The legend. The myth. One of the best arcade shooters is finally easy to get.
The wait is over
Radiant Silvergun is a long saught after arcade shooter for fans like myself. Along with Ikaruga, Silvergun is considered one of the “holy grail” games not only because it’s a really good game, but because it was so hard to come by. Unless you had a Sega Saturn and you were willing to pay through the nose to import the game, Radiant Silvergun was unplayable. Even in today’s era of arcade emulators like MAME, finding a working version of Silvergun is quite a chore (I have yet to find one). But that all changed last week when Radiant Silvergun was finally ported to Xbox Live Arcade. And there was much rejoicing.
Although I’m sure there was a lot of weeping too. If you were one of the people that shelled out the big bucks to get Silvergun stateside more than a decade ago, then an XBLA release might sting a bit…but I guess you’ve been playing the game all this time while the rest of us have had to watch from afar. I remember reading a while ago that Silvergun was going to get an XBLA release but I had forgotten about it until I checked the marketplace to find it ready and waiting for a cool $15. Fifteen dollars for an arcade shooter might sound like a lot, but Radiant Silvergun isn’t your average shooter.
Better than most
What makes Radiant Silvergun most unique and fun is the weapon mechanics. Unlike some of the more common shooters, you start the game with every weapon available. One controller button is assigned to each type of weapon, as you might expect, but the fun begins when you start combining individual weapons to create additional weapons. Combine your straight gun with your spread gun and you get a front-back gun. Combine your main gun with your homing gun and you get a laser. The challenge of simply getting to know your weapons is one that will take some time, as well as the combinations needed to create the right offense for the current situation you’re in. Playing Radiant Silvergun with a normal controller can be quite frustrating to the point of feeling like an idiot. Your fingers on both hands have to coordinate in an elegant dance just to survive…unless you have a secret weapon…
To be honest, I gave up using the regular controller almost immediately because I have a decent arcade joystick that I have just for shooters (and fighters). Playing any arcade shooter with a normal controller just doesn’t feel right and won’t get you very good results. Sure, it’s possible and it’s still fun using a normal controller, but in a way you’re kind of crapping on the spirit of the genre when you do. And in the case of Radiant Silvergun, you really need a joystick to enjoy it.
Using your “arcade fingers” to combine and fire your weapons is a breeze without all the mental overhead. You’ll still need to play a few times before you know what combinations do what, but they’re so much easier to pull off when you only have three buttons to worry about instead of seven. You shouldn’t have to fight the technology in any video game and a joystick eliminates that worry entirely. However, just because firing guns and moving around is easier with a joystick, doesn’t make the game any less of a challenge.
Pure arcade fun
Radiant Silvergun is straight up arcade brutality. It’s hard. You’ll die quick and you’ll die often. You do get four credits worth of continues but once you blow through those, that’s it, time to start over…and there in lies the greatest part of any arcade shooter: you have limited life. You don’t get endless continues or save points in these games, which makes you actually learn the game and get good at it. Real good. Compared to today’s games, not having continues or saves sounds rather barbaric but let’s not forget that we used to have to play all video games that way. Last time I checked, Super Mario Bros didn’t offer any save points or continue codes, and there’s a reason we can all play through the first levels with our eyes closed…we played it a lot and because of that we got good. Game saves and continues really ruined the perceived skill in video games. Anyone can make a save point and try that one spot over and over and they’ll eventually get through, but that doesn’t make them good. Consistency is defined by greatness, not luck…but I digress.
So Radiant Silvergun is hard but there’s quite a bit going on that makes it such a challenge. The levels themselves can have lots of twists and turns, but one of the big challenges is just determining what weapon to use at what time. You’ll have to play through levels over and over before you get your own pattern down, let alone bullet and enemy patterns. It also shouldn’t be much surprise to find there is also reward for chaining enemy kills. Kill three enemies of the same color in order and you’ll gain some bonus points. Yet in Radiant Silvergun, bonuses like this don’t just get you a higher score, they upgrade your weapons as well. The more you kill with a certain type of weapon, the stronger it gets…yet one more reason you’ll need to know your weapons very well.
Great challenge with great reward
Radiant Silvergun is one of the most challenging and yet most balanced arcade shooters I’ve ever played. Yeah, it’s hard but at no point do you feel completely hopeless, which is more than I can say when I play Ikaruga, Silvergun‘s younger cousin. The weapon system keeps you on your toes and the reward for chaining means you have to really pay attention to where you are and what you’re shooting. You just can’t go in a shoot blindly…well, you can, just don’t expect to make the leaderboard, which by the way, you’ll need at least a million points to even make be at the bottom of the list.
It’s great to finally have Radiant Silvergun in my XBLA collection but it’s always nice to see any well made and fun arcade shooter than isn’t a dual-stick bullet fest. Shooters like Geometry Wars are frantic and fun but they fulfill a different niche than “classic” style shooters like Silvergun and Ikargua. It is far more satisfying and rewarding when you score big in a fixed shooter than it is when you have both sticks and all directions and your disposal. There’s an elegance to fixed shooters that you just don’t get from other styles. It’s about level design, weapon management, score chaining and just outright memorization. Each style has its place, and I enjoy both, but being good at a game like Radiant Silvergun comes with a bit more prestige.
Even if you’re not a big arcade shooter fan, if you buy one shooter you can’t do much better than Radiant Silvergun. Heck, between Ikaruga and Radiant Silvergun, you can spend $25 and have two of the best shooters ever released. Just make sure you have your joystick handy.