Believe it or not, Raiden has been around for over 25 years. This latest shmupstravaganza retains what makes the series special while offering enough innovation for its Vulcan Cannons to shine brighter than ever.
If you've been a fan of Raiden for as long as I have then you'll generally know what to expect from this sequel. You blast away in a selection of vertical stages with either Vulcan, Laser, or Plasma cannons and helpful bombs while avoiding waves of enemies and countless projectiles. However, Raiden V introduces some features that make it feel like a whole new experience. Upon starting a game, you select from three different ships with various stats and sub-weapons. Next, you choose which weapons you want from the three types. Each type has three variations so there are essentially nine weapons to choose from which is rather impressive. Weapons aside, the most substantial added aspect is the Cheer system. Basically, whenever you trigger certain events, other players can cheer you on as you play. You can also cheer others on whenever someone's achievement shows in the top-left box. As you get cheers, a meter fills that you can use to unleash a powerful attack. Overall, the classic core gameplay is spot-on while the new weapons and Cheer system add some welcome complexity.
Raiden V looks fantastic. The detailed environments are exhilarating to soar over and every projectile and point of interest pops off the screen. Watching your ship roll as you move left and right while blasting away at intricately rendered enemy forces is just awesome. Between stages, you can see your ship at all sorts of angles as it shows off barrel rolling before the next onslaught begins. The soundtrack is full of wailing guitars and adrenaline-inducing tunes that always match the intense action. Hearing explosions and gunfire on top of the score makes it even better. Incredible graphics and sound aside, Raiden V is a very story-driven shooter with people talking almost constantly as you play. I don't know how anyone's supposed to pay attention to what they're saying but you can always mute them in the options menu if you find it too distracting. After all, you're playing this just to shoot things, right?
There are only two modes in Raiden V: a Story Mode and a lengthy list of Boss Missions. Thankfully, there are multiple paths that you can discover depending on how well you play Story Mode so uncovering every single stage variant adds hours of replay value. Just playing through Story Mode once takes well over an hour which is quite long for a shoot 'em up. The Boss Mission mode consists of a massive list of dozens of challenges that are great fun to master. Although this is admittedly a significant amount of content, aspects from the previous Raiden title are missing. I would have loved to play a variation of OverKill mode and I miss browsing the cool 3D model gallery and being able to play cooperatively. I wish there was an arcade mode that stripped out all of the story elements, too.
Speaking of story, the narrative is rather forced. Considering it's very difficult to pay attention while you're shooting enemies and weaving between clouds of bullets, it's quite an unneeded aspect. Whenever you do catch a line or two, it's always about some stereotypical plotline that's hard to care about. My only other complaint is that there are way too many onscreen interruptions. Even after muting the voices, you'll still be distracted by Cheers from both yourself and other players as well as the odd achievement popping up and subtitles that litter the top part of the screen. In the end, it's challenging to simply focus on the action which shouldn't be an issue.
Raiden V is undoubtedly a top of the line shooter. It does have its issues but the satisfying old-school challenge mixes with modern elements to make it nothing short of shoot 'em up awesomeness.
- + Classic Raiden gameplay with a new twist and an impressive selection of weapons
- + Gorgeous visuals and great music
- + Multiple paths make replaying fun
- - A lot of content from the previous Raiden installment is unfortunately absent
- - Story integration comes off as contrived
- - Too many onscreen distractions