The Raiden Project
Little red crystals attack Earth with a vast and deadly armada. Earth strikes back with the Raiden, a ship ďpacked to the skin with devastating firepower.Ē
Raiden is a great classic shooter, plain and simple. The Raiden Project contains it, and the sequel. Both games are faithfully recreated from the arcade and everything you loved about them is here. New for the disc is a full 3D intro movie of a Raiden ship battling the stage one boss from Raiden II. Itís grainy and muddy, but itís kind-of neat to see the ship in full 3D glory.
Raiden (1990): Iíve always thought that Raiden was difficult. When I was young and played it in the arcade I rarely got past stage four. But, I kept coming back, again and again, knowing full well my efforts would be in vain. What was it about this game that made it so popular? You fight the same enemies in each stage, the same three music tracks play throughout the eight stages, and that game is so damn hard. Maybe it was the big booming explosions, or that you could choose between two different weapons and two different missiles, or maybe it was the challenge. Unlike many overhead shooters, Raiden has more of a genuine challenge. Sure there are tons of enemies and the bosses shoot huge amounts of stuff, but it never becomes so irritatingly cheap, as many overheads do. There is always a way out or a path through the gunfire. With the games placement on a home console the game is given four adjustable difficulty settings. Even on the easiest difficulty though, the game presents an enormous challenge.
If youíve somehow never played Raiden, then hereís the skinny: You pilot a red or blue ship, depending if youíre player one or two. You collect two different power-ups for the guns and two for the missiles. Red power-ups yield a red vulcan spread gun, while the blue yields a more powerful, yet much more precise, blue laser. The two missile choices are homing and straight shot. Each of the weapons can be upgraded multiple times and itís just crazy how powerful the ship can become. Also available are thermonuclear bombs that decimate everything in their blast radius. From time to time youíll come across a shiny ďPĒ which maxes out any weapons you have. Also hidden in each stage is a helpful guardian fairy (no, Iím not making this up). When you die, the fairy dispenses power-ups, helping your ship get back to the power it once had.
Iím not sure if this was the game to start it, but every time you destroy an enemy; their explosion leaves a nice large pothole in the ground. This is a war zone and the destruction to the landscape adds to the gritty war feeling. As I said before though, this game is tough, so actually staying alive to retain all your super-powered goodness is the real trick. When you get destroyed you lose everything and have to start over collecting power-ups. Staying alive during the latter missions is very tough when all you have is the crappy starting cannon.
Raiden does show its age, but it certainly doesnít make it a bad game. Even with the dated graphics and sounds it still plays remarkably well. The music may sound old but itís a good epic sounding score and the big explosions just plain rock. The bosses are still as cool and threatening as they were in 1990. Raiden holds itself fairly well and is still a solid shooter.
Score for Raiden: 8.0
Raiden II (1993): Three years later, the crystals come back for revenge. Earth is ready with a more powerful ship, the Raiden II. This game is a bit easier than its predecessor. Well, itís quite a bit easier. I can beat Raiden II with no problems, unlike the many deaths I experience in Raiden. The graphics and sounds are obviously improved. The Raiden looks a little beefier, and the detail of the landscape and ships is increased. The music is good and some of the tracks are remixed versions of the first gameís music. Two new weapons are added to bring a little more variety. There is the new purple plasma laser that kind of magnetically locks onto enemies until theyíre destroyed. The laser can get pretty crazy sometimes when it locks onto multiple enemies. The other new weapon is a new cluster bomb, which leaves nice holes in the ground after itís used.
The smaller enemies are, for the most part, the same things you fought in Raiden. The medium sized ships are all new and the bosses, while newer in design, share many of the same patterns and attacks of the first gameís bosses. You even fight two of the same boss in the first stage, just like before. This time, you actually get to see the crystals escape from the boss vehicles and youíll fight all the crystals at the end of the game. The stages follow the same sequence as the first game too, so many of the locals look very familiar.
While Raiden II isnít as challenging as Raiden, its still fun to play, especially while whipping around the deadly purple stream.
Score For Raiden II: 7.5
Now all we need is a new compilation disc that brings the Raiden Fighters series to a home console.
Score for The Raiden Project: 7.5