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Earlier in 2009, we were blessed with Raiden Fighters Aces, a collection of Raiden Fighters games, for the XBox 360.  Now, UFO Interactive has brought us Raiden IV, a completely new version of Raiden, with the familiarity we all know and love, this time brought to us with 2D gameplay and 3D graphics.  Some people think of Raiden being a flying god of lightning, or a wimpy cohort of Solid Snake.  Not us, Raiden is the name of a shmup we hold near and dear to our hearts.  It's not the Godfather of shmups, but it's a consistently fun series, and a series that we know what to expect: lots of enemies, lots of bullets, lots of dying, lots of GAME OVERs.


Raiden games are all about scrolling shmup madness, and IV does not disappoint.  First up, choose your aircraft and choose your primary weapon. For starters there is the Fighting Thunder ME-2, later on there are 2 pieces of  DLC: old reliable Raiden Mk-II and the Fairy. The primary weapon  that is the most fun would be the Purple Plasma, which at full strength turns into a thick ribbon of death that swings around the screen and lays waste to pretty much everything. Sure, there are other primary weapons, you get your wall of Red Bullets, or your Blue Beam of Death, even the Three-Pronged Photon weapon, but they are just not as fun as the Plasma Beam!  Next, choose your difficulty level, ranging from "easy" to "ridiculously hard".  Take your craft, and fly into the game and almost immediately jump into battle.  Like other shmups, you'll deal with wave upon wave of enemies attack, leading up to a final Boss Battle in each level (there is a total of 7 levels in the game, which doubles in difficulty, for two complete play-throughs).  One thing I noticed, is the game looks great, and I'm playing on a standard television.  It's like that big box of hard Christmas candies that seems to last forever, you know the one, with the weird ribbon candies, the fruit candies... it's shiny, sweet, and it never goes stale.



There are little details to notice, for instance, taking some ships by surprise, watching them launch from the ground while still tethered to a refueling hose, and blowing them away.  Watching details like that, I wondered if hard-core gamers were involved in making this game- it's the dork in me, it's something I would have wanted to add.  There are levels that have me staring at the backgrounds watching skyscrapers and entire city scapes, watching a bridge spin around below me while enemies are driving over it trying to shoot me down (which the do, often), or watching the enemies launch missiles, bullets, and various other projectiles with firework-like precision at my many times helpless ship.  The weapons don't disappoint either, and when you finally see the Plasma weapon in the new graphic look, you will settle in to the mode of "this is what I love about Raiden games. Plasma.."  That's not saying the Red and Blue weapon power-ups look bad, but the Purple power-up that summons "Plasma!" is what I want! Well, that and Raiden V.  Also, while you play, you will recognize the backgrounds: space battles, air battles, jungle battles, battles over water and a wharf, all lovingly crafted with polygons, although we do love sprites. Nothing against sprites, but polygons just add a certain gravity to them when we blow those things up.  It certainly is awesome watching huge ships explode, filling the screen with flame and pieces.


The sound effects and music are what you expect from Raiden, almost to the point you would think the explosions and weapon fire were recycled from past titles.  Will you mind?  If you are playing this game, most likely not.  The music is inoffensive and doesn't get in the way, and things blow up, and the blow up very well.  Just wait until you defeat a boss.  The explosion will encompass much of the screen, and there's that feeling of satisfaction that you "just blew the sh*t out of something big!", to quote Toshiro Mifune from the movie 1941.   Then again, you would expect to see that if you used the tactical nuke bomb.  Like other Raidens, you start out with 3 nukes, and can build your arsenal or use them indiscriminately.  The graphics, as mentioned before, look really good, I just wonder how much better it looks like on an HDTV?  The rendered 3D enemies and sometimes distracting background will have you scrambling to make a petition to bring more shmups to the 360 in the US (Einhander? Raystorm? Deathsmiles? .... another Raiden collection?).


(above) Pretty sweet, from the quick intro movie.


There are three modes available in the game: XBox 360 Mode, Score Attack Mode, and Arcade Mode.  XBox 360 mode is the arcade version + 2 new levels made exclusively for home.  Score Attack Mode is a rush to rack up the highest score.  Arcade Mode is, obviously, the mode you would have played in an arcade in Japan somewhere.  You can play by yourself, or play with a buddy on-screen or, strangely, you can play "Double" style. Double Style gives you control of both ships on one controller.  Player One is mapped to the left mushroom, left trigger, and left bumper, while Player Two maps to the right mushroom, trigger, and bumper.  It takes some time to get used to that last mode, maybe you could use a nail file over the top of both mushrooms so you can simultaneously control both ships in the same direction.  There is an Art Gallery mode, where all of the enemies you have shot down will be tracked and you can look at them in 3D later on, for the uber-nerd amongst us.  And who isn't these days!   The Limited Edition if the game comes with a soundtrack of Raiden music, and a code that you can put in at UFO Interactive's website to download a Secret File of artwork, lists of enemies, and an odd picture of a woman as the cover (at the top of this page, to the left).Oh yeah, lastly, there are over 40 achievements available in the game, good luck for those intent on getting them all!


This is another title in the Four Tokens collection that comes highly recommended, and is a blast to play.  Pun intended.  If you love shoot'em ups, you will not be disappointed with Raiden IV but, be warned: you will die.  Often.






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