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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Raiden III (Playstation 2)

Bringing the famous 90's scrolling shooter series to the present, Raiden III for the Playstation 2 is an excellent title that should please fans of the arcade classic. Featuring new 3D graphics, multiple modes of play and extra features, the game's appeal remains. Many of the classic features such as smart bombs and multi-tiered power-ups are here along with waves of challenging enemies and bosses. Look inside and find out why its solid play mechanics, addictive gameplay and sharp visuals make Raiden III a welcome return for the classic series.

The classic shooter seems to be somewhat of a lost art form, it seemed to have peaked sometime in the early 90's and has been in decline ever since. Modern examples and remakes seem to be few and far between these days, with gamers more likely to find them included in compilations than in their own releases. As esoteric as these types of games have become, they still offer plenty of excitement and challenge for players up to the task. The most recent release in this type of genre has finally come out domestically courtesy of UFO Interactive in the form of Raiden III. Originally developed for the arcades by Taito, this is a continuation of a long-running franchise that stays true to its roots while adding new power-ups and enhanced graphics.  Obviously, a lot of Raiden III's appeal lies in nostalgia and players who are familiar with the original series will feel right at home playing Raiden III. It stays faithful to the original game's power-up system and layout. As you pilot your ship, enemies will explode and release several types of power-ups which increase the power and range of your shots. 

You have both land-based and air-borne enemies to defeat, and can collect other items as well. During your missions, you begin with a set number of mega cluster bombs that unleash a screen filling wave of destruction that wipes out every opponent on the screen. These are quite powerful, but also limited and you'll need to save them for the boss battles. There are three basic types of weapons: Vulcan shots which spray fire across the screen, standard lasers which shoot straight and proton lasers that you can aim in certain sections. Players can also come across other power-ups which increase your score, gain extra life and more. As in the original Raiden games, a fairy sometimes appears that releases extra power-up icons when it's hit. When you complete a level, any remaining bombs are credited to your score and increase the bonus points you receive. While the original shots are included in the game, there are also several new weapons, such as powerful lasers that allow you to focus an energy beam on a specific area of the screen.

Raiden III allows players to set various levels of difficulty ranging from very easy, to arcade and much harder modes. The game's earlier zones shouldn't cause players too much trouble since the enemy patterns and shots are fairly predictable and easy to avoid. As you progress through later areas, the number of power-ups decreases while the enemies become more numerous and harder to avoid. At the end of each stage, you'll face a massive screen-filling boss that you'll need to destroy with multiple shots. These usually throw out waves of bullets at you at incredibly intense speeds, requiring a great deal of skill and dexterity to defeat. While most shooter fans should be able to get through the game's earlier stages with little effort, Raiden III's designers have come up with some fairly difficult later areas that should challenge even the best players. The game offers both single and two player modes where you and a friend can control two ships on screen simultaneously, though only with a single controller, which is odd and doesn't really seem to work in practice. The overall pacing, look and feel of Raiden III feels very familiar and faithfully echoes the style of the original games, though with a more polished look with quasi-3D backgrounds and enemies. However, the action still takes place on a strictly 2D plane, meaning the simple, pure pleasures of its original games have gone largely unchanged in this updated version of the game. Raiden III is probably one of the most 'classically' styled of the recent shooter remakes and this should please the hardcore shooter devotees out there.

From a visual standpoint, the game looks fairly decent with some nice backgrounds and special lighting effects that makes for some impressive explosions. Raiden III's objects are all rendered in 3D which adds a little bit of depth to the experience. Surprisingly, the game doesn't feel that different that the original games in terms of look and approach, which is somewhat surprising, though it definitely seems a little bit unimaginative in its execution. Likewise, the game's sound effects and soundtrack are decent but offer nothing that spectacular, but the presentation with its elaborate opening cinematics is good enough to get you pumped and into the game. Once you get onto the gameplay itself, much of this doesn't really seem to matter all that much and what you have is a solidly entertaining and highly playable single player experience that recalls what made this genre so appealing in the first place. While Raiden III isn't the deepest or most complex game ever made, its twitch factor and reflex-intensive gameplay offers many hours of relatively mindless yet enjoyable gameplay that should bring nostalgic gamers back to the classic days.

In addition to its standard modes of play, Raiden III also includes several modes including a Score Attack mode where you can compete against yourself for a high score, a Boss Rush mode where you can practice against the bosses you have already defeated and a replay mode that allows you to relive your greatest runs on each level. Additional bonus features allow you to view artwork from the game, or take a closer look at a 3D model of your ship. Players can set a variety of options as well including stage difficulty, number of bombs at each level and number of ships per continue. The game also allows you to play either vertically in standard or expanded modes or horizontally in full arcade mode with the screen tilted on its side. No matter which presentation you find, the game maintains its rectangular playfield which makes Raiden III feel arcade-authentic. One odd aspect of the game that comes in the translation is that the button commands from the Japanese release haven't been changed for this edition, which means navigating the menus is a little tricky until you figure out what's going on. While it's slightly annoying, this doesn't change the fact that Raiden III is a fairly solid, if conventional and predictable, port of the arcade game. While it's not the most elaborate remake of a classic shooter ever made, and falls short of the standards set by other recent remakes like Konami's brilliant Gradius V, Raiden III is still an enjoyable title that should appeal to gamers looking for a quick jolt of classic shooting action.

- Michael Palisano

Grade: B+

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