Raiden first appeared in the arcades twenty-five years ago, and now the fifth game in the series has made the jump to PlayStation 4 in the shape of a Director’s Cut, a little over a year since releasing on Xbox One. The basic game has seen little change since the first Raiden; it’s a vertical scrolling shoot ’em up with power ups, boss battles and high scores to chase. It is resolutely old school bullet hell shooter that makes few compromises for those who are new to the genre.
It also comes with a plot and it’s ridiculously long and complex. RPGs have less story that this little shooter. The game starts with an entire screen of text explaining the current situation, but the verbose wordage does not stop there. As this is a vertical shooter there is a fair amount of space on the sides on the screen and the right hand panel is taken up with the plot in the form a continually updated stream of text. All of the text is fully voiced, so amidst all the thumping tech-rock music and explosions thundering through your headphones you also have a continual – and I mean that, it never stops – discussion of tactics, enemy weapons or what is happening next. It’s a very odd idea and quite how you are meant to concentrate on your speeding craft, enemies bullets and listen to characters is beyond me.
As per usual with this type of game you get a choice of ship – a fast one, a powerful one, and one somewhere between – and there are three main weapons to choose, each of which has three configurations. The first is the Vulcan cannon, your standard upward firing spreadshot which can cover a fairly wide area but is not very powerful. The second is a narrow laser cannon, an intense beam of high power which comes with a sparking crystal that acts rather like a discoball. Fire your laser at the crystal and splits in to three and spins around, slicing through enemies like a hot knife through butter. The third option is the famous swirly pink toothpaste weapon which fires, as you might expect, swirly pink lasers, which automatically home in your enemies, making this a shoot ’em up where you don’t need to pay attention to where you are shooting.
You can swap weapons periodically through the levels by picking up tokens that also power up your weapons although I saw little reason to change once I found my favourite. You also get a missile system, but this locked when you start the game, and smart bombs to wipe the entire screen of enemies and bullets.
To get the high scores you have to master two key strategies. The score multiplier is started as soon as an enemy enters firing range,and the faster you defeat them, the higher the score, whilst the second factor is a combo meter that rewards you for taking down multiple enemies in quick succession. Enemies also drop medals which can be collected, or if you fancy a gamble you can stop firing for a second and the medals will be hoovered up by your ship automatically.
Raiden V also has an online component which is, quite frankly, very odd. The left hand side of the screen is taken up by the ‘Cheer’ system. This connects the game to a server and transmits your achievements to other players who can respond to your awesomeness by giving you a Cheer, which build up until you can unleash a special weapon that helps you in your game. You in turn can watch the panel at the top of the screen and see when other players have performed a feat and send them a Cheer back. On my first couple of play through I was receiving cheers at regular intervals, but other times I didn’t get any.
The system doesn’t really work as you end up stabbing the Cheer buttons all the time. After all, human beings have only one set of eyes and it’s impossible to concentrate on the bullets flying towards you, manoeuvring your you ship, that running commentary and how someone else doing in their game just so you can give them a pat on the back. In case you are a spider and have ten eyes the left panel will also track you fighting skills and map them on a real-time graph against the rest of the world. You can also swap the panel out to show helpful hints on enemies, weapons, and tactics, just in case you wanted some additional reading material.
The graphics are brightly coloured and the enemies don’t really deviate from the standard cannon fodder found in shoot ’em ups, with boss battles being the usual tanks that turn into robots or larger aircraft. The scrolling backgrounds are unremarkable and run at the speed of a sedate stroll as they gradually ramp up to warp 9, which hurt my eyes on a few occasions as it was moving so fast.
Rather than lives your ship has a number of shields but it’s quite hard to spot when you a have been hit. Other games would make your ship explode and result in the loss of weapons, but in Raiden V your ship just stops firing for the briefest of seconds and then continues onward. Although some enemies do fall into the bullet hell category and spray the screen with hundreds of projectiles, most target your ship and fire off one or two targeted shots meaning you have to pay close attention to your position all the time.
The Directors Cut brings a welcome addition of local co-op that was missing from the original release, plus a couple of extra levels that bring the game’s length to well over an hour, making it one of the longest shoot ’em ups I have played. Of course when you have finished the game on the easiest setting there’s six more difficulty levels to tackle, and only gaining a S rank on all levels will unlock the true ending to the game. However, the £35 price tag will put many players off from purchasing the game on release.
Raiden V tries to add something new the shoot ’em up genre which is admirable, but unfortunately most of the ideas don’t live up to expectations. The Cheer system may have worked better if you could let spectators view your game, and the running commentary is like trying to listen to couple arguing at back of a bus when you’re at the front and have someone playing loud techno music on their phone right next to you. For a shoot ’em up there is a lot of content and the main mechanics have clearly been honed to perfection over the last twenty five years, making this a good, solid entry to the series.
Version tested: PS4