Thursday, September 1, 2016

XBLA Look - Radiant Silvergun

As a Saturn owner I’m quite familiar with Radiant Silvergun. Next to Psychic Assassin Taromaru and Panzer Dragoon Saga it’s one of the most expensive and sought after games on the system. Well, that really doesn’t matter now does it? What this XBLA release brings to the table is that it shatters the mystique that has surrounded Radiant Silvergun for so long. I consider myself guilty in some cases for propagating many of the myths that surround the game, such as it being too complicated, too boring, and so on and so forth. The high price-tag certainly didn’t help as it made it easier for people like me to speak ill of the game, claiming it’s not worth the money. Honestly I can’t think of any game that’s worth $150 or more but I’ll chalk it up under the follies of youth. What is important now is that finally people without the deepest pockets and those who are unwilling to jump through a few hoops can get a version of one of Treasure’s most important games. Aside from a few changes and some very minor complaints this is a more than competent remake and I couldn’t be happier.

Radiant Silvergun tells the tale of humanity’s last stand. A mysterious stone is excavated from somewhere and before long this triggers a worldwide catastrophe as all of the weapons humans have produced turn against them. All that remains are a handful of pilots and their hyper-advanced Silverguns. They can move in any direction, have access to seven different weapons, and are destroyed in a single hit. This is a 2D shooter after-all; nobody ever got the bright idea to use all of the advanced technology to slap a shield on their ship.

The game itself is something that has to be played to be truly understood. I could sit here and describe aspects such as stage-progression and the weapon-systems in agonizingly dull detail but that isn’t going to help you get any better. Unlike more recent shooters like the average Cave offering, Radiant Silvergun does not overwhelm the player in curtains of bullets. There are a few times where it gets close but it’s not like some games where it seems like there’s a guy shaking all of the contents from a box of cereal in front of your screen. This game tosses you over a half a dozen weapons, throws you into seemingly impossible situations every minute, and acts of mercy are tossed anywhere but to you. This game was not designed to be approachable. This game is only for the hardcore.

Ooh it just stings doesn’t it? This “not for everyone” description sounds like the perfect excuse for a bad game to hide behind. It’s the truth though, because you need to be a very dedicated individual and willing to accept failure. The important thing to keep in mind is that it’s not always your fault. Yes you probably could have dodged that and maybe you should have seen that coming. A lot of times you died because you simply didn’t know what to do. Eventually you’ll figure it out and what took you a dozen lives to get through an hour ago may take only one or two now. This is a just plain difficult game that wants to break you, and if you have any faith in your abilities as a gamer you will not back down.

It’s here where some aspects of the game’s progression really shine. Extra continues in the arcade mode and extra lives in the story mode are given for each hour of play-time in the respective mode. Now it’s perfectly alright if you start a game, pause it, and then leave the Xbox 360 alone while you go out and do other things. All those extra lives and continues aren’t going to make you any better at the game but at least they give you some breathing room to experiment and see how everything works. The story-mode also has the added incentive of letting you save your weapon-levels. Weapon-levels are tied to your score so it works in multiple ways. Inevitably you’ll find yourself replaying the game and will be able to use the skills you’ve honed in the later stages to make the earlier stages easier and accumulate more points. It’s cyclical and rewarding, and provides the necessary preparation if you’re willing to take your game to the next level.

The next level is of course going back to the Arcade mode. The basis of high-scoring is in the chains and aside from watching some readily available replays you’ll have to memorize the what, when, and where of the weapon system. Radiant Silvergun is a very methodical and deliberate game, and once you’ve established how you handle a situation you’re golden. Like the story, your progress in the game is cyclical and between every life and death you learn just a little bit more as long as you’re persistent.

If the time ever comes that you’re attaining the maximum possible score in every section, can milk the most troublesome stage 5 for every last point, and can’t remember the last time you actually died. You should probably consider that you are either a robot or have evolved just a little bit faster than the rest of humanity. It’s been well over a decade and masters of Radiant Silvergun are still few and far between. This either speaks well of the depth this game holds or it speaks ill of just how convoluted and frustrating it can be.

As I said before this is a hardcore game and you’re pretty much stuck playing it the way the game asks. Thanks to the weapon-level system your survival is tied to your score, which means if you aren’t chaining properly, not getting the secret bonuses, and not going for the 100% destruction rate on bosses, you’re going to have a very rough time. It’s certainly not impossible but you can expect bosses to perform new attacks that are more creative and punishing than their last as long as they’re alive. Most of them self-destruct before too long but that will cost you dearly in terms of points. The score requirements for level-ups have been loosened a bit for this remake which is a welcome change. However thanks to the slight increase in power the 360 holds over the Saturn, the slowdown is pretty much gone. As any shooter fan knows, slowdown is actually welcome. The Radiant Silvergun veterans will notice that their timings have changed when it comes to completing chains, everyone else will have a bit more difficulty surviving when things become hectic.

If you own the 360 version of Ikaruga you’re granted access to the Ikaruga mode in this game. This changes the chain settings so that you don’t have to constantly destroy three of the same-color enemy to get higher bonuses. The added flexibility comes at a price as the weapon-bonuses and secret-chains have been done away with, also the maximum chain bonus drops to 25,600. To add to this I’m not so sure Radiant Silvergun was designed with this system in mind. Yes enemies have a habit of appearing in triplets but the Silvergun is a pretty slow ship and its weapon system was designed with the old-chaining system in mind. Plus if you’re serious about this game you pretty much have to re-learn a sizable portion of it, which is either a new and exciting challenge or a reason to despair.

Online-play is supported but as far as my end goes it’s untested. I’m really curious to see how this works out but I think like Ikaruga, you’re going to have to seek out somebody locally and form an unbreakable bond of brotherhood. Radiant Silvergun is one of those games where lag is the last thing you want to be a factor. Furthermore your partner has to be tuned to the same mental wavelength as yourself and I think proximity has a lot to do with it. Still the option is available so I guess if you just have to chew some stuff up with a partner then you can go crazy and/or get nuts. Otherwise all I predict is a lot of aimless meandering as both players destroy everything all out of order and then get aced by the bosses because their pitiful weapons can’t even get a dent in.

This remake also boasts a cache of video options and extras. My preferred setup is hi-res but without the special effects. The bloom effects are a bit too pronounced so when the entire screen is practically glowing it can make bullets difficult to see. Also for whatever reason only the story mode arranged soundtrack is included. This is a minor but still regrettable omission. Replay saving and downloading is supported and as always, quite welcome.

One thing I have to point out is that Radiant Silvergun is saddled with possibly the worst demo around. In all frankness a section from towards the middle of the game that has a bit of a gimmick going on isn’t going to sell no matter how legendary the game is considered to be. If you’re at all interested in what this game has to offer all you can really do is…well…jump in? Okay maybe that’s not the best way to say it. Radiant Silvergun is an immensely satisfying and rewarding game and as far as 2D shooters go it’s an experience worth spending some time with. You should do as I did and look beyond the myths, the half-truths, and the biases. Radiant Silvergun is and always will be a classic.

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