While people often think of games such as Mario or Final Fantasy as ones that have hit the 25th anniversary mark, it’s impressive to realize that Raiden has also been around for 25 years. Raiden V: Director’s Cut on the PlayStation 4 is a slightly upgraded version of Raiden V that launched on the Xbox One a year ago. With this new release, Raiden V: Director’s Cut brings with it the acclaimed shoot’em up (or shmup as they’re often known as) action, while adding a couple new stages and a new co-op mode.
The core of any good shmup is obviously the gameplay, and shooting options, and Raiden V: Director’s Cut gives players plenty of options. When you start the game you have the option of picking one of three different ships, with a variety of stats and sub weapons. After you choose your ship, you can choose one of three different types of guns, and within these guns, there are three other options to pick from, so there’s plenty of variety to play around with. The gameplay is classic Raiden action; a top down, vertical view, wherein you move your loaded fighter around blasting away and avoiding enemy fire. The controls are very tight and responsive on the analog stick, and if I died, it was usually because I wasn’t paying attention to what was happening right around me. There is a new cheer system added as well, which is kind of interesting. You can pick up little icons that drop from basically any enemy and fill up your cheer meter. Then when needed you hit the cheer button and you get an extra bit of help in the form of massive attacks that fill up the screen but that keep your bombs safe for future use.
Visually Raiden V: Director’s Cut looks pretty good. The colours are fairly vibrant and there is a good variety in the stages. However, often the game looked more like a PlayStation 3 game than a PlayStation 4 with some of the textures and the seemingly low polygon count on some of the bigger bosses. Regardless, the graphics do a satisfactory job, and the game never had any slowdown or stuttering which obviously helps in a shmup where you need to have a clear view of what is going on around you at all times. The soundtrack is pretty solid, and is full of rocking electric guitars and basically the kind of music you would expect from a shooter that was birthed in the 80’s.
What was kind of distracting though was the HUD that takes place around the gameplay. The screen that you play in is formatted more like an old arcade game, instead of being wide across and filling your whole tv screen. The extra space around it is a HUD that has 3 layers that you can cycle through with a variety of information, but it generally seemed pretty cluttered. As well there is a somewhat stereotypical story that plays out, about alien invaders, but most of it is told through talking heads in the upper corner of the screen, while you are playing. I have zero clue what was said as the game is so intense you need to be focused on what is going on around you and not on talking heads in a picture-in-picture display in the HUD. It would have been nice to just save the chatter and have the story play out in-between missions.
The biggest of the additions is easily a new co-op mode. Being able to play with a friend is a blast, and that is where the branching levels really shine. Being able to replay the game, which only takes about an hour or so to beat, is more fun with another person. Each level has a variety of branching sections, so it will take a number of trips through to see all that each level has to offer. The additional levels that are touted however are less than impressive. They are basically just some boss levels where treasure is falling and you need to collect it all. If you get hit, then you lose a good chunk of the treasure. It’s an interesting challenge for sure, but it is the least interesting of the additions to the game.
In the end if you didn’t play Raiden V on the Xbox One, then Raiden V: Director’s Cut is worth picking up, especially if you’re a fan of classic shmups. The action is nonstop, there are tons of options for load outs, and the co-op mode is a blast. It’s just a shame that whatever is going on in the story of the game is buried underneath the action that is going on in the game; but really are you playing Raiden for the action or the story?
A review copy of Raiden V: Director’s Cut was provided by UFO Interactive Games for the purpose of this review.