Radiant Silvergun

Radiant Silvergun
Game Name: レイディアント シルバーガン (Radiant Silvergun)
Media: 1 CD-ROM
Publisher(s): ESP
Developer(s): Treasure
Genre(s): Vertical Shooter
Release Date: 23rd July 1998
Serial Number: T-32902G
Region: JP

Cream of the crop, top of the heap, king of the hill, a number one.
So goes the song, and so too go many reviews of Radiant Silvergun – a 2D vertically scrolling shoot-em-up (or shmup) by hard-core darlings Treasure. The praise poured upon this game is largely deserved, but it doesn’t mean that the game is for everyone.

Radiant Silvergun ScreenshotRadiant Silvergun is a shmup – shmups are hard.
They are short games too – rarely having 10 or more levels and a playthrough by an expert maybe lasting an hour.
This goes against the flow of publishers who like to have the number of hours of playtime as a bullet-point on the packaging. Anyone can use infinite continues to blast their way through a shmup, see the usually basic end sequence and wonder what all the fuss was about.

That isn’t the way a shmup is supposed to be played. They are to be mastered – the “1 credit completion” or 1CC is the aim of expert shmuppers (sometimes even the 1 life finish for true masters) and the high score is sacrosanct.

Great shmups have bonuses to chase that have a huge effect on the score. Only those that are prepared to persevere with such a game will truly enjoy a shmup and get value out of a title – and given the depth and difficulty of Radiant Silvergun – which even for a shmup is hard – will require even greater resources of ability, time and dedication to get anything out of it. Given the cost of acquiring this title , in excess of £100, you really do need to think about that.

Radiant Silvergun ScreenshotRadiant Silvergun was a departure from the genre because your ship is tooled up with all possible weapons from the start – you have 7 weapons that deal out destruction in different ways – from straight-up lasers to homing devices.

Included in this is the radiant sword which when deployed can be used to swipe at and dispose of enemies but more importantly to absorb some of the enemy’s fire. It can absorb pink bullets to a point where it becomes energised when it can then deal out a fair bit of destruction – in essence it substitutes for a smart bomb.

The levels are split into short but brutal sections bookended by bosses – they are well designed and you will need to master all of the weapons to be successful. The game’s bosses , of which there are many, are extremely impressive and the battles are very cleverly designed – again requiring you to think about the various weapons you have at your disposal.

Some bosses will ultimately self-destruct if you take too long (and will dispose of plenty of your lives in the meantime) – you get a bonus at the end of each boss battle depending on the percentage of destruction you are credited with.

This game also features chaining – the route to achieving really large scores. Enemies are coloured red, blue or yellow and shooting same-coloured enemies in groups of 3 will net you big points. The game is hard enough to tackle to complete as a straight up shmup – but to consider high score chasing seriously you need to start planning your chains making the game a memory test – much like its spiritual sequel Ikaruaga – which features chaining very heavily. Unlike Ikaruaga, this game can be played and enjoyed as a straight up shooting game – you can get through the game and ignore the chaining which makes it more approachable.

Radiant Silvergun ScreenshotThere is also a nice little side quest. Hidden around the levels are secret dogs to find which are found by using one of the homing type of weapons at your disposal – this adds more replay value to the game.

Radiant Silvergun is a graphical triumph on the Saturn – the game is far and away the most impressive game on the platform. Treasure’s much touted technical ability is on full display here. There are all sorts of effects going on that the Saturn wasn’t supposed to be able to do and the bosses are built in 3D that still looks great – no mean feat given the way many 3D games of that time have aged.

Its sounds great too – at least the soundtrack does. The weapon sound effects are drowned out a bit by the epic sounding score and not everyone likes this – I personally would rather hear more from the weapon firing.

This was an arcade game and this title delivers a straight up arcade port and also a Saturn version which features some video sequences but more importantly has extra levels and bosses, and also implements a feature whereby the more you use a weapon the more powerful it gets. You can also save your progress in a number of save slots.

Radiant Silvergun ScreenshotA 2 player simultaneous mode is supported which is always welcome – however this isn’t really a knockabout game – many shmups are great fun in 2 player mode but this game is so demanding that you really have to try and work together to get anywhere without credit feeding. The pace of the game is ponderous – the scrolling and your ship movement are slower than in many shmups which give the impression that this is the thinking man’s shmup – and indeed that is as probably as accurate a description of this game as I can conjure up.

Control is excellent – 4 of the 7 weapons are accessed by holding down more than one button (A+B, B+C, A+C, A+B+C) which sounds clumsy but in practice it isn’t. This scheme apes the original arcade game but you can opt to use the X, Y and Z buttons to make things easier.

Presentation is immaculate – it has the most attractive options screen I have ever seen – everything is in English too. There are the usual options initially, but more are unlocked when you complete the game for the first time. More seem to be made available as you clock up time too. High score support is definitive – each level and sub level has its own high score tracked which is encouraging for those who make slow progress.

In summary then, this game is a great shmup – but it means that it won’t be for everyone – even shmup fans given the difficulty and depth it has. It can be an intimidating game to play because it just doesn’t suffer fools and it will never be a game to throw on to chill out with. Given the price only the dedicated need apply but this is an inspired game.

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