Review by midwinter
"Older Than Old School"
Even back in 1990, Taito's Raiden was hardly the most memorable of shooters. A well worn plot device asked players to deliver the world from evil by piloting a single ship into battle against incalculable odds. The enemy designs were bland, and the challenge was average. Honestly speaking, there was no definable reason for such a shoot'em up to stand out from the crowd, yet like a fighter, Raiden penetrated our defenses and eventually won us over. How this happened is anyone's guess, though I'm willing to bet you didn't ask for a sequel.
The battle continues...
Say what you will about Raiden III, but at least the symmetry is correct. Forgetting the player's sleek attack craft for just a moment, Taito's shooter is again the very definition of generic. Not a single shred of gameplay feels interesting or unique, instead it comes across as a hodge-podge of established, vertical action and half baked ideas. Tanks roll out from under roof tops, while an assortment of flyers jettison the will to live and attack from above. Round after round of ammunition is then thrown your way as you return fire with the usual assortment of stereotypes. Red spread shot, blue laser, green twisty thing... OK, so that last one might be new.
Sometimes though, a little, old fashioned shoot'em up action can go a long way. Just ask R-Type Final and Gradius V, two classic franchises that did the come back thing with much style and class. Irem chose to endow their entry with some awesome hidden depth, Konami on the other hand, simply hired Treasure. By comparison then, Raiden III feels like a pretender, mostly thanks to its simplistic scoring system and vanilla challenge. As enemies appear on screen, a bonus multiplier starts at 2.0 and slowly begins to decrease. Shooting them down the moment they appear however, forces your score through the roof, and edges you that much closer to an extra life. We're talking anticipation over strategy, and reflexes over technique.
But then again, maybe there's nothing wrong with that, and maybe those looking for an old school challenge will be well catered for. Certainly, developers Moss have done a bang up job with this conversion, and the way Raiden III nicely sidesteps recent trends in carnage might be considered a boon as well. There's a noticeable absence of firepower on the screen at any given time, particularly when compared to the latest generation of shooters. As such, players new to the genre might find Raiden III the perfect stepping stone into a few of the more, hell-ish encounters. And so long as they're not expecting too much, they might even have a good time.
That being said however, there's an exception to every rule, and Raiden III's exception is its outstanding Double Play mode. Here players looking for something new will be able to test themselves with the most brutal, shoot'em up experience ever devised. Based on a technique made famous by Japanese Ikaruga players (that says cool, right?), this additional game mode gives you control of not one, but two ships at a time. The left analogue stick is your red craft, the right your blue, and the only thing that stands between you and galactic genocide is a little carpal tunnel syndrome.
Good luck with that boys, you're going to need it!
Before you rip the galaxy a new sphincter though, please take a moment to consider Raiden III's refreshed visuals. With concussive rings of energy rocking the screen, you'll cut left and right through the action, throwing out homing missiles and squashing the enemy like never before. In motion and at its busiest, Raiden III has what it takes to turn heads. During its quieter moments however, you'll notice the bland, 3D backgrounds. Opening with a forest location before moving onto a boss encounter, players are treated to a shotgun tour of virtually every, genre locale ever conceived. There's zero originality and even less innovation, but as I said before, the symmetry is correct.
With that in mind, players in love with the original are sure to find this follow up to their liking. It's hard to fault Raiden III outside of some bland design choices, and though veteran players are sure to snub it, at least Taito have gotten the basics right. The controls are nicely responsive and compliment the generous hit detection well. Likewise, an atypical blend of Japanese techno music sits on the right side of energizing, rocking the beats and establishing atmosphere. As an arcade conversion, Raiden III for the PS2 is a perfect, frame for frame port of the Type-X original. As a shooter in its own right however, it's just another entry in a long list of could've beens. Check it out if Cave's efforts are too much for you, otherwise, buyer beware...
* Raiden III feels much like the original
* The controls are certainly smooth
* Generous hit detections allows for the tightest of scrapes
* Double Play mode > You
* The refreshed 3D effects look great
* Raiden III is perfectly suited for beginners
* The variable display modes suit all tastes
* There's nothing particularly noteworthy about Raiden III
* The basic challenge lacks any form of evolution
* Raiden III's arsenal proves to be fairly generic
* Mediocre scoring system
* Many of the backgrounds seem bland and uninspired
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 12/30/05
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