Shmups are a weird niche genre but there is the odd game that breaks that glass roof, Ikaruga being one of them. The best-known game that came before it was most famous for its high asking price. Now available more widely and at a reasonable price, is Radiant Silvergun worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as the legendary Ikaruga? Let’s find out.
A Truly Radiant Sight to Behold
Radiant Silvergun is one of those rare SHMUPS that has a story, has put effort into the said story, and is actually well written. This is just one of the many exceptions to the rule this title developed by Treasure has.
The game opens with a deliciously 90s anime cutscene. It’s produced by the team at GONZO famous for titles such as Hellsing, Samurai 7, and Gantz. They’ve even worked on video game cutscenes for the Lunar series, Suikoden, and Blazblue. You could say they have a bit of a pedigree with this sort of thing.
A Good Shmup Story?!
The story follows the last remnants of human life fighting back after a mysterious crystal has all but extinguished human life. Told through animated cutscenes and via in-game dialogue while you play, it presents the story and shows you how piloting the Silvergun is going to save the universe.
If you’re familiar with Shmups that try to tell a tale, you’ll have likely seen the mess that was Raiden V where it was extremely distracting. Fortunately, it’s not the case here. Plus if you just want to focus on the meat of the game, you can play the Arcade version. I would suggest sitting through the story mode for at least one completion though.
Down The Barrel Of A Silvergun
Radiant Silvergun is a Shmup or Shoot Em Up depending on your lingo —you know what that means by now! You control the Silvergun, a small spacecraft tasked with taking on much bigger ships while avoiding conveniently brightly colored bullets.
So what makes Radiant Silvergun worth picking up after all these years now it doesn’t have a $200 USD price tag attached? Despite it looking like the dictionary definition of a shoot ’em up, it actually has oceans of depth to it.
The Silvergun has many shots instantly available for use, all tied to a different button. It has a focused shot, homing, side shots, angled, and a bullet-canceling sword. You can use separate inputs for them all or combining two of the face buttons will activate the shots that are registered to the shoulder buttons. This arrangement allows you to tackle the many scenarios this game throws at you in wildly different ways and doesn’t box you in a corner should you meet your untimely demise.
Weapons do get more powerful the more you use them. This means that the game leans into your preferred playstyle. In addition, you get more experience points the more you chain a particular enemy color which is divided between Red, Blue, and Yellow.
Radiant Silvergun is a score chaser’s dream. It has in-depth score chaining mechanics, the ability to destroy parts of bosses before you kill them which also add to the score, as well as hidden collectibles to find. Honestly, it’s worth looking into guides on just how much can affect your score in this game. There is even an unlockable mode that should bring a smile to fans of Ikaruga should you want a further score-based challenge.
If on the other hand, you want to see the story and just experience some of the finest crafted levels to ever grace the genre, you can play through the game in “Story Mode”. This adds all the drama of the story in a neat replayable package that even rewards your deaths.
Upon dying in the Story Mode, any experience your weapons have accumulated is saved and transferred to your next run. So after a good few runs, your weapons will be more than capable of taking bosses down in a matter of seconds.
I personally really rate this mode highly as it is such an accessible way of playing the game without sacrificing anything, tied with the various difficulties you can select. If you spend enough time building your shot experience, you’ll be able to see the ending without the usual hours of memorization that most Shmups demand.
It Just Goes and Goes and Goes
Radiant Silvergun has 6 stages to playthrough, though confusingly for new players the first stage you’ll see is Stage 3 for story reasons. If you’re playing on the Arcade mode, you can choose a route whereas the Story Mode puts you on the canon course.
The stages are made up of multiple areas, so while on paper 6 stages is about standard for the genre, this game clocks in at around an hour and a half for a full run. This can be fairly demanding if you’re planning to one credit clear the game.
As well as the story and arcade modes mentioned, there’s a Score Attack for both and a training mode to really nail those sections. There are also online leaderboards to show off those scores, which is fantastic considering previous Live Wire re-releases had a bit of wait time on that aspect.
The Beautiful Rings of Saturn
Visually there is no mistaking that Radiant Silvergun was a Sega Saturn title despite the tweaks that have been made to make it high definition.
The standard enemy ships and the Silvergun itself are 2D sprites, while some background elements and bosses are polygon-based. This creates that rather unique graphical style that Sega’s ill-fated machine was famous for.
There are plenty of tweaks you can do to alter the visuals. You can use CRT filters, adjust screen placement, change the wallpaper, and get rid of the shot button reminders. It’s a fairly expansive set of options and an area that Live Wire tend to thrive in.
The music in Radiant Silvergun is simply iconic. While not quite as gripping as music from the Darius series, it really sets the tone and gets you from the second you hear the church bells crash through the Stage 3 music. It’s not the usual metal/techno mix and that’s just another reason this game just stands out.
So, there we have it. Is the game worth the original $200 USD asking price? Likely not, but the current $20 USD price is much easier on the wallet. Is it worth double dipping if you already have the XBox Live Arcade version? That depends on if you want a more populated leaderboard and the ability to take it on the move with you.
Radiant Silvergun is a legendary title for a reason. It’s addictive, it rewards your time, and it offers players an experience that initially would seem quite routine at first, but it isn’t long until the depth shines through and it has its hooks in you.
Treasure is an iconic developer, and with titles like this under their belt, you can see why. It’s a perfect blend of home and arcade experience that deserves to stand next to the better-known Ikaruga as an all-time great. It shouldn’t just be famous for its price tag.
RADIANT SILVERGUN IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Many thanks go to Live Wire for a Nintendo Switch review code for this title.
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