-Seibu/UFO Interactive (2007)
It has been over a decade since the mysterious crystal aliens were defeated by the Raiden II. Sometimes the ghosts of the past come back, even if they are crystalline entities. The red crystals have returned to wreck havoc upon the Earth with a new, yet familiar, armada. Earth launches the only ship that could defeat them, the Raiden, back into battle. However, the return of the crystals has also awakened the spirit of the original Raiden fighter...
It has been too long since there was a Raiden sequel. Raiden came out in 1990 and Raiden II in 1993. Raiden III came out twelve years later in 2005, but only just arrived in America in 2007. The Raiden Fighters games have been in a few small arcades here and there, but you were lucky if you saw one. The Raiden-blooded American fans have been awaiting a true sequel for over a decade. Is Raiden III worth the fourteen year wait? Well, yes and no. Raiden III does Raiden as good as it can which is both its greatest strength, and its greatest weakness.
The formula remains practically unchanged from the previous two games. The same basic stage structure, design, and enemies are present in part three, only everything is now in full 3-D. Youíll fight two bosses at the end of the first stage, a big flying jet in stage two, and so on until you end up in space for a few stages and take out asteroids and stuff.
The old red Vulcan cannon and blue laser are back. The purple laser added to Raiden II that automatically chain-killed enemies (and made the game super easy) has been replaced with a green laser. The green laser no longer chain-kills and turns with the ship. If you fly right the laser will arc to the right.
The music has a cool techno beat and many of the songs have an old-arcade music sound to them. Some of them sound almost too retro, though and can get a little grating. The sounds of the explosions are great and each boss has an impossibly massive explosion-gasm when you destroy it.
The game retains the Raiden difficulty, but only to a point. You begin the game with limited continues. Youíll earn an extra continue the more you play until you reach unlimited. Once you have unlimited continues it doesnít matter how many times you die because youíll be able to start right back where you left off. This game also does not start you back a screen or two with no weapons, which is another thing that made the original such a challenge. Continuing right where you were kind of nullifies the impressive shooting displays from bosses, especially in the latter stages.
What Raiden III does have that hasnít been done in any shooter before (at least none that Iíve seen and Ií have played a lot of shooters) is the ability to pilot both player ships at the same time on the same controller. This is how it works: Each fighter is controlled using an analog stick; the left for red and the right for blue. The L1 and R1 buttons are used for the firing the main weapon, while L2 and R2 are used for the bombs. It does take a little getting used to, but controlling two Raiden fighters simultaneously by yourself is an incredible shooter experience. I just canít believe that no one has done this before. Your shooter skills will get rocked overtime.
When you do beat the single-player mode, there are Score Attack and Boss Rush modes to build up your scores of individual stages or just fight the bosses one after another. You will also unlock a gallery of production art and fully rotatable 3-D models of all the ships in the game.
If youíre expecting something different youíll be disappointed. However, if youíre just expecting more Raiden with better graphics and effects, youíll love it. I am in the love it category because all I was expecting was a Raiden with PS2 visuals. I figured that Seibu and UFO Interactive wouldnít monkey around with the Raiden formula since it was over a decade before the game ever came out in the first place. This game was merely meant as a way for old fans to get back into the Raiden vibe and that is precisely what it does. Perhaps when Raiden IV comes out there will be some bigger changes in store for the franchise. Dual-wielding two Raiden fighters at once however, is such a monumental feature that every shooter fan must try.
For the curious, Raiden III almost didnít happen. It was originally supposed to come out in 2006 or maybe even 2005 from XS games, but it obviously did not. Praises must be given out to UFO Interactive for seeing the importance of Raiden and scooping up the license to bring the series back to U.S. gamers. Now if only someone would release a Raiden Fighters compilationÖ