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I think I’ve enjoyed every Raiden game I’ve ever played. I’m not really good at them but I enjoy them. I’ve heard mixed things about Raiden V but being a fan of the series, I wanted to check it out anyway. Developed by MOSS and published by UFO Interactive Games, Raiden V: Director’s Cut was released for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 in October, 2017. For this review, Jeremy and I teamed up and played the PC version.
Raiden V is a shmup with a story. A story that is basically shoved in your face and can often be distracting. There are actual characters who are voiced and speak during gameplay. If you find that annoying, you can try to ignore it or just lower the voice volume which may be a good idea anyway since the voice acting is horrible. Not only do you hear them but the dialogue appears in text form on the right side of the screen and the developers thought it would actually be a good idea to put the text over the gameplay portion of the screen as well. It can obstruct your view and thankfully, it can be turned off. It’s hard to pay attention to the story when you’re trying to shoot all the enemies and not die but from what we could understand, the plot is full of rambling nonsense. There are multiple characters that show up, disappear, come back, and they interact with each other, and quite frankly, none of them are interesting. There’s no character development. Apparently, crystals have contaminated weapons and are trying to eradicate all life. The story is terrible, the voice acting is laughably bad, and the audio quality for the voice acting is dreadful. Sometimes the characters are too loud so the audio peaks and you hear cracking and static and sometimes they’re too quiet and you can’t hear what they’re saying. In order to understand what the characters were saying most of the time, we had to raise the voice volume. Even with it maxed out, it was still hard to hear what they were talking about and we were certainly not going to read all the dialogue text and risk dying. This is a shmup and a perfect example of how not to do a story in a shmup. The developers handled the story presentation very poorly and you can’t really get away from it. You can reduce the voice volume to zero which is a big help because the characters never shut the fuck up. I guess cut scenes in between stages would have been too much to ask.
If you’ve played other Raiden games, you should know the basic idea of how to play. It’s a top-down shoot ’em up and does support local co-op. There’s a story mode and boss mission mode and multiple difficulty modes to choose from. If you jump into the story mode, you can select one of three fighters, each with their own appearance and stats in attack, armor, and speed. You then choose three weapons from three categories – vulcan, lightning, and plasma and each type is a different color. You have a limited amount of bombs which can be used to clear the screen of enemies or cause massive damage to bosses and they are shared between players if playing cooperatively. This time around, there’s a health system. Your ship has a shield that depletes whenever you take hits and when it’s fully depleted, the ship blows up in a massive explosion that can obstruct the view of the second player. In the Game Settings menu, you can adjust your bomb stock and shield rate but be warned, changing the default settings will not allow you to be registered on the leader board.
Much like the previous games, the gameplay can be challenging but completing the story won’t be a hard task since you can always respawn after death. You’ll build up your score as you play and when you die, your score is reset. Anyone can beat this but trying for the high score is the real challenge. Defeated enemies will drop weapon pickups which are color coded and when you pick one up, you’ll switch to your weapon of that color and if you keep picking up the same colored pickups, you’ll level up your weapon up to a max level of ten. The weapon does become more powerful as it levels up. If you kill enemies in succession you increase your score multiplier or what the game refers to as Flash. Your Flash will slowly drain if you don’t kill enemies.
Raiden V introduces a Cheer system and the game provided us no information on how this works. Just by playing, we discovered that pressing and holding the Cheer button will let you absorb these little pickups that are dropped by defeated enemies and this will increase your score but it seems to have nothing to do with the Cheer Call meter at the bottom of the screen. Apparently, the Cheer Call meter will fill up as you play. From what we researched, the Cheer button can be used to cheer on other players when they complete specific tasks and in doing so, it will increase the speed of which your Cheer Call meter fills up. This has to be one of the most ridiculous systems we have ever seen. Do you have any idea long it took us to find a clear explanation on how this works? We had to read through multiple articles to get a clear understanding. But there’s more. When you press the Cheer attack button, you’re provided a random special weapon that will immediately clear the screen of enemy bullets and you can use the weapon to decimate enemies until the Call Meter is depleted. With all of that said, nobody cheered us and we couldn’t cheer anybody. There’s a cheer connect option that can be enabled in the Game Settings menu and we verified it was on. We don’t know anyone or have anyone on our friend’s list who plays this so maybe that has something to do with it.
The story plays out in stages and each stage is broken up into multiple scenes. In addition to stages are special stages called Missions where you battle bosses that drops bronze, silver, and gold medals when they take damage and you need to collect as many as you can. If you take a hit, you’ll drop a good amount of medals. You’ll fly through multiple locations around the Earth before taking on enemies in space. Each stage ends with a boss battle and there are different routes which lead to different endings. You’re ranked at the end of stages based on your performance and your rankings determine which routes you follow. The stages do become more difficult as you progress through the game. Enemy bullets can fill the screen and memorization of the stages is basically required if you’re goal is to get through them unscathed.
The Boss Mission mode is where you can take on game’s bosses. You should play this mode after you beat the story because you can only play certain missions after engaging certain bosses in the story. Boss Mission contains multiple Ranks which consist of multiple missions. Each mission has it’s own defined set of parameters. You’ll have to defeat bosses within a time limit, you’ll be provided specific weapons, you’ll have to battle on a certain difficulty, your health and the boss health will be set at different percentages, and as you play, you’re provided hints on the side of the screen. You can set high scores in Boss Mission and the mode is a great way to practice against bosses. Unfortunately, you’ll have to deal with the dialogue text and voice acting in this mode as well. You really can’t get away from it.
There’s all kinds of information being displayed on the sides of the screen during gameplay and you can press a button to switch between different tabs that display more information on the left side. On the right side of the screen, you’ll see the characters and text along with some other stuff. You can see what weapons you have, their levels, your shield percentage, flash level, cheer information, and a graph that tracks your score. There’s actually an impressive amount of stat tracking here. You probably shouldn’t take your eyes off the action to read it all but you can pause the game to look at it and once you finish a stage and see your stage score, you can take all the time you want to view your stats before proceeding to the next stage. It would have been nice if you could disable the story widgets. The game comes with a gallery where you can view artwork and before we even started playing, we noticed a majority of the artwork was unlocked already. You will unlock more as you play.
Visually, Raiden V looks okay, not incredible. When the camera zooms in on anything, the blurry textures really stand out. On the plus side, the game is filled with plenty of vibrant colors. On the audio side, as I mentioned before, the voice audio quality is horrible. The sound effects are okay and the music sounds pretty good thanks to a good amount of rockin’ tunes. On the technical side, we did experience some occasional frame rate dips when playing cooperatively but no significant bugs or issues.
We had fun with Raiden V but there are some questionable decisions made here. The story being shoved in your face can be distracting but the gameplay, itself, is not bad. It’s a very fast-paced shoot ’em up requiring focus, skill, and memorization. The number of difficulty modes makes the game accessible to players of all skill levels so it can lean towards the easy side or the hard side. There’s plenty of shit to shoot and blow up, the action can be intense, the numerous weapons are fun to mess around with, and there’s a good amount of replay value here.
We would recommend Raiden V to fans of shmups. The gameplay is fine but this is a perfect example of how not to implement a story in a shmup. The health system is a very welcome addition but the game still caters to those that enjoy chasing high scores which is a good thing. If you enjoy shmups, you should definitely check out Raiden V.