• Radirgy review - Sega Dreamcast aka Radilgy

    Another posthumous Dreamcast release, another Naomi shmup port. After a string of releases that have hardly set the DC alight and perhaps been somewhat overshadowed by the release of the graphical showpony that is Under Defeat, is Radirgy any good or is it more of the same?

    Fortunately, Milestone, the devco behind Chaos Field, has produced a bright and breezy little shooter with a fresh look and a compelling challenge.

    Early shots of the game looked decidedly dull, the cel-shaded style being something of a novelty in the genre and one that was initially met with a sceptical reception. Some of the character designs (the player's mecha and some of the smaller enemies in particular) are unimaginative, even derivative, but seeing the game in the flesh proves that Milestone has produced something with a genuinely different look that works well. The graphics are sharp and clear and while the brash colour scheme might not be to everybody’s tastes, it chimes in perfectly with the cutesy feel of the game and, more importantly, the clarity and precision mean that the player does not miss a trick. Even in the most manic passages of the game every bullet is crystal clear; seldom does the player feel cheated by an unseen shot (a common complaint with Cave’s Ibara). Which is just as well. Don’t be fooled by the cute exterior - Radirgy packs a punch and spews out enough on-screen damage to challenge even hardened shmup fans.

    The game offers a choice of three mechas, the only difference between them being their primary weapons. The first mecha comes with a standard wide shot, the second a “1-2-3 laser”, which is essentially a narrower, more focused constant stream-type weapon, while the third mecha is armed with a bubble shot, which is again narrower than the wide shot but deceptively powerful. Each mecha comes in three colours, representing three different speeds: 2 stars (slowest), 3 stars and 5 stars (fastest).

    As the game begins, the story is told by means of a series of somewhat intrusive pop-ups at the start of the level. Conveniently, these can be turned off by pressing X at the player-select screen.

    Player movement is slick and responsive, making it easy to deftly weave through the enemy onslaught. Radirgy uses a three-button system: a main shot on button A, a short-range sword attack on B and the ABSNET barrier (a kind of shield) on the X button. The main shot, as expected, is a standard shooting attack for destroying enemies, but here it takes a backseat to the sword and ABSNET barrier, which play a much more important role in the game’s scoring system.

    As enemies are destroyed they produce blue tokens that fill the blue ABSNET gauge in the bottom left of the screen, but the gauge is filled more quickly when using the sword rather than the main shot. Of course, using the sword means getting up close to attacking enemies but it is this risk/reward mechanic that is key to achieving monster scores and really challenges the player to dive headlong into the action rather than sit back and rely on the main shot. Another use for the sword attack is to “bounce” tokens dropped by destroyed enemies. In doing this the value of the tokens, signified by their colour, can be changed from, for example, an ABSNET gauge refill to a power-up of the main shot. The sword can also convert cancellable bullets (easily distinguished from their non-cancellable counterparts thanks to the clear graphics) into blue tokens to fill the ABSNET gauge. When the gauge is full the ABSNET barrier can be activated.

    The ABSNET barrier appears as a target surrounding the player, and any enemies caught within it will produce green pills to fill up the green multiplier gauge (up to a maximum of x16) in the top left of the screen. The player is also granted invincibility for as long as the gauge is activated, meaning that it is possible to “sit” on larger enemies or groups of enemies to fill up the multiplier gauge faster. Whilst in this state, it is also possible to continue attacking enemies to fill up the ABSNET gauge. The consequence is that, once sufficiently familiar with attack patterns, players can sustain long periods of invulnerability as the barrier gauge is refilled while the current barrier is deployed. The multiplier gauge can also be filled by absorbing cancellable bullets and grazing enemies with the small shield that appears in front of the mecha when no attack button is pressed. This produces larger green pills that fill the multiplier gauge even faster so, like with the ABSNET gauge, if the player takes a risk by getting closer to enemies the rewards are greater.

    The kicker comes as the multiplier gauge depletes if it is not being actively filled, meaning it is necessary to keep topping it up to achieve the highest scores. It is precisely this balance between sustaining the multiplier while refilling the ABSNET gauge as quickly as possible that makes the game compelling. Like in many good shooters, it is the interplay between risk and reward that gives Radirgy its irresistible hook. Unlike more conventional shmups, satisfaction comes not from destroying as many enemies as possible (several larger enemies prove very difficult to destroy before disappearing off-screen, and levels can be finished without the boss being defeated), but from racking up the highest score possible. In focusing on score, weaving through the bullet hell becomes second nature.

    A criticism that could be levelled at the game is that the exploitability of the system robs the game of some of its challenge, but given the sheer amount of bullets flying around it would be difficult to argue that the game is undemanding. By no means is Radirgy in the same league of difficulty as, say, DoDonPachi Dai Ou Jou, but it is no pushover either.

    Not as sparse as some other Naomi ports, the game is rounded out by a decent set of options, including the obligatory TATE mode, and a suitably bouncy techno soundtrack that complements the overall style well.

    Radirgy comes as a breath of fresh air in a genre that is so often lacking in originality, and this on a supposedly “dead” machine, something for which Milestone should be commended. The fact that this will be one of the last games to appear on the Dreamcast means that Sega fanboys and eBay touts will buy it regardless, but judged purely on its merits as a shmup, Radirgy is thoroughly deserving of a place in any shooter fan’s collection.

    Score: 8/10

    A review by Gareth Newhouse
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