Sometimes, games are built to punish you and make you like it. This genre is more commonly known as the “bullet hell” game. Flooding the screen with impossible odds, and somehow expecting you to escape, has been around since the dawn of gaming. Treasure, known for such classics as Ikaruga and Sin and Punishment, are one of the kings of this genre. Originally released back in 1998 on the Sega Saturn, Radiant Silvergun serves as a spiritual predecessor to Ikaruga. It has finally made its way onto XBLA with a host of upgrades and features, as well as its punishing difficulty.
Everything you remember about this classic is still here. From the jagged pixels, to the ridiculousness of the story, everything is in place. Of course, the upgrades are also plentiful. While you can opt to play the game with the original visuals, the default setting is the new HD makeover. This cleans up the game substantially, making it look much like you remember it, and less like it actually does. You also have a nice selection of high-definition wallpaper to spice up the background, as the game does still run in the 4:3 ratio.
Probably the biggest addition, though, comes in the form of online leaderboards and, of course, co-op play. Now, not only can you tear through the game with a buddy on the couch; you can hop online and fight for high scores with anyone in the world. To be fair, this is pretty standard stuff, but I quickly remembered how much fun a game like this is with another person. Online runs smoothly most of the time, with only minor hints of lag. Plus, there is a decent community of gamers out there; unfortunately most of them are ten times better than I was, which had to be frustrating for them.
There are two main modes in Silvergun, Arcade and Story. They both remain largely the same outside of some goofy cut scenes and dialogue and the fact that the story mode allows persistent upgrading. Much like the Dead Rising model for new school gamers, this allows you to constantly build on your ship’s abilities without worrying so much about dying quickly. Of course, you can always go into the options and drop down the difficulty and up the lives count if you really want to feel like a champ.
There are a ton of weapons in the game, and all of them serve a purpose. From the sword to lock-on missiles, there is something for every occasion. It is also nice that the right side of the screen showcases what each button does all the time. If you ever forget which button swings your sword, it is within quick reference. I prefer games that keep the 4:3 ratio to offer something on the sides, much like how Third Strike did it with its challenges.
The game’s combo system also uses the color method similar to Ikaruga’s bullet sponge idea. Instead, here, killing enemies that are the same color in a row multiplies your combo meter, thus earning you more points and quicker extra lives. It adds a nice layer of strategy to the game and keeps gamers constantly on their toes.
Radiant Silvergun is a classic that you have likely heard several older gamers refer to in passing. It is awesome that we finally have a chance to relive this game without having to own a Saturn, or simply bother hooking ours up. The new additions are fantastic, and the classic gameplay has aged extremely well. Be warned, this is definitely not an easy game, and dying comes naturally (just check out our Breaking the Seal above for reference), but it is immensely rewarding and a reminder of when games were about scores and challenge instead of cut scenes and movie-like narratives.
Review copy provided by publisher.