You usually don’t see the word ”epic” being used to describe shoot em ups, but for the lack of a better word, that’s what Radiant Silvergun feels like. This 1998 arcade shooter brought a sense of cinematic flair to the genre with its sweeping camera angles, vertigo inducing 3D backgrounds and cryptic narrative that creates a sense of building towards something big.
Stylish and unique presentation isn’t all that this title brought to the table however, as its unique weapon system also differs a lot from other arcade shooters of the era. The player has access to 7 different weapons from the get go, and there are no floating power-up icons or bombs like in other similar titles. The weapons correspond to different directions and are strong or weak against particular enemies. So you can always position yourself to a spot from where you can shoot the enemy safely. Besides your basic projectiles, lasers and homing missiles, you get access to a sword that deals large amount of damage to small area. It has a secondary function as well, as you can absorb certain projectiles with the sword, which fills up a gauge that releases a powerful special attack upon completion.
The genius of the game’s design lies within its scoring system. Unlike in many other arcade shooters, it is very integral to the core gameplay. All regular enemies are divided into three different colors: red, blue and yellow. You can chain a score by repeatedly killing enemies of a certain color. Doing so increases your score, which in turn levels up one of your three main weapons, based on which you were using. You can end up in a tough situation later on in the game if your weapons are insufficiently leveled.
Of course there’s more to the scoring system than that. For example, you can start a secret chain by killing a red, blue and yellow enemy in a row.
What’s novel about the scoring system of Silvergun is the fact that you’re incentivized to avoid two-thirds of the enemies. While the system is beginner-friendly and easy to grasp due to the color coding, that doesn’t mean that getting high scores is a walk in the park. You have to be careful what you shoot in order to avoid breaking your chain by accidentally shooting a different colored enemy, and sticking to just one color instead of shooting indiscriminately can easily take your focus away from all the projectiles and other hazards you’re supposed to avoid.
While the wow-effect of Radiant Silvergun has diminished over the years as its visuals have aged, the game still offers a neatly designed experience that can manage to impress the player by how well it is orchestrated. It’s one of the most unique and ambitious arcade shoot em ups of all time, so it can offer something even for players who aren’t well versed or interested in the genre.
Title: Radiant Silvergun
Platforms: Arcade, Sega Saturn, Xbox 360