I've always had a real weird take on Treasure. They're a developer I always admired. They made really impressive and unique games. And yet, I've never really loved the games themselves. For my taste, the gameplay in Treasure titles is always just too gimmicky for me. Certainly there are a handful that I can find some enjoyment in. But none of them are top-tier for me. Which brings us to Radiant Silvergun, which is long considered their shining jewel. Or at least one of them, along with Ikaruga.
Radiant Silvergun is a shmup. Released in 1998 for arcade and Saturn, it garnered huge acclaim from both critics and hardcore shooter fans. It's long been considered both a high point for late 90's shmups, and one of the absolute must own Saturn imports. I've been playing it every few years for well over a decade now ever since it was released on Xbox 360 and I like it, but I don't love it.
The main hook with Radiant Silvergun is that unlike most shmups of the era where you might start with a pea shooter and then grab power-ups to get stronger weapons, in this game you start with a full arsenal and never get any kind of power-ups whatsoever. As such, each button (or combo of buttons) is linked with a specific attack. There's your standard frontward shot, a spread shot, homing missiles, even a lock-on, and a sword thing that can clear out weaker bullets.
So the trick with understanding Radiant Silvergun is to first familiarize yourself with all of these various attacks, and then to know when it's appropriate to use each. And so the game becomes a true endeavor in memorization. Not only do you need to remember which button(s) does what, but also which situation is coming up and obviously which weapon will be required to clear it.
And maybe this is my real beef with the game. I just don't love these kind of rote memorization shmups. I don't mind replaying a stage over and over again so I can learn bullet patterns or enemy behavior. I definitely don't mind replaying stages so that I can improve my reflexes. But replaying to memorize the "proper" way to make it through? Just not for me.
Visually, Radiant Silvergun is sort of a mixed bag for me. It's got that kind of pseudo-2.5D thing going on with polygons. It probably looked like the future in 1998, but in 2022 it looks kind of rough. These kinds of visuals hold up less well for me than even an older sprite based shmup anyway. The music is solid with a rather epic sounding space opera vibe.
Though there's plenty of bullets flying around here, it's still not quite bullet-hell. There's some moments in boss battles that can feel the influence of something like Donpachi. But ultimately, Radiant Silvergun seems more inspired but much older shooters at its core. Probably the worst part of it for me is that iffy hitbox on your ship. There are times I feel like I definitely clipped a bullet but kept a life. Other times, I felt like I dodged, but my lost credit says otherwise. And it seems like no matter how much I play, I just can't grasp the hitbox quite exactly. But if feels pretty large.
Oh, and this game is hard. I mean, no surprise if you're a Treasure fan in general. But on the standard difficulty, I've never lasted more than a couple levels. And while switching it to Easy on the Xbox 360 version, I'm still only make it to Stage 3-E. That might sound impressive, but the game starts on Stage 3-A because, it's complicated.
I might be coming off as overly negative here, but I don't mean to. There's some truly awesome stuff going on in Radiant Silvergun. I've always enjoyed it more than its spiritual sequel, Ikaruga personally. I mean, take the boss of Stage 3-D for example. It's a huge ship that is just overwrought with weaponry to hit you with, and yet you're using monoliths for cover as the entire screen scrolls around you. It's trippy and awesome.
So yeah, like the rest of the handful of Treasure games that I do enjoy, I'll play this one every couple years to remind myself what I think of it. I like it. I don't love it. There's some cool stuff, but I do find it a bit overrated and not in my top tier by any means.