Review by magx

"Great Game, Bad Package"

Raiden IV is a top down vertical scrolling shooter, or vertical shmup, as games of this type are affectionately known, developed by Moss, and published by UFO Interactive. The xbox 360 version is an enhanced port of the 2007 arcade version. For those of you who are familiar with the genre, and know exactly what to expect, skip to the seventh paragraph of this review to get to the specific assessment of the merits (and flaw) of this particular game. For the uninitiated, it is prudent that you be appraised of exactly what it is you are going to encounter when you play this game, as these games cater to a very specific audience. If you go in not knowing what to expect, you may be severely disappointed. If you are not particularly familiar with this type of game, read on starting from the next paragraph.

The way these games play out is as follows: you control a ship equipped with various weapons, and you navigate a space filled with enemies who you must shoot, and who fire back at you en masse. The goal is to destroy the other ships while avoiding their fire. Along the way, you pick up various powerups, such as extra lives and bombs, as well as ship upgrades like shields and weapon upgrades. These games are known for having a high level of difficulty, as well as often requiring patterns memorization, due to the fact that enemies spawn and fire in a set pattern. If you can not react quickly enough to this pattern, you will be inundated by enemy fire, trapped in an unfavourable position, and ultimately, find yourself dead.

It's really quite a simple setup, and it has been utilized for decades due to its effectiveness. This type of system encourages multiple playthroughs, and, upon finally attaining a certain level of pattern recognition and memorization, one can do the thing revered by fans of the genre: the one credit playthrough. This seems impossible upon first encountering these games, but with the right level of proficiency and dedication, it's more than doable.

Two unfortunate (depending on who you ask) side effects to such a system do exist, however, and this game is no exception. First, and foremost, is the fact that these games are usually short, both because of their arcade origins (which also explains the difficulty) and because of the required pattern memorization. The second thing is the seemingly unfair difficulty encountered by new or unfamiliar players. These games are often incredibly hard and, upon first exposure, may easily be deemed unfair by new players.

This accusation could certainly be levied against Raiden IV. This is one difficult game, although concessions are made by Moss in the form of several difficulty modes (including a practice mode devoid of enemy fire) and the ability to unlock extra continues and lives, ultimately allowing one to play with a high default number of lives and continues. They have also enabled the ability for the player, upon meeting the game over screen, to restart at the level they last reached, rather than having to restart from the beginning, as so many games in this genre have you do.

The problem with the lowered level of difficulty, however, is that the fun is in the challenge. To play with complacent enemies leaves you with the distinct feeling that the game is holding back, which results in you feeling that you're not getting the full experience. It also fails to prepare you for play at the higher difficulty, so that once you start playing at the default (or higher) difficulty, you're not much better off than you would have been had you not previously played the game. So, your best bet is to just jump right in. If you're willing to do so, read on.

Raiden IV features seven stages in the enhanced xbox 360 mode (the original arcade mode is available as well). These stages must actually be played twice in a sitting to reach the secret eight stage. The stages aren't terribly lengthy, and the whole thing can be played through in about an hour or so (double that if you're going for the secret stage). There is one controllable ship, although you have the option to purchase two more, at 80 Microsoft points each, from the xbox live marketplace, giving you three ships in all. This decision seems unfair to the player, and neither of the two ships seems worth the purchase.

There are three main weapons and several secondary weapons available for use in the game. The three main weapons are a spread machine gun, a focused (but powerful) laser, and the most visually pleasing, and arguably most useful of the three, a purple laser that locks on to multiple enemies, resulting in a cool effect where it basically wraps around the screen. It's not as powerful as the focused laser, however, and it can tend to obstruct your view at times, but both of these issues are mitigated by the supremely useful lock on ability. The secondary weapons include things like missiles and heat seeking bombs.

The enemy variety is standard for the genre. It is replete with various ship types, tanks, arachnoid like robotic enemies, etc. The amount of ammunition thrown your way is quite high, and you will often find the entire screen covered in gunfire, leaving you with very little space to navigate. This is where the pattern memorization and fast reflexes come in handy.

In addition to the two new stages, this version of the game includes local co-op (no online play), online leaderboards, and the ability to save replays and post them to the leaderboard, as well as the ability to download other players replay data. This can be very useful for those trying to learn the best ways to navigate certain sections of the game, and to learn boss strategies employed by the top players. An additional, and rather interesting, new feature is the dual mode, which has you controlling two ships at the same time. This is a difficult task that requires both dexterity and good reflexes. It's a fun addition for skilled and familiar players looking to increase the challenge and try something new.

In terms of presentation, the game leaves much to be desired. While there are completely customizable controls, and a number of extra options, the menu sound effects are irritating, the graphics and sound, while adequate, leave much to be desired, the price is far too high at $40, and the two extra ships need to be purchased, which, in addition the the high price, seems almost criminal. The price is particularly problematic when you consider the fact that in early 2009, the xbox 360 received a Raiden collection, featuring three games, for half the price of this one.

Raiden IV plays well, and while it does nothing terribly innovative, it is both fun and challenging. It also comes with several interesting extras, making this a decent package. Unfortunately, the price of entry is far too high, and the paid DLC just adds to this. Releasing just months after the previous Raiden package on the same system, selling for half the price with triple the content, renders this even more objectionable. The game can be played by anybody, but it definitely caters to fans of the genre, and while they may be more inclined to shell out the money, this game still seems far more suited to a much lower price point. A rental or bargain bin purchase seems to be the best recommendation here.

Overall Score: 7/10


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 03/02/10

Game Release: Raiden IV (Limited Edition) (US, 09/08/09)


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