Raiden V: Director's Cut Review - Now With More Bullets!

Raiden V: Director's Cut Review - Now With More Bullets!

Quick Glance - Raiden V: Director's Cut

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  • Platform: PS4 (Reviewed), PC
  • Players: 1-2 (local co-op only)
  • Trophies: Yes
  • Steam Trading Cards: Yes
  • Controller Support: Yes, Partial
  • Retail Price: $34.99

High Level Premise: It's the Director's Cut to the 4th sequel to the original Raiden vertical shooter released in 1990.

Graphics/Style: This game looks great, but also pretty much like every other Raiden game. The sense of speed is impressive.

Music/Soundtrack: Each level has its own music, and it's all pretty good. A lot of it reminds me of DragonForce on speed. But there are some levels with surprisingly grand and sweeping orchestral music as well.

Story: There is a story. It is totally incomprehensible on every level.

Replay-ability: There is a load of content in this game. As you improve, you will keep unlocking more. Less hardcore players may find the thresholds to unlock new levels too daunting, however.

Time Commitment: A full run through to the final boss will take a bit over an hour. I'm not that good. I typically play until my 2nd Game Over, and I get a solid 15-20 minutes of play in per game.

Value: Even though there is a lot of content in the game, I feel like the price is too high for everybody but the most ardent SHMUP fans. If you (like me) are a fan of the Raiden series, then make sure to at least give this one a look once the price falls a bit.

Favorite Element: I love the ribbon shot. It looks like you're defeating the enemy using old school bubble gum tape.

As I first turned on Raiden V: Director's Cut, I felt old. Emblazoned on my screen was a "25th Anniversary" logo. Surely Raiden isn't 25 years old, is it? Worse. It's 27. I always cite the Raiden series as my favorite of the vertical SHMUPs. I've always liked the graphical style, the variety in firepower, and doggone it... I love that iconic red ship. Thankfully, all of that, and more, is here in Raiden V.

Pic1: If you can read this, you don't need glasses.

The biggest reason I prefer Raiden to other vertical SHMUPS is, in a word: balance. Early SHMUPS (Xevious, 1941, et al.) always felt a little too slow for my liking. Later "bullet hell" games (Ikaruga, DoDonPachi etc) have just way too much going on screen for me to process (although I still do enjoy most of them). Raiden is my happy place somewhere in between. There are moments of bullet hell, but for the most part it feels like I have at least some chance to survive.

This version is called Raiden V: Director's Cut. So, what makes it different than standard Raiden V? There are 2 new missions, which don't add much, and they added voice acting for the story mode. I'll go into that later. Overall, the additions between the two versions are negligible, so if you have the original version (released in 2016 on XBox), there is little reason to upgrade.

At first blush, Raiden V looks just like and plays just like any of the other games in the series (especially III and IV). Digging in a bit, there are a few differences worth talking about.

She's a beaut, isn't she?

The first difference is the previously mentioned voice acting. The story for the Raiden series until now has always been "Aliens have attacked Earth, you stole some of the alien technology and are now going to destroy them with it." The problem with the "new" back story is that it is so convoluted that you'll forget it before it's done being told to you, and it has zero to do with game play. Also, it basically boils down to "Aliens have attacked Earth, you stole some of the alien technology and are now going to destroy them with it."

During the game, the voices continue to try and tell you the story. There are also captions (in virtually unreadable text) that actually block part of the game screen. However, the voices are buried so far down in the sound mix that you just flat out can't make out what they say. Couple that with the text being so tiny. there’s just no reason for the story to be wedged in here. Even when you can hear what they are saying, you wish you couldn't. The actors are stiff and emotionless. The voice acting is hyped as an exciting new feature of the Director's Cut, and it's completely wasted. Luckily most of these aspects can be turned off.

The Bubblegum Lasso of Justice (TM) isn't terribly effective

The next big difference is that you only get 1 ship for the entire game. Each time you get hit, your ship wobbles a bit, you stop shooting briefly, and you lose some of your shield. Each ship type takes a different amount of damage. I like this change quite a bit because you keep your weapon power ups. This is a big deal because it is usually so hard to build back up after losing a ship, especially in later levels. The downside is that there are almost no ways to build your shield back up, so once you take a few hits, you really have to play more cautiously.

The last big change I want to discuss is easily the strangest. While there is no online mode, there still is an online component called "Cheer Mode." When you start a game, on the left hand side of the screen you will see a Cheer Meter, and a large empty box in the corner. As you play, each time you do something good in game (defeat a number of enemies, collect a number of medals etc.) you trigger a cheer moment that gets sent out to a few other players that are currently in game. If they respond, you'll get a boost in Cheer Support. Alternately, if a cheer request comes up in the upper corner of the screen, you can hit the Triangle button to send cheer back to that person. At any time, you can invoke a Cheer Attack. This attack's power is based on how high your cheer meter is at the time you pull off the attack. These attacks can get crazy if you build your cheer into the 100s.

Cheer is a very cool concept, and a fascinating way to have an online aspect to a game without worrying about lag. Here's the thing, I either have had little luck getting connected to other players, or they have turned off the cheer functions. I rarely get more than a dozen cheer points in a game. SO the cheer function is borderline useless if the other players you are partnered with don’t participate. Also, I’m kind of a hermit, and I’ve had some of these random people message me outside of the game and ask for friend requests. I’m not a big fan of that.

Mom! I made the Cheer Squad!!

All that being said, it's still Raiden, and I still love it. I do find this edition to feel a bit "cheaper" than others. Most of the damage I take is because the enemy's orange shots are hidden in dizzying backgrounds.  This edition is a much longer game than any of the others.Thankfully, you have 5 difficulty levels, stage select, and infinite continues...so beating the game is just a matter of patience. If you want to experience the more challenging parts of the branching mission structure...you're going to have to memorize the patterns, and have a zen-like ability to dodge. There is also a “Boss battle” mode. Which gives you a tight time limit to defeat the end level bosses. I am not good at this at all, but it does add a nice bit of value.

All that being said, $34.99 is a fair chunk of change for a vertical SHMUP that doesn't really do a whole heck of a lot new (especially when a more unique game like Jonestown+ is only $12). I don't feel like the average player is going to get that kind of value out of the game. A decent sale though, and I think any fan of the SHMUP genre will find a lot to like in Raiden V: Director's Cut.

Arcade hit Raiden first left its mark on the shooting genre 25 years ago. The easy to learn, hard to master series comes to the PC and ps4 in its most modern and advanced form yet! Join the war for Earth's future-where the tide of battle holds constant surprises.
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