminds me: one of the key features in the game is picking up various letters that literally fall out of the bad guys you defeat. Together they spell out “Captain Silver” (see witch picture above) every time and that can earn you extra lives, which is pretty cool.
There are other, simpler power-ups as well to pick up, some of which can be found in the various shops scattered around each stage:
The coffee jug in the middle’s actually meant to be a potion enabling you some form of temporary invincibility, the clock obviously stops the time limit for a bit, the boot makes you go faster and the fairies…
The fairies (hence the Peter Pan reference earlier) are all kinds of awesome.
They elevate the game to a whole new level in that, whenever you pick up one of them, your sword becomes magical and starts shooting stars at the people you fight like some obscure form of swashbuckling Care Bear voodoo.
Star swords are perfect for stunning crabs.
That’s a well known fact in the world of pirates, fairies and other mythical beasts I think.
By the way, in case you’re wondering what could be more badass than shooting murderous stars out of a sword, how about shooting murderous stars out of a sword…
WHILST RIDING TURTLES?!
Yeah, Jim’s basically a god to me at this point.
Now I know I’ve made fun of the fact that a stupid amount of games, retro games mostly, use animals as nothing more than mindlessly content platforms for human characters to jump on and ride to safety (or their untimely death), but here it’s completely justified.
It would have been odd for Jim to not ride that turtle, frankly.
Other stages include a pirate ship, an island and… a canoe.
The best part of that canoe level being that cute little shop canoe which randomly pulls up next to yours eventually.
Shop canoes are SO not a ridiculous concept.
You’re all mistaken.
The bosses in the game are surprisingly pretty decent, actually. One of them’s this huge intimidating dragon, there’s a cyclops, some guy with a pointy hood, purple boots and super powers, and, of course, Captain Silver himself who takes time to beat but, like with all the other bosses, it’s just a matter of repeating the same pattern over and over.
He jumps really high and you just walk to the left and to the right, hitting him when you can.
Then, out of nowhere, you beat him and Jim gets to just stand there and quietly witness what is honestly a rare genuinely violent death for that particular console.
Y’know, for kids!
Even Jim can’t believe what just happened. Poor lad’s traumatised for life after such a scary sight. It’s like the first time you see the ending of Raiders Of The Lost Ark as a kid and you start listening to Indiana Jones when he warns you to close your eyes and not look at any of the melting faces all over the place.
In the Arcade he just turns to dust, nothing this graphic!
Speaking of graphics, this game could have used some more polished ones. The animation on the characters is pretty dire and always amusingly stiff and awkward.
Climbing ladders is much harder when there’s no more ladder, Jim.
Just thought you should know.
Is Captain Silver a must-play? Definitely would not go that far.
It’s not too bad and, once you get to grips with the wooden controls and how aesthetically bland it is, it’s a playable, entertaining game. The Arcade version’s infinitely more fun since it’s faster and therefore feels more destructive but the Master System version works a tad better visually so it’s your call.
Do give it a go but be warned: it has its moments but it’s really not that great.
I leave you with Jim slaying a big dragon with a star sword.
Because few things are more awesome.