There's no question that I love 2D shooters of all types. While I tend to prefer the arcade titles there's still a lot of neat & interesting ideas to be found in console releases. Unfortunately I have no love for this game. Actually I'm not so sure I can call this a game as it's more likely that it's just an experiment.
Developed by Treasure and released by Working Designs this is one of the Playstation 2's many launch titles that fell through the cracks. In fact I think it was Treasure's name that gave this release any sort of notoriety. Nevertheless it's the standard tale of man vs alien set over the course of seven stages with a ton of cinematics in-between.
Before each set the player is allowed to set their weapons of choice. The ship is capable of holding two weapons and while at the start only two are available(a forward shot and a V-shaped spread) as the game progresses more are unlocked. Both weapons can be fired at the same time or independently but otherwise that's the extent of the ship's offensive capabilities. There is a shield that is capable of taking 10 or 5 hits(depending on difficulty) so for the most part it's pretty difficult to actually lose the game(though this changes towards the end).
The entire scoring system revolves around one simple concept: The player must be as close as possible to an enemy when it is destroyed for the maximum bonus. It's a simple concept to grasp and in practice Treasure found a number of inventive ways to make it work. This can be a bit tricky however as the graphics are fully-3D and thus it's a bit difficult at times to tell whether the ship is close enough to an enemy without taking damage. Each of the seven stages creates a variety of situations for the player to discover new ways of maximizing their score.
That's about it really. The biggest problem with this shooter is that there isn't really anything else to it aside from the scoring system. The level structure is all over the place with some stages being little more than a couple fights and a boss, or just a very long boss-fight. The entirety of The Lost Planet seems more interested with creating situations that use the scoring system rather than allowing them to come out naturally. Sure their are a number of weapons to play around with but it still comes off as a very methodical title and is ultimately incomplete and not entertaining.
This is why I consider Silpheed: TLP an experiment. It has a good idea but rather than building upon it simply shows off a bunch of ways that it can be used effectively. There's a complete lack of cohesion to the whole affair and while each encounter is structured well there's no flow that builds them up properly. The player is just sent from hot-spot to hot-spot and has to rely on the cinematics to tell the story rather than the game itself(if there was a game in here).
Another problem is that even the concept itself isn't enough to build a game around. 2D shooters have multiple methods to achieve a highscore and the player must use all of them effectively to master the game. Take Battle Garegga for example. The player can achieve better scores by collecting medals, destroying secret objects, taking apart bosses piece by piece rather than going directly for the core, and so on. On the other hand with Silpheed all that matters is being as close as possible to an enemy. When a developer is making a game that runs about 30 minutes or less in length the last thing they can afford is to have it come off as shallow.
While Silpheed: The Lost Planet isn't worth playing the concept itself is still pretty good and has seen better use in titles like Mushihime-sama Futari and Treasure's own Ikaruga. While the implementation has changed slightly the concept remains the same and when used properly it can enhance games. As far as this title is concerned however I wonder what would have become of it if Treasure chose not to adopt such a concept...