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Page 1:
Intro
Raiden

Page 2:
Raiden II
Raiden DX
Viper Phase 1

Page 3:
Raiden Fighters
Raiden Fighters 2
Raiden Fighters Jet

Page 4:
Raiden III
Raiden IV

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Raiden III (雷電 III) - Arcade, PlayStation 2, Windows (2005)

American PS2 Cover

Japanese PS2 Cover

European PS2 Cover

Seven years after Raiden Fighters Jet and a staggering eleven years after Raiden DX, the last of the classic series, Raiden finally makes a comeback and gets back to its roots by declaring the release of an actual Raiden III. Gone are the militant settings of Raiden Fighters in lieu of the good old red and blue spaceships warring against the violent Crassanian Empire, just like old times. Was Raiden III worth the wait? The short answer is "not really," but that's being too glib. To be fair, Seibu Kaihatsu took a backseat to the making of the game and served only as producers, leaving the development to obscure company MOSS to take over the series. The result has turned out to be something that, while decent, just feels like it somehow missed its maximum potential. It's certainly passable as a shoot-em-up on its own merits, but as the official new sequel of the long-dormant classic series, it leaves something to be desired.

There are seven levels in total, and it certainly starts out looking like Raiden, albeit in shiny new not-sprite graphics. The first (somewhat) noticeable thing it changes from the classic games is keeping all of the action on the same screen at once instead of allowing you to scroll from left to right and back again. It maybe be a relatively minor mechanic, but it was something that makes Raiden unique, and restricting the action to a nonflexible screen makes the game feel a bit cramped compared to all previous entries. Whatever the case, the levels are, in order, a besieged city, a ravine in the mountains, multiple bases on the ocean, a fight in space leading to an intergalactic tunnel, a large enemy fortress (possibly the insides of a giant weapon), a base improbably linked by a series of asteroids, and the Crassanian home planet. The levels look good on the Taito Type X hardware, though they're not particularly outstanding. There's not much to say about the music, sadly: It's decent with the context of the game, but sadly not quite as remarkable as any of the music from either the classic Raiden games or the Raiden Fighters series.

The game plays somewhat similar to the classic titles, though there have been some changes here and there, mostly not for the better. What's the same are most of the classic weapons: The red vulcan, the blue laser, the burst missiles, the homing missiles, and of course, the bombs. The bonus medal items return, looking less like medals and more like shiny gold orbs. The Fairy bonus item still exists in hidden areas, but sadly, cute little Miclus is nowhere to be found this time. The end-of-score bonus this time around is still based off of how many medals you collect and how many bombs you retain, but now there is also the factor of how many lives you have left after beating the boss of the stage. You also get an additional "flash shot" bonus for each enemy destroyed quickly, a bonus multiplier ranging from 1.1 to 2.0. This means you can potentially double your score per enemy destroyed if you're quick enough. Unfortunately, you won't have the toothpaste Plasma beam with which to destroy enemies, but you'll have to settle for a suitably lamer replacement.

Dubbed the "Proton Laser," this green weapon is an unbroken stream that sways around like the old Plasma laser but does not lock onto its targets. Without the lock-on feature, the Proton weapon is an inferior version to the more powerful (but less controllable) blue laser. At least the red and blue weapons are more or less the same, though the red vulcan shot starts out with a slight three-way spread, giving you a bit more edge every time after you die. Furthermore, there is a new type of missile alongside the classic impact and homing missiles. The Radar missiles act as a combination of the two, where the missiles fly forward but adjust their trajectory to hit the nearest enemy. The bombs are also somewhat different; instead of dropping a large nuke in a concentrated area, the bomb here simply wipes away everything on screen, bullets and minor enemies alike. Sadly, the cluster bomb from Raiden II / DX is not present.

The bomb itself is meant to be used more defensively than offensively in accordance to the ridiculous new pace of bullets that will likely fill up the screen. As usual, the game starts out reasonably kind until about stage 3, where the insanity level reaches a maxim far more insane than to what old-school Raiden players are used. Make no mistake, Raiden III is officially a bullet hell, crossing the line on which Raiden and Raiden II bordered upon back in the day. The bullets are numerous and travel fast, especially prominent in the boss fights but even noticeable among regular enemies near the endgame. The ship's hitbox is also subtly smaller than previous installments, requiring you to really wedge the ship in between waves of orange and yellow death. The game feels less like Raiden and more like a typical danmaku shoot-em-up, not really fitting to how the series has been up to this point. The Raiden Fighters games got a bit nuts, but they didn't feel like they required bombs to be fired every five seconds to shrug off enemy fire.

If nothing else, the bosses at least look reasonably cool, though they're not quite as varied as the bosses from the classic games. In the tradition of the older games, the first boss appears to be a giant tank with what seems like a large six-shooter shaped multi-missile pod, but another one just like it comes into the first several seconds later. The bulky sixth boss starts off by dropping annoying large spheres that are tough to shoot through, and when you think you've destroyed it, it sheds its outer layer and spreads wings before challenging you again. The last boss is the obligatory heavily armored Crassanian head fortress, and as in Raiden II, the red diamond which appears to somehow be the leader of the enemy pops out and assaults you in a fashion similar to the final boss of Radiant Silvergun.

It's not that there's anything wrong with Raiden III per se, but its design feels overall generic compared to the classic arcade titles. It does not know whether it wants to be a full-out modern shoot-em-up or an absolute throwback to the older Raiden games, and it suffers from attempting to balance both ends. At least the PlayStation 2 port offers some neat goodies, including the obligatory score attack and boss rush modes, as well as the ability to choose any one of the stages on which to start. There's also a gallery of enemies and bosses to view and lots of neat concept art. It's not quite as meaty as Raiden DX, but it does boost a bit of value to the overall package, if only slightly. The coolest feature is Double mode, where a single player gets to control both the red and blue Raiden fighters at once using both analog sticks. It is VERY tricky to control properly, but it's a fun ride for as long as you can get it to last. The Windows port, only released in Japan, is essentially identical to the PlayStation 2 version, but looks slightly crisper on the computer screen.

Quick Info:

Developer:

  • Moss

Publisher:

Director:

  • Jin Hoshino

Genre:

Themes:


Raiden III (Windows)

Raiden III (Windows)

Raiden III (Windows)

Raiden III (Windows)


Raiden IV (雷電 IV) - Arcade / Xbox 360 (2008)

American Cover

After the somewhat diminishing return of Raiden III, the revival of the classic series would get another shot with Raiden IV. shoot-em-ups are considered a relatively niche genre in the modern-day, so any chances of the series reaching its heyday of popularity are admittedly low. That being said, could Raiden IV still manage to keep the series relevant to fans of the genre? For better or worse, SK once again took a producer role while MOSS developed, but it would seem that MOSS has learned from some of their mistakes and have most certainly made a more enjoyable game than Raiden III. It may not feel precisely like the classic games or match the high intensity of the Raiden Fighters series, but it stands over its predecessor as a more competent shoot-em-up. Strangely (and somewhat lamely) enough, the game only has five stages, but that's only for the original arcade version. The XBOX 360 version is the way to go, as it offers two more levels to bring the total up to seven, the same amount of levels from Raiden III.

Running off of the exact same hardware as Raiden III (the Taito Type X board), Raiden IV looks improved, with the textures appearing somewhat more authentic and the overall tone of appearance being brighter and clearer. The stages are what you would likely expect from the series at this point: An open farmland, a dark valley, the requisite ocean base cluster (this time featuring what seems like a travel bridge), a spooky ancient ruin leading into an underground base, an asteroid field, a spaceship armada and a massive satellite, and a gigantic missile of which you must stop its eventual destination. While the graphics look pretty danged good, arguably the greatest quality about Raiden IV is its fantastic OST, modern synth rock more suiting for a shoot-em-up than the decidedly generic RIII soundtrack. Much of this game's BGMs are actually remixed from the first two Raiden games, with the two boss fight tunes being particularly noticeable in this regard. The 360 release comes with a bonus disc of the game's music.

This game already kicks Raiden III's butt simply by reintroducing the classic purple "toothpaste" beam of death, and it looks awesome on the Taito Type X engine. For the weirdos who somehow missed Raiden III's green proton laser of crappy crapness, you get the choice at the beginning of each game to decide between "plasma" or "proton" for the purple weapon. The proton laser blows less in this game by shooting out three streams at once, making it look like you're sprouting three tentacles at once from your ship. The plasma laser is still the way to go in my opinion, but it's nice that they offer an alternate that's still preferable to Raiden III's suck beam. Everything else is more or less how they were from Raiden III, including the vulcan, the laser, and all three missile types. The medals are the same as they were in Raiden III, though there's a slightly different design on medals you acquire from the air, yet both medals alike earn you 3000 points.

The scoring system of Raiden III carries over, and fairies are still hidden in most stages to boost your point total. It also factors in enemies destroyed and the destroy rate of enemies, very similar to Viper Phase-1. You also get a multiplication bonus for the "flash shot," which also earns you bonus points while playing for destroying enemies really quickly. The multiplier for the flash shot goes up to a maximum of 5.0 instead of 2.0 this time, leading to a potentially billion-digit score alongside the myriad of enemies to destroy. In the vein of its immediate predecessor, Raiden IV is also very much a bullet hell, for better or worse. The pace feels a bit more balanced than Raiden III, a bit faster while the flow of bullets isn't as overwhelming, but still requiring judicious use of the bomb attack and recognition of your hitbox. While it does not feel as much like classic Raiden as it could be, it offers a bit more enemy and environment variety than Raiden III and is overall more engaging.

The bosses are a good deal more interesting than those from Raiden III, as many of them appear to be spins on classic boss archetypes from the series. For the first time in the classic games, the first boss, a large multi-legged war machine, comes along without having a second version of it show up. However, what it does have is a second form that blitzes you with bullets after having taken some punishment. The two bosses at the end of stage 4 ostensibly appear to be homages to the classic spider tank bosses of Raiden II moving on rails, but after taking damage, they get up off the rails and fly erratically around the screen. What appears to be the final boss is rather atypical for the series so far; instead of being the heavily fortified enemy home base, it is a floating armored core surrounded by a polygonal shield consisted of many triangles and spikes. Blow away the outer layer to reveal none other than the nefarious Crassanian red diamond, the final boss of Raiden II and III, just as ridiculously difficult as ever. However, if you are playing the game on its second loop, this is not the true final fight. The diamond flees to lodge itself into a more traditional casing for the actual finale, the command console of what appears to be a massive rail cannon likely poised to obliterate Earth.

Stages 5 and 6 are found only in the Xbox 360 version, perhaps indicating the developers' thoughts on the decline of the arcade market. The 360 version offers a fair amount of goodies, including Score Attack, Boss Rush, a gallery of all the game's enemies, and the option to play Arcade mode for whatever reason. It also has the awesome Double mode of Raiden III, hard as control but manic fun as before. Perhaps the most interesting new feature is the choice between two fighters different from the default one, which unfortunately require a bit of additional cash to pay for the DLC, but merely a dollar for each. The Raiden Mk-II has some weapons akin to the default Fighting Thunder craft, but it also has the added bonus of charging up its missile attacks by holding fire of a few seconds, only to fire out a massive burst of missiles in a fashion akin to the Raiden Fighters games. It also has the sucky Proton green laser, but only if you choose "Proton" before starting the game. The more interesting choice is the Fairy, the classic Raiden bonus item which was also playable in the Raiden Fighters series. The Fairy fires powerful individual lasers instead of one long unbroken stream, and it shoots off a myriad of bubbles instead of the plasma/proton laser, which is a surprisingly fun weapon to use. It's not necessary to play either of these bonus ships to get the full experience of the game, but they are interesting variables in the neo-classic Raiden formula.

All in all, Raiden IV is a step forward from its predecessor. A fair chunk of this examination has compared Raiden IV to Raiden III, though not without reason as MOSS developed both of them. Whenever any installments in a long running and venerable series get turned over to a new development team, this almost always spells doom for the series as long as the newbies fail at attempting to rekindle the fire that the parent developers put into the game. If not able to fill the big shoes before them, the new developers can at least attempt to learn from the mistakes put forth by their freshman effort. It's like when Eolith made the lambasted King of Fighters 2001 after SNK went belly-up, but then they improved significantly with the well-received King of Fighters 2002. The point is that MOSS has made a decent game in Raiden IV, much improved over the mediocre Raiden III, even if it cannot possibly match up to the legacy of the classic Raiden games. Raiden IV may not be an absolute return to form, but it does better what Raiden III attempted to do by feeling like a decent homage to the old series while offering enough new on its own. Should this be the last ever game of this tenured shoot-em-up series, at least it ends on a reasonably respectable note.

Quick Info:

Developer:

  • Moss

Publisher:

  • Moss

Director:

  • Jin Hoshino
  • Takashi Amano

Genre:

Themes:


Raiden IV (Xbox 360)

Raiden IV (Xbox 360)

Raiden IV (Xbox 360)

Raiden IV (Xbox 360)



<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Intro
Raiden

Page 2:
Raiden II
Raiden DX
Viper Phase 1

Page 3:
Raiden Fighters
Raiden Fighters 2
Raiden Fighters Jet

Page 4:
Raiden III
Raiden IV

Back to the Index