13 years ago, famed Japanese developer Treasure released "Radiant Silvergun" to arcades and the Sega Saturn. If you've never heard of "Radiant Silvergun," there's a good chance that's because it was never released in North America. Don't feel bad, though; Even some big fans of the shoot-em-up genre have never actually played it, either. That's primarily because the fan-fervor over Treasure titles – not the least of which includes "Silvergun" follow-up "Ikaruga" – elevated the price of the Sega Saturn import to around $150.
Well, let no one cast doubt upon your "hardcore gamer" cred any longer. "Radiant Silvergun" is finally available on Xbox Live Arcade, and it's really great – if you're into this type of game.
If you've played spiritual successor "Ikaruga," don't automatically assume they're similar games. Sure, they're both Treasure-developed shoot-em-ups, but the pacing of "Silvergun" is almost wholly different. The game's not quite a bullet-hell shooter – there's still non-stop artillery to dodge on-screen – but there's a certain level of tactics to "Silvergun" that separate it from the manic shooters that came after its time.
Instead of the power-up system you may be accustomed to in games of its ilk, "Silvergun" actually gives you all of the weapons right up front. In the Xbox version, you'll see them displayed down the right side of the screen. You're able to make three of your basic ordnance – a straight "vulcan" shot, a homing shot, spread missiles – more powerful just by using them. Wonderfully, those experience levels actually carry with you from "game over" to "game over." There's also the ever-important Radiant Sword, which encircles your ship with a button press, scooping up round enemy projectiles. Grab enough of them, fill up a charge bar, and you can unleash the devastating Holy Sword move.
Now The Rest Of The Story...
The original arcade version of "Silvergun" was missing one major component: the story. Only the Saturn version received the crazy anime cutscenes, in which the Earth is destroyed by a weird octahedron stone. While it's rather bizarre, the characters and animation are surprisingly enjoyable. Plot has never been a major component in most shoot-em-ups, but it works quite nicely here. Coupled with the remastered graphics (you can switch to the original Saturn look), "Silvergun" just feels great.
A Tactical Shooter
While the game is certainly more slow-paced than other shooters, it also requires you to think about how you'll approach enemies. Certain weapons work better with particular foes, and when you encounter a boss – of which there are many – you're awarded more points based upon taking your time, picking them apart piece by piece. Enemies also come in three colors, and chaining together baddies of the same tone will land you big bonuses.
You're Not Hardcore, Unless You Live Hardcore
While "Silvergun" isn't quite as frenetic as some other titles in this genre, it's hardly less difficult. While hardcore players will likely love the challenge, the game is – frankly – not for everyone. It's just my opinion, but I think many younger players today will have a hard time understanding the old-school arcade system of "limited lives, no continues" provided by the game's story mode. That said, the game's difficulty definitely isn't a low point (perhaps the opposite) for those who enjoy an old-school challenge.
If you are one of those hardcore players, prepare yourself for a slower-paced game. You'll still have to craftily maneuver your way through some tight spots, including the sometimes aggravating backgrounds, but for the most part "Silvergun" will feel a bit dragged down compared to similar titles. Again, it's more about tactically moving through the game.
"Radiant Silvergun" is a great opportunity for those that didn't live in Japan in 1998, or otherwise didn't have the large sums of cash it took to import the game since. It's a nice look at how Treasure approached a shooter at the time, before so much of the genre centered on dodging relentless waves of bullets. You'll come close to breaking your controller from frustration at times, but if you tough it out, it's a satisfying experience.