Radiant Silvergun

Chances are a few people out there aren’t too happy about Treasure’s legendary shoot ’em up arriving on Xbox Live Arcade. I’m talking about those who own the notoriously expensive Sega Saturn original – now it’s available as a download it’s likely that it’s going to fall rapidly in value. Those already well acquainted with the game shouldn’t feel too bad though – with a potential thirteen years of practise over any newcomers they should have no trouble riding high on the online leaderboards.

On first glance Radiant Silvergun is just a typical shooter – albeit one with a hefty number of different weapons available from the off – but scratch the surface only a little and you’ll find that it’s quite sophisticated.

Shooting three enemies of the same colour in a row starts off a chain which will earn extra XP that automatically upgrades the three combinable main weapons. When playing the score attack mode, you’ll soon start to memorise the order in which enemy craft appear on the screen.

Another nice idea is that you have to earn the privilege to use a smart bomb – the sword attack will rid any pink projectiles and doing so fills up a gauge. It can be risky to fill it as you have to get close to the projectiles, effectively asking you to dice with death. The upshot, of course, is that having a bomb at hand can make the trickier bits a whole lot easier.

If you’re new to the world of shoot ’em ups there’s no need to be afraid of being thrown in the deep end. The inclusion of a homing weapon in your arsenal makes the whole thing instantly accessible. Ikaruga this isn’t. There’s a laser that can be locked onto enemies too, but only if you’re directly facing them. This weapon is incredibly effective at sapping the health of the exceedingly frequent bosses.

Most bosses take the form of elaborate space craft with the ability to morph or summon additional segments. A particular highlight is the third boss in which you have to hide behind pillars to avoid being fried by lasers. Most bosses self destruct if you take too long to destroy them, but you’ll miss out on points if you delay or fail to find their weak spot. This harks back to the game’s original arcade roots – they destruct to stop players from hogging the game for too long.

The levels aren’t in the order you may expect – things start off on level 3, and then you pick the order in which you play at the end of each level. Why? That’s just Treasure’s way of doing things – which ties in nicely with the fact that this is Treasure doing what they do best.

This isn’t a game that has aged, but rather matured like a fine wine or piece of stinky cheese. Very few 32-bit games have held up this well and it speaks volumes that if you change the redrawn hi-res visuals back to the low-res original visuals in the options menu, it doesn’t look that shabby bar a few scrappy textures on the bosses.

It’s also in the options menu that you can alter the screen size and choose a wallpaper to fill the outside of the screen. Another new feature is co-op play over Xbox Live, as well as the aforementioned leaderboards. The story mode is subtitled but not redubbed (somewhat thankfully) while the music remains simply magical.

Shoot ’em ups aren’t your cup of tea? If this can’t change your mind then nothing will. In 1998 Treasure set the bar high, and very few shoot ’ems have been able to touch it since.