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Raiden V: Director’s Cut (PC) artwork

Raiden V: Director’s Cut (PC) review

"Five games in, it's Raiden."

I noticed something about long enduring shooter series: fans can usually point to a standard bearer, a killer app, as it were, which rises to the top, justifying the fact that the series has stuck around as long as it has when it would seem that it has no right to. R-Type, Gradius, Thunder Force -- they all have their aces, and hell, in a few cases, more than one. I considered it an exceptional thing that Darius, the fish-featuring series with a three-decade pedigree behind it, is still alive and kicking, when, irony of ironies, there is nothing -- fish theme notwithstanding -- that is exceptional about the canon. I thought that was special in and of itself, until Raiden V arrived in my inbox and I realized that Darius was not alone.

Raiden has been around forever; I remember playing the original when it came out some 27 years ago. It went on to presumably break some record for having graced the most platforms ever for any shoot-em-up.(I don’t know if that’s true, but it must be.) I can’t rightly say that Raiden started its own subgenre of shooters -- the manic shooter as I’ve heard them referred to as -- but it’s certainly at the forefront of that shooter movement. Most gamers are familiar with old school, or standard vertical shoot-em-ups, like, the Star Soldier series, and most gamers are familiar with the Cave-dominated “bullet hell” type of shooter which floods the screen with relatively slow moving enemy projectile patterns that you must penetrate, slipping through the deluge, purposely grazing bullets with the bulk of your craft while your tiny hit box remains safe from harm.

Raiden V: Director’s Cut (PC) image

But Raiden has always followed its own manic, but simultaneously unspectacular path, and it doesn't deviate here. Even when it struck out on the side with the Raiden Fighters project, it furnished a slow moving ship and crowded the screen with more bullets than your old school favourites did; but those bullets often moved very fast, and often en masse as dense sheets of death that you were not encouraged to work through, but around, the old way. And Raiden V still works like that. It’s the same game we’ve been playing for decades, but with updated visuals, and finally and notably, a handful of phenomenal, rocking tracks, which is surprising for a series which has customarily been bland aurally.

The best and truest thing then, that can be said about Raiden V is that it is true to its roots, while also offering a lot of content -- some of it fresh -- for hardcores to tinker with. Sure, there’s the story mode and boss rush you would come to expect, but story mode here is to some degree organic; your performance dictates the precise path taken to the finale. An inefficient run on a stage rife with ground targets might then segue into a stage which ostensibly acts as a ‘clean up’ strafing run on street level for those missed enemies. It’s a nice touch that gives you the feel of really being on a mission proper.

More strides are made to this end, but most don’t come off as well: your command team is in constant communication with you as the pilot, and so there is incessant jabbering between you and your supporting cast about the politics and ethics of the mission as well as criticism of and encouragement for your level-by-level performance. The voice actors are earnest, but it’s all a bit much and you’ll find yourself tuning out sooner than later. There’s even an onscreen log of everything that’s being said, just in case you missed it while you were actually, you know, paying attention to not dying. The log, as well as a video screen featuring these same conversations, as well as cheer notifications (more on that in a moment) will all conspire to crowd the screen unnecessarily.

Raiden V: Director’s Cut (PC) image

Before delving into story mode’s eight stages, you’ll choose between three different ships with varying speed and offensive and defensive capabilities, and then you’ll select your onboard weapons from three classes, each of which has three types to try. The red spread, blue focus and purple chase beam are all here as usual. In a pickle, there’s the always reliable screen clearing bomb, but now there’s also the aforementioned ‘cheer system’ to bring some, well, merriment. The game will prompt you to ‘cheer’ various achievements throughout, and other players are doing the same thing during their plays, so that you are effectively giving strangers boosts in real time, to the tune of temporary secondary weapon barrages.

Look: if you’re a diehard Raiden fan, you wouldn’t be reading this review. Because, quite frankly, it's been awhile since the last release, and as every instalment thus far has been solid, that this game would be nourishment for your starving gamer's soul is a given. But more casual shmup players (if that’s not an oxymoron) will likely approach Raiden V with trepidation, and the hefty price tag as much as the series' reliably unremarkable personality, certainly contributes to that; there are cheaper and more stylish modern offerings out there.


Masters's avatar
Staff review by Marc Golding (November 01, 2017)

There was a bio here once. It's gone now.

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honestgamer posted November 01, 2017:

I played Raiden V on Xbox One (after snagging it for $7 on a super sale) and, while I ran into all of the issues you noted (the chatter from squad mates felt particularly useless and distracting), I quite enjoyed the experience overall. I've not played a lot of the past games in the series, and I was looking for a fairly straightforward vertical shooter, so maybe those two reasons explain why it worked somewhat better for me than it did you, a franchise veteran. I also prefer vertical shooters to the horizontal ones you favor, so that was probably another part of the equation. Thinking back, I also liked Silpheed on PS2 and I seem to recall you not thinking much of it. Either way, I really wish the genre weren't all but dead. It's so rare that someone spends the time to produce something truly new and with high production values, which to me is how these games always work best. Give me spectacle!
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Masters posted November 01, 2017:

Well, Jason, I'm glad you liked it so much (would you have, had it cost you $40?). I didn't hate it -- I think I made that clear -- but it was just okay for me. And I'm not sure if playing all of the games in the series has anything to do with my general lack of enthusiasm for R5 (it might), but it goes without saying that I'm enthusiastic about the fact that it exists.
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pickhut posted November 02, 2017:

Never fully played a Raiden game, but "It's Raiden" sounds about right from my distant experience with the series. Every time I see screenshots or videos, everything blurs between games for me. I also couldn't help tilt my head when I read this series supposedly started the "bullet hell" genre, which I have a hard time believing considering the first game's 1990 release date.

But I know seeing and playing are completely different experiences, which is why I got a PS4 copy of Raiden V when it came out a few weeks back, but I haven't touched it yet. I just wanted to support a new shmup release in this day and age, especially since physical releases are pretty rare now. The only other physical English release of a PS4 shmup I got recently was for Caladius Blaze, which was only a Limited Run Games release. Shoot, Battle Garegga finally got a US digital release on the PSN store a few weeks back... though, I was honestly surprised by the $35 tag it carries. For a digital release, that's a hard one to swallow. Edit: oh yeah, I got Sine Mora Ex on the PS4 back in August, too; don't get it if your TV doesn't have an on/off option for overscan, as the game doesn't have screen adjustment options... Supposedly other THQ Nordic PS4 releases too, considering my copy of This is the Police has the same issue...

I'll give Raiden V a shot, and I actually plan on going through the whole series (already have III and IV on Steam, and just recently acquired The Raiden Project) as I never had a chance to do so in the past. Dunno if I'll review them all, though. It'll be interesting playing them all and returning to this review to see how much our views align or diverge.
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Masters posted November 02, 2017:

Pick, who said this game started the bullet hell subgenre??
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pickhut posted November 02, 2017:

The back of my PS4 copy outright says "The Original Bullet-Hell is Back." I was trying my best not to roll my eyes in the back of my head when I first saw that.
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EmP posted November 02, 2017:

I've not played all the Raiden games myself, but what I've played I've enjoyed. But wasn't blown away by. I've always considered them a decent but unspectacular series; always worth playing but lacking that killer entry to make it a real classic.

I'll pick up V at some point because I'm weak when it comes to buying games, and it's the kind of release I'd like to support, but Marc's review does describe what have become my thoughts on the series. Good review.
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overdrive posted November 02, 2017:

Raiden is one of those series I've actually not played much of, other than a couple quarters in the arcade for one of the older ones. I do have a port or two for one 16-bit system or another, so I might have to try it out some day, but it's never been a top priority. I guess it's always had more of a military shmup look and I've preferred the pure outer space sci-fi for my backdrop.
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overdrive posted November 02, 2017:

Although, upon looking at the screens, this seems more sci-fi than military, so they might have changed directions from what I remember from when I was a kid.
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Masters posted November 02, 2017:

Thanks Gary. It's always tough playing an old school game that isn't quite awesome, because every old-timer reviewer wants to show love to classic genres. That said, you can't just do so because you want to... and it gets tiresome writing the same disclaimer about how it pains you to write negatively about something you would love to love...

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