Review – Radiant Silvergun (Switch)

Whenever I write about a bullet hell shooter in this website, I almost always, in a nearly unconscious way, mention Ikaruga somewhere in said article. It’s hard not to. I honestly consider that 2001 gem to be the single best bullet hell of all time. It’s a testament to game design, sound, music, and most importantly, a stupidly addictive gameplay loop that keeps you coming back for more, despite its absurd difficulty. However, that wasn’t its developer’s first foray into the genre. Back in the late 90s, the Sega Saturn received a little title called Radiant Silvergun, which would eventually become a borderline legendary cult classic among those into the genre and retro gaming in general.

While not the best game in the genre, Radiant Silvergun was still a damn impressive game for its time, especially considering the terrible hardware it was developed for. It basically became the holy grail of any Saturn collector, almost in the way that owning a copy of Ikaruga is almost mandatory for a hardcore Dreamcast (or GameCube) fan. It has always been a tough game to acquire and experience in legitimate ways. Fear not, dear readers, as Radiant Silvergun is now finally available on the Switch, and boy, does it feel right at home on this system.

Radiant Silvergun Hard

A screenshot of the second level of the game. On easy. Pretty chill stuff.

Every good bullet hell shooter stands out from another thanks to its one unique gimmick. For instance, Ikaruga‘s gimmick was its polarity system, allowing you to absorb shots of the same color as your ship, with you being able to alternate between polarities at will. Radiant Silvergun‘s main gimmick is actually much simpler, but no less interesting: no power-ups. The game already starts with you being able to use a colossal crap ton of weapons, ranging from traditional energy blasts, to homing shots, and even a freaking sword, with no ammo or cooldown meters. In theory, you are ridiculously overpowered. But the game makes up for that by being excruciatingly difficult.

Radiant Silvergun Bosses

Touch one of the pillars, you die. Touch the boss, you die. Get hit by anything, you die.

This is your typical “one-hit-kills-you” kind of game, where everything will destroy you just by looking at you. If you get shot, you’re dead. If you get stuck in a trap, you’re dead. Touch a wall, for there are some traversing puzzles in some levels, and you’re dead. You’re constantly being bombarded left and right, and the fun comes from figuring out the best kind of weapon in each situation. You’re overpowered, but your wits should be your main weapon. To top things off, boss battles are absolutely brutal. If you decide to play the game on Arcade mode, you can easily lose between ten and twenty lives in one boss battle alone. Radiant Silvergun pulls no punches, and while that makes it prohibitively intimidating for newcomers, that’s part of its charm.

Radiant Silvergun

Another fun and fair boss fight.

Is this particular version of Radiant Silvergun a remaster? I would say, “just barely”. Sure, it looks upscaled and impressive, especially on a smaller screen, but you’re basically getting slightly improved visuals, namely in the form of post-processing effects like anti-aliasing, filtering, an improved resolution, and a more stable framerate. It’s gorgeous for Saturn standards, but fine for today’s standards. It’s not jaw-droppingly gorgeous like the Switch port of Ikaruga, but it gets the job done. It doesn’t sound as epic as Ikaruga either, but it’s also decent enough. All in all, it’s the novelty that makes this port worth your while, not its presentation, which has managed to stand the test of time, but won’t be a main selling point.

Radiant Silvergun Corridors

You need to avoid these walls and carefully fly through these cramped corridors. Without getting shot.

This is not an easy recommendation, given how unbelievably challenging this game is, even on the easiest of difficulties. Radiant Silvergun is a gem of its time, but one that has managed to age gracefully. Few bullet hell shooters released in this day and age are able to stand next to it and its sequel, Ikaruga. Being able to take this absolute classic on a portable, with a handful of simple, but welcome quality of life improvements, is worth the entry fee if you’re a fan of bullet hell shooters. No need to spend nearly four figures on a region-free Saturn with a copy of the game in order to enjoy it in a legit way. Grab it on the eShop, have fun, and lose a ton of lives with a smile on your face.

 

Graphics: 7.0

For a polygonal game released on the Sega Saturn, it did age very well. It didn’t receive a ton of visual improvements, but it gets the job done, especially when playing it in handheld mode.

Gameplay: 9.0

Radiant Silvergun might be infuriatingly hard, but its controls are phenomenal. The framerate is excellent, its responsiveness is fluid, and it does a good job at reminding you the controls at all times by listing your arsenal on the right side of the screen.

Sound: 7.0

The soundtrack isn’t as epic as the one featured in Ikaruga, but it’s still pretty good. There is also a bit of voice acting. Can’t say this aspect aged as well.

Fun Factor: 8.0

One of the best bullet hell shooters of all time, finally available on a modern system, and a portable one at that. Radiant Silvergun is not an easy recommendation due to its insane difficulty, but fans of the genre will be shocked at how well it managed to stand the test of time after all these years.

Final Verdict: 8.0

Radiant Silvergun is available now on Sega Saturn, Arcade, Xbox 360, and Nintendo Switch.

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.