+A delightful throwback to the retro era of SHMUP games
+A complete retro experience in the modern era
+A nostalgic use of graphics and music
+Same-couch multiplayer is highly welcomed
-Campy dialogue and the cheer system sounds override the amazing music
-Lack of online multiplayer in the modern era takes away from the experience
Growing up, I was used to the popularity of the SHMUP genre. A genre that consisted of franchises such as Raiden, Gunbird, and Darius. 20 years ago, when I was still in my pre-teens, these games weren’t hard to find, and every console to-date was loaded full with them. These franchises are fleeting fancies for esoteric collectors like myself. Even today, they’re a dying breed around the world it seems.
Unlike many, Raiden was born in 90’s era and saw an untimely ‘death’ in 2007 when the series launched on the Xbox 360. In a rather fortunate twist of fate and a little bit of luck, the series has been reborn on PlayStation 4 under the name of Raiden V: Director’s Cut. Seeing as I didn’t get to play the original version, which launched as an Xbox Exclusive, so I’ve missed out on a year of one of histories best SHMUP franchises, but as of yesterday, that luck changed as the wheel of fate once more turned.
Where do I even begin talking about the genre? One that has almost died and somehow keeps coming back from the fringes with small releases that gain just enough traction to keep on going? Lets start with what Raiden V is. It’s a direct continuity of the once established franchise, and one that has seemingly gained steady traction with the PlayStation 4 crowd. It’s a game that has some how managed to rock an updated retro-esque look, but remained current. To be honest, I felt I was once more in the arcade, sitting on my fathers knee in the early ’90’s holding a slice of The Shuttle pizza, and raising Hell.
Sure, the game is definitely dated, but that is what is so damn charming about it. It was is just that retro. It’s one that brings to life the beautiful bullet ballet’s that I’m used to as the animations dart across my screen. More-often-than-not, I would see a snaking plasma themed weapon whipping across my scream, bending in any, and every direction as it annihilated any in my path. It serves as part of a greater culminated grouping of things to enjoy.
The game introduces us to the rather familiar three ship configurations (armor, balance, and speed), nine weapons, and one that tailors to the play style of those whom prefer one or the other. The latter to me was key, as it was one that allowed me to utilize my charged leaser weapons, my homing plasma beams, and my spread shots that fundamentally altered the way I would approach each of the games 5-10 minute long maps. As with any SHMUP title from the ’90’s era, they all are viable choices, and each of them offered reasons for me to break through each of the games missions.
Let me be blunt here. I played this game for 19 hours straight before my review. It’s a helluva return to a genre I grew up with. If I had once criticism. One thing to nitpick over? The games U.I. To me it’s too busy, it’s a heap of useless information, and a story I paid little-to-no attention to. It’s one that I wish I could have made a background of sidebars, or even information pertaining mostly to what I was encountering. To me, after a time, it just became background noise once I learned to drown it out.
Unlike my favorite Raiden titles, which are III and IV, V seems a bit different than the other two. To me there’s a bit more finesse to it. Precision patterns seem more integral, and players can use their Cheer Bar to clear out select oncoming threats. Sadly, I miss the old days of fast attacks, ones that are so overwhelming, that it’s almost hard to keep going. For old timers like me, the balance is appropriate. It allows newcomers to feel at home without being bogged down by an ocean of bullets charging at them.
That doesn’t go without saying that the English dialogue feels rather campy and seemingly drowns out the games amazingly 90’s ‘retro chic’ soundtrack. This is even somewhat drowned out by the newest stalwart attention drawing detail: The “Cheer System”. This system evidently takes a pace from the Dark Souls series, which is where players can earn bonuses that in turn, help out other players who are playing at the same time, in the form of momentary power boosts. Think of it as a boost, without requiring you to pick it up. It’s entirely free and at your disposal.
Taking advantage of this can, at times, feel like a hassle while a barrage of missiles are heading your way. Over the case of eight locations, and 27 stages across six difficulties, Raiden V: Director’s Cut is a massive game. Even with 19 hours under my belt, I found myself still hard at work in order to complete the higher difficulties. The only thing I felt the game was truly lacking? Online cooperative play.
Raiden V: Director’s Cut – PlayStation 4, PC, and Xbox One
Release Date: Available Now
But luckily, it does bolster a rather fun, and enjoyable delight with a 90’s throwback to same-couch multiplayer. It allows for two players to sit at the same couch while unleashing a storm of projectiles against their enemies. In ways, Raiden V: Director’s Cut struggles to keep up with successor titles, but that doesn’t mean that the game won’t be a break-out hit among fans both old and new.
Rather, it’s a game that shouldn’t be scared with its aged appeal. It’s one that MOSS can be happy with as it clings tight to the old-school sensibilities I grew up with. While I certainly feel that Raiden V: Director’s Cut will find staggering success, it’s a game that will be a slow burner, and will draw in crowds from the retro eras. Truth be told? Raiden V: Director’s Cut will always be welcome in my living room, and that will never change as long as I can play the game.
Our review is based upon a retail version that was provided to us by the games publisher. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
Final Score: 8 out of 10
About the Writer:
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.