While the Crash Bandicoots, Crocs, and Super Mario 64s of the period were pioneering the field of depth perception, the Saturn became a safe haven for 2D skill-based games like Radiant Silvergun. Despite the fact that it was never released stateside, Treasure's manic 1998 shooter is thought of as a definitive Saturn classic, which continues to influence contemporary shmups even to this day. Now, through the magic of XBLA, an entirely new generation of gamers are being exposed to the genesis of bullet-hell, and even after 13 years, Radiant Silvergun is still a relevant, infuriating masterpiece. What's new this time around? Treasure realizes that Radiant Silvergun's target demographic is the same hardcore 2D shmup enthusiast that loved the game 13 years ago, so it was careful to make sparing, minor changes and leave the core gameplay formula intact.
A slight graphical overhaul has upscaled texture resolutions and replaced the Saturn's mesh sprites with true transparency effects, something the Saturn's hardware was incapable of. These upgrades can be disabled at any time, however, to reveal the charmingly jagged, pixelated Saturn-y goodness that lies beneath. Seeing how Radiant Silvergun is a game about pixel-perfect precision, it's incredibly difficult to be pixel-perfect when the pixels have been blurred and blended and bloomed. As flashy and well done as the "modern" aesthetics are, the updated look was inconsequential and at times disruptive. Switching to the classic look greatly increased my ship's survival rate, and as such became my default setting.
Beyond leaderboard support and a smattering of HUD options, the only other notable addition to the title is Xbox Live support for multiplayer, which offers a healthy amount of matchmaking customization (difficulty level, number of available ships, points until continue, etc). Beyond that, however, it's the same experience it was 13 years ago: Frantic, coordinated and bewildering, fun mayhem.
How's it hold up? Even after all this time, Radiant Silvergun is just as challenging, infuriating and iconic as it ever was. Its color-coded point multiplier and weapon upgrade systems keep the learning curve nice and high, and the unforgiving continue mechanic is so "arcade game design circa 1998" that it hurts. But, just like every bullet-hell game worth its salt, it hurts in a good way. At the end of the day, Radiant Silvergun's masochistic beat down isn't for the uninitiated: Trouble Witches Neo is still an easier, more forgiving way to get your feet wet. But, for the discerning coin-op connoisseur with a refined palate for pew-pew, it still doesn't get much better than this.