Raiden has been a giant name in the shoot-em-up space since the early 1990s. A red jet with green exhausts, cool weapons and music that slapped so hard your grannies dentures were launched across the arcade. It all came together to make the series a household name. But legacy can only carry a game so far, so does Raiden V: Director’s Cut manage to fly with its own two wings? Let’s find out.
Roll Out The Fighting Thunders!
You play as Raiden, leading member of the catastrophically cheesy, Fighting Thunders. It’s your job to fly one of three statistically diverse jets around the globe (and beyond) to save the human race from extinction. That’s all the story needs to be, yet Raiden V insists on having a significantly more engaging storyline that, whilst an interesting concept, kind of drags the game through a mire of pointlessness.
Raiden may not have many cutscenes, but that doesn’t stop the game from spewing exposition every second of its incredibly drawn out, hour-long playtime. No matter what you are doing, there is always someone vomiting some half-arsed dialogue. Heck, 50% of the HUD is dedicated to it. Whether it’s talking heads, scrolling text, or even text popups that obscure the actual playspace, Raiden V desperate wants to hawk its ‘gripping’ plot. Whilst the insistent droning does nothing for the gameplay, it can at the very least be muted.
Before you jump into the cockpit of your Fighting Thunder, you get to pick between three swanky jets. Each one has their own unique stats as well as special firing ability. To the game’s credit, they do feel pretty varied in the air. You also get to pick a loadout of weapons. You select one weapon from each of the game’s three weapon categories, with each category containing three weapons. There is a lot of mess around and experiment with, and each weapon feels useful and drastically different from the last.
Mostly Downhill From Here
Things start falling apart once you take to the skies, however. Each of the three jets at your disposal feels sluggish to control. To the point where the slowest of the bunch felt like a flying snail, as opposed to a supersonic jet controlled by a person named after the god of fricken thunder. Blasting enemies out of the sky is fun enough, in fact, it’s pretty darn satisfying. Raiden V provides an almost addictive amount of feedback, with crunchy explosions, medals flying all over the shop, and some pretty funky looking weapon effects.
I felt the game was a bit too difficult, however. Not in the sense that it was hard – more in a way that’s straight bullshit. Raiden V does a good job at making you feel powerful when it’s not being a wanker, but Raiden V can’t help itself. Enemy bullets are incredibly fast, making dodging surprisingly difficult (slow ship and all). Most enemies will fire the moment they enter the screen, meaning no matter how well you play, or how quickly you dispatch enemies, stuff is being hurled towards you.
I mean “towards you” quite literally. Raiden V may have decently chunky bullet density, but this is no bullet hell – not in the traditional sense. Bullet mazes are not a thing here, instead, 90% of enemies will fire aimed shots. You are never safe in Raiden V, and the game will try to pin you into a corner and kill you. When it’s fair, it’s exhilarating. But Raiden isn’t fair. The game will frequently spawn enemies behind you, or to the side of you and instantly fire a shot into your arse. These enemies can quite literally spawn underneath you, making damage unavoidable without serious memorisation.
Length Does Not Equal Quality
This is made leagues more difficult than your standard shoot-em-up due to the game’s length. As I said, Raiden V is 60+ minutes long which is 3x the length of the standard shoot-em-up. From a memorisation level, this drastically increases the game’s difficulty, but from a pure gameplay perspective, the game drags something rotten. The game feels too long. By the time I was halfway through the game, I felt tired – drained even. There is a reason shoot-em-ups tend to be on the shorter side, and Raiden V is an example of why that is.
It doesn’t help that the bullshit only gets worse as you get further into the game. Nailing a 1CC, even on the easier difficulties, is going to be one hell of a journey, and not one I was willing to take. Had the game cut 50% of its stages, the game would have been so much better for it. Unfortunately, the Director’s Cut makes Raiden V even longer by adding some bonus stages into the mix. These do not help matters.
A potential saving grace in Raiden V is it’s multiplayer. Playing with a friend makes the game substantially better, although this varies based on friend. The game is the same nonsense-filled affair, but you get to share the pain with a mate. Raiden V also has interesting online implementation with the Cheer system. In short, whenever someone, somewhere, does something, you get the option to cheer them on. This gives them a little boost in their game. The same happens to you. Cheers fill up a gauge, and once full, you can unleash a super attack. That’s really it. It’s an interesting little system that I quite enjoyed, but it ended up being another distraction in a playscape that was already littered with them.
Raiden V looks alright on Nintendo Switch. Backgrounds are decently detailed, bosses and enemies look pretty good, and your Fighting Thunder looks as swanky as it ever has. Like everything else, it has its issues though. I’ve mentioned the HUD before, but my god, the HUD in Raiden V is an eyesore. 90% of it shouldn’t be there. It’s clunky, messy, and filled with nonsense you don’t need. Heck, some of it doesn’t work as intended. But the HUD pales in comparison to the scrolling. The backgrounds in Raiden V have a habit of scrolling in such a way that caused me a not-insignificant amount of disorientation. It was not always clear what was going on because things just got too blurry, or obfuscated by the constant movement off in the distance.
The sound design is much better, providing you ignore the awful voice acting. Explosion, bullets, beams and toothpaste laser all sound crunchy and powerful, whilst the soundtrack does a great job in getting the heart pumping. Turn up the volume and bop that bonce.
Overall Raiden V Director’s Cut is a mess. The gameplay, in a vacuum, is pretty good, but the negatives far outweigh the positives. The overbearing story, obscured play areas, bullshit enemy placement, sluggish movement, among many other things, shoot this game down long before the credits roll.
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