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Game Reviews

Game Review: Radiant Silvergun

radiants_00aDeveloper/Publisher – Treasure / Microsoft (XBLA), ESP (Saturn)
Year – 2011 (1998 – original)
Genre – Shoot ’em Up
Formats – 360 (XBLA)(tested), Arcade, Saturn
Players – 1-2
Radiant Silvergun ©Treasure
Review copy and Screenshots were courtesy of Microsoft

Treasure started up as a splinter group from konami, gaining much success right from the bat with their 1993 release Gunstar Heroes on the Sega Genesis, which is perhaps still their best known game title. During the days of the original Playstation and Nintendo64, Sega released the ill-fated Saturn, at least ill-fated in the west. In it’s home turf of Japan, the console gathered some success due to its strong ports of fighting games like Virtua Fighter and X-Men Vs. Street Fighter, as well as a barrage of shoot ‘em ups from the likes of Cave, and Raizing.

Treasure released three games for the system, one of which – the original release of this game – gave the system and the whole shooter genre a shot in the arm that was very much needed at the time. However, thanks to the Saturn lack of western success and the insistence that all games going to the west had to be in 3D to appeal to the masses, the game never saw the light of day outside of it homeland. This didn’t stop players from importing dozens of copies of the game overseas, with the result that the relatively low run the game received, coupled with high demand, and drove the prices on game trade and auction sites to sky-high amounts, where used copies could routinely go for upwards of $100 a piece.

When Treasure announced that they were working on an unnamed shooter for Xbox Live, some hoped that it would be an updated version of Radiant Silvergun. Treasure finally revealed at the Tokyo Game Show in 2010, that the game would indeed be released on Microsoft’s console, but does this silvergun still shine radiantly?

radiants_04aThe Stone-Like, a strange object of unknown origin, has been found and is being looked over on Earth, triggering a disaster that results in the destruction of all living things on Earth. Commander Tengai and his crew of the Tetra happened to be in orbit testing out their prototype Silvergun fighters at the time and are surprised to discover that the object was found with their robot helper. Forced to stay in orbit after an unsuccessful attack, the crew, low on food and supplies, are forced to go down to Earth to raid for supplies a year after.

The story is told through subtitled Japanese narration, with the events unfolding in a non-linear fashion, with the game starting at stage 3, with stage 2 acting as a flashback and ending with stage 1, set thousands of years in the past. Like many stories in shooters of the time, it takes a back seat to the onscreen action, which is as frantic and as tough as old-school shooters come.

There are two main options, arcade and story mode. Arcade mode is as expected, a standard sprawl through the games levels, with the option to play wither level 2 or _ after the first. This is about as much of a branching path as you get. Story mode differs somewhat, allowing you to save your game and any increases in level your weapons have gained at the expense of having just three lives and no continues. Story mode follows the events as the narrative dictates,

The game also includes score attacks (with online leader boards), local and online multiplayer, and a training mode where you can access any section of any level you have so far reach and play it at various speeds – down to 1/8, which is barely playable – with a adjustable power level setting for the weapons.

There are no traditional power-ups in the game whatsoever, instead your seven weapons – that you have from the outset – which gain experience points and level up as you use them to take down enemies. Using one power for long periods of time will increase the rate that it’ll gain XP. Points are awarded for practically everything, from brushing against enemy projectiles to hugging the walls.

radiants_05aYour weapons include the Vulcan, a standard, forward laser-cannon, which also has a backwards variant; side bombs that shoot blue missiles diagonally, which explode in large balls of flame when the button is released (or hits something); two variants of homing weapons and a wall penetrating lightening attack round out the loadout. The most weapon with the most potential in your arsenal though, is the Radiant Silversword, a wire-frame plasma sword that can absorb pink globular bullets fired at you from various enemies to charge a larger, much more powerful blade of death that renders the user temporarily invincible, replacing the get out of jail card that are super bombs in a lot of other shooters.

Enemies themselves come in three colours, red, blue and yellow, shooting only one group of three in sequence, and then another three of the same colour will yield bonus points that rack up the score even more which in turn powers up your weapons XP much faster. The downside is that you’ll have to dodge whatever enemies you’re not attacking as well as their firepower. You’ll find the screen full of projectiles whatever you do, sometimes getting to the point of a bullet-hell shooter on the harder difficulties, you still have to perfect the ability to sneak pass bullets, something made easier by your ship’s small hit-box. Only the central cockpit of the Silvergun is subject to energy attack or crashing into objects.

Bosses – and sub-bosses – are many and multi-segmented, with a central core body and additional parts which can be attacked separately. Destroying the rest of the boss before you take on the core grants you bonus points, with the most given for 100% destruction, however destroying these segments will make the remaining ones more aggressive (and these guys are aggressive). Bosses are also on a timer, self-destructing when the – unseen – counter hits zero, forcing you to take risks if you wish to obtain said bonus.

While much of the game from a technical level looks dated these days, the game’s art-style used the limited polygons to create an abstract world that still feel fresh. The game runs at full pelt no matter how much chaos or projectiles are on screen for the majority, with the only slowdown apparently during boss explosions, for dramatic effect. There’s a short anime sequence that plays if story mode was the last activated mode, it fills out a bit of the backstory.

radiants_03aThe game is presented in its original 4:3 aspect ratio, with newly created, hi-res sprites and a variety of filters, including bloom shading and alpha blending options. A number of wallpapers are available to fill the rest of the empty screen, which also holds data such as score, lives and a diagram of what button fires which weapon. There is also the option to use the original Saturn’s graphics, with or without an anti-aliasing filter.

The audio is great across the board, with great music throughout that sets the tone and pace of the game. Sound effects have more than enough bite to them, with potent explosions. Voice acting is in Japanese only, with subtitles set to the language of the console.

The shooter genre was never for everyone, and still isn’t, yet it holds a place in the hearts of gamers who grew up with the likes of R-Type and Gradius. Back in its heyday, Radiant Silvergun brought about many new concepts, a fresh challenge and revived the dying genre in Japan after it had cloned itself to death. How shooter fans outside Japan have a chance to play this fantastic game, without having to pay through the nose on e-bay.

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