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 Post subject: Raiden IV (XBOX360)
PostPosted: Mon Sep 14, 2015 5:34 am 


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Joined: 11 Oct 2008
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Location: Autobot City
"Stand up, defend or lay down and die", that's what P.O.D. said in the song "Freedom Fighters". What does this have to do with a review of Raiden?

Well, if we apply that quote on the legendary series of shmups created by Seibu Kaihatsu and MOSS, that's exactly how we can describe the legacy and history of Raiden, a shooter that throughout time always rises to the challenge of it's competitors and always prevails while the others fall with the pass of time. No matter if it's a game based on an extremely popular anime like Strike Witches, a "Hit of the moment" like Triggerheart Exelica, classic shooting veterans like Darius or Thunder Force, or just a simple "Raiden Killer" (or Raiden Clone) like Final Star Force or Thunder Dragon, there's no way to stop Raiden and it's "Here-to-Stay" power and legacy, they can try and challenge Raiden, but in the end Raiden will make the competitors bite the dust. The only thing that can surpass Raiden is another Raiden game, just like Raiden DX did by surpassing Raiden II. But enough of this introduction and let's go to the review of Raiden IV.



This game gives you three options: XBOX360 Mode, Score Attack and Arcade Mode and a secret "??????" which is locked (Skip review to the Replay Value section to know what's up), it's kinda curious that the Arcade Mode didn't come out first instead of the XBOX or the Score Attack modes.

The XBOX360 Mode is an extended version of the original Raiden IV, with two new stages, in the Score Attack you can select which stage you want to play and on which mode. Like in Raiden III, you can only play one stage (the one you select, of course.). The Arcade Mode, well it's the original arcade version of Raiden IV, as seen in Japan's cabinets. To put it simple, the inclusion of this new "XBOX 360 Mode" along with the original Arcade Mode makes this game more like 2 games in one.

While each mode have features of their own, the three modes share a lot of them. One of the new features is the play select, you can select Solo Play "1P" or Solo Play "2P", Dual or Double. Solo 1P and 2P is a retake of the 1 player selection in the FM Towns version of Raiden Trad, where you can play as the second player (blue ship) with the player 1 control, discarding the need to change the controller to player 2, it's nice to have that feature back after all this time of "unplug Player 1 controller, plug in player 2". However this "Solo 1P & Solo 2P" options are not available on the Japanese version. As for the other modes, Dual Play is the classic 2-players game and the Double Play is one player controlling both ships just like in Raiden III, curiously in the XBOX360 Mode you can't continue if you lose all your lives in this mode.

In the Arcade Mode you have the option to choose between "Light" and "Original", in Light, the game throws less enemies and bullet patterns, and you start with your firepower in Level 2 (example; three way Vulcan with three bullets instead of two), the game ends after completing five stages. "Original" is the default arcade game setting.



In all the modes you have to select what kind of weapon you want to use as the Purple Crystal, since the Plasma and the Proton laser are back. The Plasma Laser is the classical toothpaste laser from Raiden II / Raiden DX which locks on your enemies until they leave the screen or they're destroyed, also it doesn't need to "charge" from the separated lasers until the "whip" is formed just like in the Raiden Fighters series. The Proton Laser is a variation of the Proton Laser from Raiden III, in Raiden IV the beam not only retains it's flexibility and wave (pass through solid objects) properties, it also fires three simultaneous lasers. You can also close the angle of the beams by rattling the joystick, to make the beams wide again just stop firing.

I'm not gonna talk about the Vulcan and the Laser (Red and Blue crystals), since those are the basics and i've explained their function in the previous Raiden reviews. The missiles are the same from Raiden III, M is the powerful normal Missile, H is for Homing and R is the "New Homing" which aims at different targets without changing its straight trajectory, it drifts on your targets and leaves explosions for additional damage, but its not as strong as the "M" Missile. Both Dual and Double Play includes the "Special 2-Ship" Shot from the classical games, adding more firepower to the game.

Speaking of Weapons, the crystals now include a "Timer" telling you how much time you have to pick a color before it changes. It works like this: Once the weapon appears, there's a little "circle" running around the crystal, once it makes a full rotation, it changes its color, this also applies on the Missiles. Another feature that comes with the "item timer" is the "timer freeze". If you're not shooting, the item comes to you with the timer paused and locked on that specific color/letter. The Flash Shot from Raiden III makes a return and this time is better than ever, as the Max is increased from 2.0 to 5.0, that's 5 times the score value of an enemy (and a boss). The secret "Radars" from Raiden DX make a comeback in the form of hidden pillars, once you find, "unearth" and destroy them you'll get 100,000 points. One of the mostly known items for a Raiden fan, the Miclus, makes a return after its abscence in Raiden III as a point giving item.

The medal system was changed from what we saw on the previous games, as we can get a bunch of medals from a single enemy or building (the silos in stage 1 for example), pretty much like the bonus items on "Bullet Hells" such as Progear and Triggerheart Exelica. There's one ups in the game but i don't know where to find them, apparently the "problem solving" mechanic from Raiden III is no longer the same (if you know where to find at least one 1up, lemme know.)
Along with this new features on the weapons and bonus systems, there's one new attack for your ship, a "Charge Shot" for your missiles. To make it work, pick any missile, don't shoot until you see your ship charged with lightning, then shoot and you'll be firing a fast amount of missiles ready to inflict a rapid damage to your enemies, and give you 500 points for each missile impact, so this attack is also a new bonus scoring feature.
Another good improvement was the inclusion of the "Start with 3-way vulcan" and "Power up with any crystal" (No need to pick the same color) from Raiden III, as the enemy attacks are more frequent, this power up adjustments really come in handy.

Like in the Raiden Fighters series, you can select which ship do you want to play. In Raiden IV, you can select from 3 different ships: Fighting Thunder ME-02 Kai (Default Ship), Raiden Mk-II and Fairy. The ME-02 doesn't need explanations, it's gameplay and weapons are basically the same as in Raiden III (except for the Plasma/Proton thing). Raiden Mk-II is the original ship from Raiden II / Raiden DX, and it requires more power ups to fully increase its firepower, curiously, this ship is much stronger than it's future successor. The Fairy (the true form of Raiden according to Raiden III's ending) is not just the item dropping character. Like in Raiden Fighters, she assumes the role of a fighter, and this time uses her magic beams and feather missiles to attack. Unfortunately, the Raiden Mk-II and the Fairy have to be unlocked (i'll mention how to unlock them later).



While the normal fly and shoot gameplay has this new features included, the boss battles are also redefined, as the enemies are not just the big ship or tank that have to be destroyed. They now rely on transformation and "multiple ships in one", transformation is seen (for example) in Stage 4 where the two rail-running tank bosses suddenly change from fast wagon-tanks to hovering tanks, the "multiple ships in one" can be found in the Stage 2 boss where the large ship splits into a small ship, then two VTOL-like ships separate from the main body, and once they're destroyed you fight the main body, in Stage 3, you'll engage three small ships until they met a larger ship and combine with it as the full boss.

If i have to complain of something with this game is the "Loop" thing. The Arcade game has 10 stages, but the fact is there only 5, the other 5 are the same but with different colors and harder bosses (same with the 14 staged XBOX360 Mode), at least the fifth stage in the second loop has an extra section where you fight the true final boss (this appears as "???" when you unlock the level in the Stage Select option), also the second loop is the last of the game because once you complete the game you'll get the Mission Complete bonus, which is not of 1 million or 2, this time is of 5,000,000 points.



Now let's talk about the graphics, we've gotta start with the animated cutscenes where HD resolution provides an EXTREME amount of detail on everything, the carrier, the Raidens, even the environment surrounding the game. If you thought Blazing Star was the definitive "Super detailed" shmup, then think again. Just like Blazing Star pushed the Neo-Geo's graphics back then, Raiden IV does the same in the XBOX360 giving us eye-catching machinery in both artwork and in-game. The ME-02 goes beyond the concept of superdetail than Raiden III (in artwork of course, 'cos in game looks more simplified as the old sprites are replaced by CG models), even the Raiden Mk-II has a great amount of detail despite of it's cartoony appearance, curiously, the Fairy is a naked winged girl, but she covers her nudity with her long hair, i could say MOSS is aiming to fanservice due to the Fairy's nudity, but i think it has a deeper, yet mystic meaning, in most mythologies and fantasy stories, fairies are considered as guardians of nature and a symbol of the free spirit, also the magic wand she had on Raiden and Raiden II (when she was an item) was removed in favor of using magical powers from her hands.

The transformation of the bosses was well made, the second level boss was unexpected to imagine that the giant ship would split in 4 different vehicles or the VTOL's were part of the wings. As for the scenery, like in Raiden III, there's no more "slow moving backgrounds" like the old Raiden's. Well there's moments where the speed slows down, but not the action because there's a part in the game where you descend on a tunnel kinda like in Thunder Force V and VI, and yes, you fight enemies during your descent on the underground base, this along with the forest section of Stage 2 and the base in Stage 1 are the only slow paced moments of the game. The HD graphics of the XBOX360 gives a more in-depth realism on the whole scenery, like fog, river flows, hi-speed flights over the oceans, and even the atmosphere-leaving sequence in stage 5, where the ascension to the stars is not a peaceful journey like in the previous games, this time you have to fight tons of enemies and shooting down falling meteors, The beam effects are even more detailed than Raiden III, i still miss the blue Laser "evolution" (You know, the "Single-Twin-Triple/Twin Mix-Three-Four/Three-Mix-Four-Large Beam" changes) from the old Raiden games along with the flashing "Color changing" Plasma Laser from Raiden DX. To finish this part of the review, i'll end up saying the boss explosions are the same "screen shocking blast" in the style of Raiden III / Gradius V / Thunder Force VI, but with more intensity.



On the sound department, the "Nostalgia" factor is pretty evident in this game, as we hear arrangements from the music of Raiden II, along with the boss themes which uses the boss themes from the first and second games. This time, the arrangements sound incredibly faithful and classic as the original counterparts from 1993. "Go to Blazes!", the boss theme from the first Raiden has an extended section in the music kinda like what happened with "Fighting Thunder" in the console versions such as Raiden Trad on the SNES. The majority of the soundtrack features hard rocking elements than the rest of the games in the series. Seems like Go Sato learned a lot from his experience with Thunder Force VI and put that musical experience in practice with Raiden IV. For those who still want the catchy style of the electronic beats heard in Raiden III, there's still plenty of them; in the main menu, in the first level, the main menu, the gallery, etc. Curiously there's re-uses of the music of Raiden III in the opening sequence, which uses the same opening theme but in a more "extended" version, the name entry, and the Game Over screen (which uses the first seconds of the Game Over theme of Raiden), not to mention the song "Preparations" (Raiden III Main Menu) as the continue theme, which sounds kinda out of place for a continue countdown theme.



The unlockable contents, oh my god. Now i understand why RPG fans complained with Final Fantasy: All the Bravest when they call it "more like a Cash Delivery System than a game", that means pay MORE for the game. As i said before in my review of Otomedius Excellent, the XBOX Marketplace "Buy to unlock" just KILLS the gameplay. If i thought that was bad in Otomedius Excellent, in Raiden IV is much worse. We already know the game has one available ship to play, the other two (Raiden MK-II and Fairy) are Marketplace exclusives. Yeah, just three ships on your command. If the game featured unlockable extra ships (let's say Judge Spear and all the "Non-prop planes" from Raiden Fighters) and those two as the only exclusives, then i'll tolerate it a little bit as i did with Otomedius, but this time they went way too far, this problem also caused controversy in gaming forums such as IGN where they questioned the worth of the investment since we all paid $40 for the game and then they come out with the fact that you have to pay even more for two more characters, that goes way too far of "You get what you pay" since you'll be paying almost 1 game and almost a half for everything.

On the other side, there is some "Built-in" unlockable features such as the extra credits everytime you either die or complete the game. There's also a 3D model gallery of your ship and enemies, including the color variants that you will find in the "second loop" and the XBOX Mode. I miss the scans of the arcade flyers, posters and illustrations just like in Raiden III, that would complete the gallery even more. You can also unlock bonus credits as you complete levels and once you finish the two loops of Arcade Mode, and if you complete the XBOX360 Mode the continue system will become Free Play.

Completing the game on either XBOX360 Mode or Aracde Mode (although the manual says ''Clearing the XBOX360 Mode'') also unlocks the "??????" as the Boss Rush Mode and in both Xbox and Arcade modes the game allows you to select the stage you want to start as you reach them (Example: Dying without continuing in Stage 2 unlocks the stage).



TRIVIA
- Exerey Iss (the first stage boss) was orginally desgined for Raiden DX, however it was discarded and many years later appeared in Raiden IV.

- This game is the first in the series where hard rocking elements are introduced in the music.



Despite the flaws, Seibu Kaihatsu / MOSS series of shmups managed to survive the flow of time and this "Cash Delivery System" known as XBOX Marketplace is not gonna kill Raiden.

Once again, Raiden daced all its rivals, took the challenge, trascended in videogame history, built a legacy. Raiden is the greatest survivor and is ready to prove it again as Raiden V is heading to the XBOX One.
_________________
Ready to Shmuppin' again... No Guts No Glory!


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