Radiant Silvergun is a vertically scrolling shooter with a story. The
story is damn good, unique, and provocative. It has been translated as
well, so no Japanese needed.
Treasure spun off from Konami in the early 90s when the developers got
tired of making sequels. All of their games are hard and awesome, and
graphically push their systems to the highest levels. Radiant Silvergun
was their first dedicated shmup and their first arcade game.
The story has been translated with screenshots by Silver Translations. The
story is only told in-game in the Saturn version, while playing in MAME
(use version .128) or Arcade mode on the Saturn disc skips the cutscenes.
In a nutshell, an object resembling two joined pyramids is dug up along
with a robot (called a "robonoid") identical to one on the Tetra, your
mothership. That object, dubbed the Stone-Like, is God or at least a demi-
god of sorts and is pissed that humans keep destroying each other. So it
WIPES EVERYONE OUT AT ONCE. The Tetra is in orbit and it's crew of three
Silvergun pilots, a captain and a robot are the only survivors.
The Silvergun is a uniquely powerful vehicle, having access to seven unique
weapons at any time. These can be accessed by pressing A, B, or C or any
combination thereof. When starting a game, a handy guide is presented for
At the bottom of the screen in a box is a pink bullet. Slash these with
your Radiant Sword, and you'll build up a meter. When full, using your
sword will trigger a huge scissor-sword attack that acts as your bomb. In
Radiant Silvergun, you have to earn your bombs and you won't be bombing
your way to victory. On the upside, once you have a full charge, there is
no penalty for using a bomb either so fire away.
Scoring and powering up are directly connected. Enemies come in either
red, yellow, or blue. Destroy three of the same color, and you'll be give
a score bonus. Continue shooting the same color, and the bonus will
ratchet up to impressive levels. As you do so, your weapons will level up.
A counter next to your score displays the level of your primary weapons.
Level ups can add projectiles, make the radius wider, and increase damage.
Learning how to chain is important in Arcade mode, as if your weapons are
too weak some bosses will destroy you before you can kill them. Getting
more points also builds extends, and you'll need them to beat this game.
The graphics are jaw-dropping. The Saturn and ST-V hardware had modest 3D
capabilities and extremely powerful 2D powers. Treasure used both to their
fullest. A background may be rendered as a 2D plane, but then twisted or
rotated to give depth. Enemies can be sprites or 3D models, and all of the
bosses (over two dozen!) are rendered in 3D and take full advantage of it.
Several bosses actually surround you and force you to shoot your way out.
The music is damn good. Hitoshi Sakimoto returns for another shmup. It
seems his name and good shmups really come up a lot together. For Radiant
Silvergun, he focuses on "battle music," classic-oriented melodies and
harmonies with pounding drums to give it a driving, pumping feel. Most of
the music is made up of a few recurring phrases, but with the tempo and
rhythm slightly altered. I have only two complaints about it, both fairly
small. One is that due to the nature of the game, the music tends to
repeat a LOT. Most of the tracks are actually the same length as a single
stage track in Battle Garegga, but the stages take a lot longer to get
through and there is no boss theme. The other complaint is that some of
the sampled sounds are quite definitely sampled and lack some character.
The string and percussion sounds are very well done, but the brass sounds
are barely better than a cheap keyboard. Considering how good the samples
sound in his other games, this is a little disappointing. The quality of
the composition makes up for it, thankfully.
The stages are set up a little different from other shooters. They are
ordered chronologically, but you start in Stage 3. In the arcade, you
choose to tackle Stage 2 or 4 next, then you'll play 5, 6, and 1 in that
order. Saturn mode makes you play all of them, you just get to pick to
play 2 or 4 first. Each stage is divided into many subsections. Each of
these short sections ends in a boss fight.
Stage 3 begins with your Silverguns launching from the Tetra. It has been
one year since humanity was wiped out, and you are out of supplies. As
soon as the Tetra enters Earth's atmosphere the defense systems of the
Stone-Like activate to kill you. For about the first two subsections, this
level is not too horrible and should give you a good grasp of gameplay and
weapon usage. Each boss gets a warning screen, a little like Darius but I
like Darius' screen better. The first boss dies in one charged sword
attack. The second boss breaks up into several pieces, each with a
different attack. Speaking of attacks, the number of bullets and beams
that Treasure drew is around a dozen or so, compared to the four or five
most shmups have.
The most interesting boss in the Stage 3 is the third one, Gallop. Gallop
is a bit of a shout out to Irem, specifically R-Type. This is as close as
you'll ever get to fighting a super-sized, fully powered R9. It has the
bits on the sides, it has a rotating Force pod (that it will shoot at you),
it has reflecting lasers, twisting lasers, homing missiles, and even the
charged shots of the R9. The main body even slightly resembles the R9.
I selected Stage 2. Stage 2 is set right as the Stone-Like comes to life,
and begins to wreak havoc on the world. The first boss is Kotetsu, fought
with a full moon as a background. Kotetsu is an excellent example of doing
something with a 3D enemy in a 2D game that would otherwise be extremely
difficult. Kotetsu likes to circle you while firing gas, or cut off half
the screen with his arm while shooting at you. You'll face Golets after
him, a pair of high-speed aircraft. The first is fought while dodging
through walls and corridors, and at one point it'll even drop behind you.
The second part is fought in the open with the other one, which transforms
into a giant robot.
The fights against Nasu and Daika 110 present an unusual format that has
since become a Treasure trademark. These bosses surround you, and fire
projectiles in all directions while you attempt to destroy the weak points.
The Nasu fight does this just a little bit. If it surrounds you, it'll
begin shooting pink bullets which can be used to power up your sword. A
few of these will take care of it. Daika 110 is actually a shape-changing
fence that shoots lasers at you while you are inside of it. I've played a
whole lot of shooters lately, and this is the first instance of a vertical
shooter with so many angles of attack that I've reviewed. This style is
much more common in horizontal shooters.
If you play the fourth stage instead, you'll be treated to a mirror battle.
You'll fight the Tetra's sister ship, Penta. The Penta has Silverguns of
it's own, and they have variations on the attacks you have. This includes
the charged sword attack.
Stage 5 is the attack on the giant battleship. Your robonoid wants to get
some information from the E.D.A. headquarters, and you need to protect him.
This battleship actually reminds me of the giant battleship from the first
Thundercross game. The fight takes place between two arms that can open
and close, with the weak point in the middle. I obviously need a lot of
practice to beat this part, because my weapons were so underpowered that it
timed out on me with over half a life-bar left even though I spent every
life of every credit pumping shots into it. I didn't even get to see most
of the boss. If you do better than I did, you get to fight another
battleship after the first one. The Saturn has a cutscene here that is
The Stone-Like is supposed to be a sort of god. And for Stage 6, you fight
it's body. I've heard of RPGs letting you fight God, don't think I've seen
many other shmups do it. This is a type of Giant Battleship fight, as each
section is it's own little stage and has a new attack pattern. At one
point, Xiga will be chasing you, flying Superman-style while raining
crystals on you and firing lasers. And if all the cryptic hints for the
bosses before went over your head, the hints for Xiga are very clear.
Whether through timeout or victory, after Xiga goes down the Stone-Like
will drag you into the past. You now must dodge curtain fire for a minute.
You have no weapons. Have fun!
I don't think Radiant Silvergun is a perfect game. With so many weapons,
it can take a lot of playthroughs to find the best weapon for any given
situation. Building their power is extremely difficult if you don't know
the enemy patterns. For this review I didn't focus too much on scoring,
and ended up trying to fight Xiga with all my weapons around level 10. A
good player will have all of them at least level 30 by this time.
The Saturn port actually fixes this complaint, in a sense. It saves your
weapon level, which means on continuous playthroughs you can take down the
very first boss in moments with a fully-powered arsenal. The Saturn
version also has the cutscenes and dialog which are needed to make sense of
some parts. For instance, during the Gedo-0 fight everything goes to
wireframe. This is explained by being a recorded playback of the fight.
Otherwise, it's just a nifty way to show off what Treasure could do with
If Radiant Silvergun could be had for about $50 used, I'd recommend it. As
it stands, I just don't think it's worth the asking price. I really have a
hard time justifying spending $150 or more on a video game, but if I did
(and if it was for the Saturn) I'd get Battle Garegga over Radiant
Silvergun. MAME is OK for trying it, but MAME doesn't do polygons very
well and ST-V emulation is a bit choppy on this game, more than on Souky.
Thankfully, Treasure has finally heeded the requests of fans (and
Microsoft, perhaps) and the game is being ported to XBox 360. The released
trailer looks very good, and it seems the energy beams got an upgrade
graphically. In addition, the weapons now have experience bars and your
chain status is now visible. A secret Ikaruga-style is teased in the
trailer as well. Considering that a new Xbox 360 can be had for about the
price of a copy of Radiant Silvergun and a Japanese Saturn, this is the way
Many thanks to Silver Translations for making such a great story available
to shooter fans everywhere.