Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Raiden IV (Xbox 360)

With Raiden Fighters Aces already out, this release should serve as a nice, more modern bookend for those players looking for a follow-up. Those who enjoy classic 'shmups will find much to enjoy in the release of Raiden IV on Xbox 360. It doesn't stray too far from the classic arcade formula, but its smoother, HD-ready visuals enhance the already solid play mechanics. Additional modes such as a score attack, online leader boards and scaling screen dimensions plus exclusive 360 stages make this an excellent shooter that delivers the intense bullet frenzy fans of the series have come to expect.

Vertically scrolling shooters of a certain vintage enjoy a huge advantage over many of their contemporaries, with their easy-to-learn, instantly accessible gameplay allowing them to deliver mindless fun without endless learning curves. While there have been tons of these released over the years, one of the most enduring franchises has been Raiden. The series has gone on for almost two decades and its straightforward formula of standard shots and screen-filling bombs hasn't changed much. The latest installment, Raiden IV looks beautiful with fully rendered 3D backgrounds giving the action added depth, both from a gameplay and aesthetic standpoint. The game offers several different modes of play, including a standard solo mode, co-op play and the ability for a single player to control both ships simultaneously. Several different difficulty options are available, though the casual level only allows access to the first few levels. The game includes both a standard port of the arcade game and a special 360 mode which includes two exclusive levels. The game is presented in letterboxed format with the ability to rotate and zoom the screen so you can have a larger view. Unfortunately, you can't rotate the controller along with these viewpoints, so you have to play with it turned sideways. Raiden IV also lets you pick several levels of difficulty and the number of ships and continues you'll use. Its menus are easy to use and navigate, so this shouldn't be too much of a problem. The game offers a fairly standard single player mode, but also includes several other interesting additions. You can play with another player co-operatively and try and beat each stage together which is loads of fun. Additionally, you can go into the score attack and try and get a high score in any stage you've already cleared, which is another challenging extra.

Once your modes, difficulty and ship inventory has been selected, you choose your weapons, which include a plasma laser and proton laser. The plasma laser is a single beam that twists and turns on screen and concentrates on a single enemy while the proton laser shoots three beams at the same time. As in the older Raiden games, power-ups take the form of red and blue takes, and each can be leveled up to produce some incredible fire-power. Knowing when to use these and when to avoid them, and which enemies are most vulnerable to these shots makes all the difference, especially when boss encounters come to play. These offer different strategic play and going through the game will let you know which style suits you best. Your basic weapons can be upgraded by collecting power-ups and scanning for additional items adds to your inventory of screen-filling super-bombs. Each stage in Raiden IV unfolds in traditional shooter style, as you face off against waves of basic enemies and build up your weapons until you confront the boss character at the end of the stage. The game's patterns start off fairly simply, but harder levels offers players incredibly dense fields of bullets to avoid and patterns to master, making them very hard to progress through. One of the more helpful aspects of the game's design is that once you've cleared a level, you can begin the next game there and don't have to re-fight earlier stages. This should prove especially helpful to novice, or 'casual' players who want to get the hang of things. As expected from the series, Raiden IV's gameplay is razor-sharp with tightly paced levels that unfold at a breakneck speed. While there are many modern touches, such as an online leaderboard and world rankings, you can definitely feel the spirit and lineage of the series and its influence is evident in the way Raiden IV feels.

Despite not offering much in the way of genre innovation, Raiden IV delivers a satisfyingly intense shooting experience. It's classically-styled gameplay, interesting level design and difficult boss battles should challenge even shooting veterans. Eye pleasing visuals and the ability to scan and rotate the screen adds to the arcade-authenticity, while the soundtrack is decent as well. As an added bonus, there are two additional stages exclusive to the Xbox 360 edition, which extends its appeal even mode. Online modes include downloadable content, online leader boards and co-op play add to the replay value. It's solid gameplay and smooth melding of 2D gameplay with 3D special effects make this a good looking game, and its soundtrack is fairly decent as well. Raiden IV delivers the kind of intense shooting action that has stood the test of time. While its not the deepest or most modern title available, Raiden IV is a classically styled shooter brings its timeless play mechanics forward in a solidly entertaining package, making this a solid purchase for fans of this long running series.

- Michael Palisano

Grade: B

> Related Reviews

Raiden Fighters Aces (Xbox 360)
Raiden III
Ultimate Shooting Collection (Wii)
Geometry Wars Galaxies (Wii) 
Blast Works (Wii)