Radiant Silvergun (レイディアントシルバーガン Radiantoshirubāgan) is a shoot'em up video game developed by Treasure in 1998.
A high-definition port of the game was released on the Xbox 360 through Xbox Live Arcade, marking the first time that it was released in Western countries. It is also on the backwards compatibility list for the Xbox One.
Radiant Silvergun is a vertically-scrolling shoot-'em-up game. The player is given a wide arsenal of weapons from the start of the game with three primary weapons;
- Vulcan - Fires a rapid-fire stream of bullets forward from the front end of the ship.
- Homing - Fires double energy blasts that home in on enemies.
- Spread - Fires explosive warheads from the sides of the ship at a 22.5 degree angle.
Combining two of the three primary weapons can result in one of three new weapons;
- Back Spread - A variation of the Vulcan. Fires a spreading shot from the rear of the craft and a single-bullet-wide stream from the front.
- Homing Plasma - Two tracking line markers swivel at acute angles in front of the ship. They would lock onto enemies and fire a stream of plasma to destroy them.
- Lock On Spread - Expands a circle of targeting markers from the ship. Anything caught within the circle would be targeted with homing lasers.
The player's ship is also equipped with the Radiant Sword, an energy weapon which is activated by pressing and holding all three weapon buttons, and can be swung at enemies and absorb pink enemy bullets to build up a gauge on the top-left corner of the HUD. When the gauge is completely filled up with energy from the pink bullets absorbed by the Radiant Sword, and the button combination for it is entered again, this results in the Hyper Sword, in which a pair of massive swords appear on both sides of the ship, and swing round before converging directly in front. It can also make the player's ship temporarily invincible, and the fragmentation of the swords can also cause damage to nearby enemies. The weapons "level up" and become more powerful from extensive use and remain so for the rest of the game.
The levels are tightly and methodically paced with meticulously crafted scenarios that can be approached in different ways using the weapons.
The game's scoring system is based on the colors of the enemies. The enemies come in red, yellow, and blue. Destroying three enemies of the same exact color in a row would earn the player bonus points. Killing additional sets of enemies in the same color increases the bonuses (up to 100,000 points), but killing an enemy of a different color would reset it. The player can earn additional bonus points by defeating the bosses in a methodical manner. Each boss has different segments and appendages that can be destroyed before targeting their main weak point. If all of these segments are destroyed before the boss' weak point is, too, the player will earn an even bigger point bonus. There are also hidden icons of a dog character named Merry, which provides point bonuses as well as unlocking additional game options when shot.
WARNING: Contains spoilers!
In the year 2520, Earth Defense Alliance (EDA) have unearthed a mysterious octahedral stone-like object from the prehistoric layer of the Earth along with the remains of a robonoid. According to EDA Research Lab Division 3, the robonoid bears a serial number, 00104, the same one as another robonoid designated CREATOR-00104, who is stationed on the space cruiser Tetra, which is headed by Captain Tengai.
On July 14, 2520, the crew of the Tetra receive a transmission from Chief Igarashi, Secretary of Defense of the EDA and an old friend of Tengai, concerning the discovery. Igarashi also announced that it was the last day of testing for the Silvergun starfighter prototypes, which the senior management of the EDA had high hopes for. Guy, the son of Chief Igarashi, crew member of the Tetra and test pilot of Silvergun Unit 03, cockily remarks that he and the other pilots, Buster and Reana, don't need tests. When the chief asks Tengai what his son's score is, the Tetra's captain, as a means of wounding the overconfident pilot's pride, informs that Guy's score is the worst.
Later that night at EDA Research Lab Division 3, the scientists stationed at the facility were scanning the stone-like object and the mystery robonoid's memory data. They make a shocking discovery about the object in the robonoid's memory data, as it then began to glow, consuming the facility in a bright light, just as the scientists got onto the emergency communications line.At EDA Headquarters, multiple unidentified flying objects began to appear on radar as Chief Igarashi orders for the EDA to go into Level A emergency alert, along with receiving the robonoid's memory data from Research Lab Division 3, which is where an explosion had also occurred. Onboard the Tetra, her crew receive a notification for the Level A alert and that the unidenfied flying objects are surrounding EDA Headquarters.
Since the company's inception, Treasure had mainly been a developer of action and platforming games for home consoles. Sega had constantly asked the company to develop an arcade game for them, but Treasure president Masato Maegawa was concerned the shrinking arcade business would be too risky from a business perspective, and that arcade goers would not appreciate the effort placed into their game. Despite the concerns, the team had wanted to make a 2D arcade style shoot-'em-up for some time. Most of Treasure's staff members were enthusiasts on the genre, having grown up from gaming's golden age, but entering their careers after fighting games started to fill the arcades. Hiroshi Iuchi, the director of Radiant Silvergun, was particularly passionate about starting the project. Though the team was willing to make the game, there were still concerns. Maegawa believed that the shoot-'em-up genre was dying out, and was risky from a sales perspective. Iuchi was also worried that there would be no place for a 2D shooter in an arcade space that was advancing more towards large and specialized 3D game machines. In the face of such concerns about commercial viability, the team felt they had a good concept and pushed forth.
Iuchi thought arcade developers of the era were not innovating enough and only settling for rehashing old ideas. He thought that the shooting games at the time were most commonly in the style of Toaplan-developed vertical shooters, but he remembered in the past when developers like Konami and Irem had distinct shooter styles. In response to this, his first thought was to develop a non-Toaplan style shooter. He claimed to have had the idea for Radiant Silvergun long before it was released, not pulling any influence from games of the era. The key philosophies he carried was to make a classic style game, but make it unlike anything else. He was a big fan of Irem's 1988 shooter, Image Fight, and believes that some of that inspiration is reflected in Radiant Silvergun.
The team at Treasure wanted to develop the game for home consoles in addition to arcades. They had agreed the game had to be released in arcades first, as a console-exclusive shooter may be a hard sell. They had hoped that the game would appeal to shooting fans in the arcades while also convincing home console players that shooters were still fun. Maegawa thought it best to keep the arcade and console portions of the development cycle separate, because arcades and consoles are so different from the other. Iuchi treated the arcade version as being the "test version" with the console version released soon after that. He believed that if the team was not successful with the console port, the 2D shoot-'em-up genre would soon die.
The development of the game started in late 1997, and progressed smoothly as opposed to previous projects where ideas had to be scrapped and restart from scratch. The title references an early concept for the game in which people flew through the sky with silver guns in each hand. Some staff members thought the name would be too difficult to remember, but Iuchi believed that if the name is difficult to remember, it would be hard to forget. Only ten people worked on the game, including three programmers, four artists, and one sound designer. They chose to develop the game for the Sega ST-V arcade system board due to Treasure having normally developed games for Sega and it was similar in hardware specs for the Sega Saturn home console, which they planned to port the game to. The team had knowledge of the Saturn's hardware, due to having previously developed games for it, believing that it would be easier this time around. They used conventional computers instead of expensive hardware. The team used LightWave for modeling the 3D objects and freeware downloaded from the internet to create the 2D graphics. The team worked hard to use every last bit of power from Sega's hardware.
Iuchi chose not to include power-ups in Radiant Silvergun because he felt they were distracting, and often times, he found himself dying when trying to manage different weapons and items. To remedy this, he made the game progress simply through shooting and dodging, and mapped weapons to individual buttons and button combinations instead of needing to press a button to cycle through weapons. The team also made the bullets intentionally slow to appeal to a wider playing audience. The team recruited the animation studio Gonzo (which had previously made the cutscenes for Silhouette Mirage) to create the animated movie sequences with deeper story elements for the Saturn version. The cutscenes were not included in the arcade version, due to players in the arcades not wanting to wait through story sequences. Iuchi was satisfied with the outcome of Gonzo's work for Radiant Silvergun. The game's music was composed by Hitoshi Sakimoto, who is best known for scoring Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy XII, as well as composing music for over 80 other games.
Towards the end of development, Maegawa found himself having trouble properly debugging the game because of its high difficulty level, so he brought in skilled shoot-'em-up players who held national records to debug the game.
The arcade version of Radiant Silvergun was released in May 1998, and the team was anxious about whether or not that it would be received well because of how unique it is as a shooter, as well as Treasure's first arcade game (not counting the Sega Mega Play version of Gunstar Heroes). So, Maegawa went in person to arcades to gauge the players' reactions to the game. He later said they had observed people playing the game for a very long time, which made them happy. The game was released at retail for the Sega Saturn on July 23rd, 1998, and had sold around 50,000 copies.
The Sega Saturn port of the game was imported by Western critics and received critical acclaim, with some calling it one of the best shoot-'em-ups ever made. Critics agreed that Treasure had successfully revived and redefined the shooter genre following a period of stagnation in the wake of the advent of fighting games during the 16-bit era.
Several journalists commented on the game's visuals. The British gaming magazine Edge consider Radiant Silvergun to be "arguably the finest technical showcase the Saturn has ever played host to," praising the parallax backdrops, Mode 7-style distortion effects, and the use of 3D polygons to create imaginative bosses. They felt that the game was a successful attempt to push the Saturn's graphical capabilities to the limit, calling it a "wonder to behold." Sega Saturn Magazine thought that the game had some of the most impressive graphics on the Saturn, highlighting the great mix of 2D and 3D graphics. Computer and Video Games thought that the game outclassed the graphics capable on the Sony PlayStation and Nintendo 64. Arcade called it a "gorgeous" and "sense-pummeling" shooter with spectacular explosions and visual effects.
Critics also praised Radiant Silvergun for its gameplay, and most commonly highlighted its replay value stemmed from the depth of its scoring system and hidden bonuses. Arcade also called it the "kind of repeat play magnetism that makes you wonder why 2D shoot 'em ups fell from grace in the first place." Sega Saturn Magazine had argued that there are RPGs with less depth than Radiant Silvergun. Edge claimed that Treasure's commitment to "old school" gaming principles paid off, praising the game's hardcore appeal. Both Edge and Sega Saturn Magazine shared positive thoughts on the game's weapon systems, also agreeing that it was satisfyingly difficult, although Edge complained that sometimes it sacrificed fairness for visual flair. GameSpot concluded their thoughts on the game, saying: "This game is an absolute must-buy. Never has a shooter combined relentless, thoughtfully-designed action with such stunning graphics and sound...Radiant Silvergun makes you feel as if you've never really played a shooter before. It's a whole new experience."
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