Radiant Silvergun Review: Better Late Than Never

For shoot ’em up fans (or shmups if you prefer), no developer is held in higher esteem than Treasure. The Japanese geniuses behind Ikaruga, Sin & Punishment, Gradius V, and others have been producing hit after hit since breaking away from Konami in the early 90s. Most of Treasure’s games would go on to be released in America, but one of their earliest successes, Radiant Silvergun, never made it across the Pacific… that is, until now. For years, dedicated fans flocked to eBay and spent several hundred dollars to obtain a copy of the Sega Saturn game. The rest of us continued to wait for the port we knew was coming, and now that day has arrived, courtesy of the Xbox Live Arcade.

Platforms: Xbox 360
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Treasure
Genre: Cerebral Space Shooter
Release Date: September 14, 2011
ESRB Rating: Teen

Right away, the influence Radiant Silvergun had on the development of Ikaruga (which is considered a spiritual sequel to RS by Treasure) is obvious as the two games share a similar graphical style. They also have a very similar feel, and if you like one, you’ll like the other. But there are some key differences.

Instead of Ikaruga’s single weapon, the ships in Radiant Silvergun are outfitted with seven weapons, each of which is accessible at all times. There’s a forward-shooting laser, a backwards-shooting laser, homing bullets, spread missiles, lock-on missiles, a dual sweeper arm, and the Radiant Sword. Choosing the right weapon at the right time is vital to your survival and, at times, makes Radiant Silvergun feel more like a puzzle game than a space shooter. Each weapon “levels up” the more it’s used, further encouraging players to spread the love amongst all the guns.

Like Ikaruga, Radiant Silvergun rewards players who chain attacks together. In this case, each enemy has a color (red, blue, or yellow) and destroying enemies of a single color awards a big bonus. But shooting an enemy of a different color breaks the chain. This makes those times where all three colors are represented by the enemies on screen very interesting… and slightly frustrating. Thankfully, Treasure has included an “Ikaruga Mode” option that allows players to create chains by shooting three enemies of the same color and allowing the chain to continue when switching to a different color.

These strategic elements turn Radiant Silvergun into more than your average shooter. They are also proof positive that what worked back in 1998 still works today, making the game feel less like an ultra-delayed port and more like a new game.

When making the jump from the arcade to the Saturn, Treasure added a Story Mode and it’s present in the XBLA port as well. Instead of asking players to complete the game within the allotted number of continues, Story Mode carries their earned weapon experience over into each new game. So eventually you’ll start the game with fully leveled up weapons.

The Story Mode also adds cutscenes to the game, which make use of the worst anime stereotypes imaginable. There’s the wise old mentor, the hotshot pilot with big hair, the airheaded token female, and the clueless robot. Every time they encroach on the gameplay, they cause a great game to come screeching to a halt. This is a real shame, as the non-linear story is a novel idea for a space shooter.

Since it’s 13 years later, Treasure has seen fit to stuff this version of Radiant Silvergun with all the bells and whistles of a modern game. The graphics have been enhanced and given a hi-res sheen (though this can be turned off to experience the original Saturn style in all its blockiness). There are also leaderboards and online play (though honestly, the puzzling nature of Radiant Silvergun feels more natural when playing alone).

About the only sour word that I can say about Radiant Silvergun is that, ultimately, Ikaruga is a slightly better game. But that’s like saying The Empire Strikes Back is a slightly better movie than Star Wars.

So here comes the $300 question: was Radaint Silvergun worth the insane prices it’s been fetching on eBay all these years? Not really. But it is a landmark shooter that is just as awesome today as it was when it was first released. And at the more reasonable price of 1200 Microsoft Points ($15), fans of the genre have no excuse not to play it.

Review Disclosure: A retail copy of Radiant Silvergun was purchased by Warp Zoned for the purposes of this review.

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John Scalzo is Warp Zoned's Editor-In-Chief and resident retro gaming expert. You can follow him on Twitter or email him at john AT warpzoned DOT com.

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