Friday, July 5, 2024

Radirgy (Xbox 360)

Checkpoints OFF
3 Difficulty levels
5 Stages
Ship speed fixed, selectable at start
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Developed by Milestone
Published by Klon in 2014

When most people thought the definitive set of Milestone shmups was restricted to the Nintendo Wii and its Milestone Shooting Collection 2, a short-lived company named Klon got the rights to the games and released them all for the Japanese Xbox 360 in a compilation named Sakura Flaming Archives. It's got HD ports of Chaos Field, Radirgy, Karous, Illmatic Envelope and Radirgy Noa (not to be confused with the standalone Radirgy Noa Massive release), and just like its Wii counterpart represents a great way to get to know the works of Milestone in a single hub of shooting fun.

Even though Sakura Flamingo Archives gets lots of online criticism due to some reported instances of slowdown and a disappointing set of extras with poor interface screens and very few options, of which the lack of TATE for the vertical titles is always mentioned, my feeling is that this widespread disapproval is highly unjustified. The games look gorgeous on an HD screen, so TATE isn't really a thing if you can afford a large TV set. Sure, save functions are basic and don't allow replay recording, but that's perfectly fine for five straightforward arcade ports, which can be accessed from the main screen menu by selecting Revision mode. All inputs are configurable and extra game variants such as Mixture mode and Death mode add a little more flair for Milestone fans.
So on to Radirgy, the shmup with colorful cell-shaded graphics, second Milestone game and also the first one to present a series of gameplay elements that would be reused or reworked in their later releases. Having played the Dreamcast and the Playstation 2 versions a long time ago, I obviously had an idea of what to expect, yet I did come across something that made the experience a little harder: the absolute lack of slowdown. And this, my friends, is a much more legitimate criticism than the ones outlined in the paragraph above.

Ukiha shopping mall ahead

Radirgy comes with three basic ship/mecha configurations at the player's disposal, generally named after the shots they're able to fire: wide shot, 123 laser and bubble shot. Once the shot type is selected you can press left and right to choose between three fixed flying speeds (2 stars for slow, 3 starts for medium and 5 stars for fast), thus having nine fixed combinations of shot + speed. A skippable tutorial is shown and then you take off from an exploding building in a mission to rescue your kidnapped father with the aid of a friend who communicates by email messages at key points in the levels. By the way, Radirgy is actually a short for "radio allergy", a health condition of the female protagonist who is allergic to radio waves. 

The game requires the use of three buttons to be played: shot, sword and ABSnet activation. A fourth resource, the shield, appears automatically at the tip of the ship if you refrain from shooting, deflecting all shots that touch it except for lasers and flames. Shot and sword can be used at the same time, but then shot power and reach are reduced. By hitting and destroying enemies you get blue pills that refill the ABSnet gauge at the bottom of the screen, but doing it with the sword fills it faster. If the gauge is full you're entitled to use the ABSnet attack, a force field that surrounds the mecha and makes it temporarily invincible while automatically sucking all nearby items. On the other hand, green pills fill up the multiplier gauge at the top of the screen by cancelling bullets with the ABSnet and damaging enemies or deflecting bullets with the shield.

A multitude of items is released by destroying carriers, turrets and enemies. The aerial ones consist of shot power-up (a green square, get 6 for max power), instant ABSnet recharge (a purple diamond), point tokens (small and larger blue triangles), 25% multiplier boost (yellow upside down triangle), a bullet changer (pink upside down triangle) that converts all on-screen bullets into point tokens, and extra lives (bright green squares that drop down from the top of the screen when you score 8 and 20 million points). With the exception of the extra lives, all of them can be juggled with the sword, an action that might change them into other item types. Ground items appear from destroyed turrets and only give you a few points, but they're also part of a great secret that very people know of. I didn't until now, so go read this outstanding strategy page if you want to know more about this and many other deeper aspects of the game.

With a fixed scrolling pace and a steady increase in the number of enemies and bullets fired, Radirgy is finely balanced for survivalists and scorers alike. You can either save the ABSnet for the busiest parts of the stages or abuse it to boost the multiplier from ×2 (default) to ×4, ×8 and ×16 (max). The multiplier gauge self-drains if you're not able to generate a continuous stream of green pills.

A very important feature here is that you can't be hurt by any enemy (ground or airborne), only by their bullets. Speaking of which, refraining from shooting to use the shield is mostly advantageous against bosses and mid-bosses that spam thick, almost undodgeable bullet clouds. That said, crowd control is the single most important strategy for survival since the more enemies you have at a single moment the more bullets you'll need to dodge (and the more pills you'll get when using the ABSnet). Soon enough you'll also notice that every enemy type or wave will only spawn after the previous one has been destroyed or left the screen.

A flower splash on your Xbox 360
(courtesy of YouTube user Chinopolis)

Radirgy starts slow, but by the time you get to the last couple of levels things get so hectic that you'll be pretty much forced to optimize enemy wave kills and spam the ABSnet attack in order to survive real bullet hell. Finding the rhythm to the game's enemy spawning routine is the key, as well as watching out for those stray bullets that tend to catch you off guard and drain your life meter (or battery, as some put it). Panic and lack of attention to the ABSnet gauge is often the worst enemy against bosses and bulkier enemies. Every time you get hit, for example, a series of items including a purple diamond will bounce off the ship, so the best action is to instantly stop using the sword so that you can collect the diamond to recharge and activate the ABSnet. I lost count of how many times I was fried by the last boss because I didn't stop slashing. At least you're not powered down after being hit.

I consider Radirgy to be a fun game, yet I reckon it's a slow burner for most people. And while it lacks the drive and energy of Chaos Field's music, I'm very fond of the laid back techno soundtrack. Bumping up the volume does wonders! As I mentioned above, this port is completely devoid of slowdown, that's why I think it's the hardest version out there. Enemies and bullets will engulf you if you're not on top of your game. Other than that, there are very brief stuttering moments when some of those mail messages pop up on the screen, but they do not affect the gameplay at all. Finally, there are no special game modes for Radirgy here, such as those seen in the Playstation 2 or the Gamecube ports. 

Once I got reacquainted with the game I went with the combo of 123 shot + medium speed, which I still feel is more natural for my play style. However, I'll concede that in order to get the most out of the game you really need to select the fastest speed. I played in the Normal difficulty and got the final result below, having collected only 85% of the ground tokens.

The sequels – or pseudo-sequels – developed for Radirgy over the years are a real mess. The list includes Radirgy Noa, Radirgy de Gojaru!Radirgy Swag and Radirgy 2, and I expect to tackle at least one of them in the near future.

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