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 Post subject: Raiden DX (Arcade / PlayStation)
PostPosted: Mon May 25, 2015 3:19 am 

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Joined: 11 Oct 2008
Posts: 250
Location: Autobot City, Sugiura Base

After seeing this video you'll say "This is just Raiden II, there's no big difference at all.", no way. This game is not the Raiden II that you and your friends played at Chuck E. Cheese when you were a kid, man. This is a whole new game, so better read this review to know what's up and new in Raiden DX.

OK, you've got part of that right. Raiden DX is in fact Raiden II, but not the Raiden II you know. Raiden DX takes Raiden II on a major overhaul that redefines the concept of enhancement on gaming in a completely new level. Starting off with the mission select feature where the player has three choices:

Mission Alpha / Training Course: This is a single 15 minute long stage with a single boss and A LOT of medals to take. This stage can be considered as the "Training Course" for beginners. But you've gotta know there's restrictions that increase the challenge factor of this course. First off, there's no 1ups, you only start with three lives so better be careful and that's really important since this course doesn't have continues. However, if you play perfectly (picking all medals, radars, destroying almost all the enemies without losing a single life and without using bombs) there's a reward for you: Being able to progress to the Novice and Expert stages but on a harder version. At the end of the game (whether you die or complete the stage), you'll get a final evaluation of your percentage of Enemies Destroyed, Secrets Found (Hidden Radars) and your "Guts!", i don't know exactly how this works, but i heard it's based on how many times you picked the highest medal bonus (i'll explain that later) and how much you spent the gameplay on the upper part of the screen along with how close you were to the enemies and bosses, and "scratching bullets" without getting hit. All of this three factors will give you a final bonus to increase your final score even further. You'll also get a rank depending on how well you did (you could get a Rank A for example).

Mission Bravo / Novice Course: In this mode you'll be playing the first 5 original stages of Raiden II. Unlike Mission Alpha, you are allowed to continue if you lose all your lives, helping the player to gain some confidence on his/her playing skills. Not only that, this mission includes the hidden secrets to enhance the fun factor of Raiden II.

Mission Charlie / Expert Course: This is the "Main Game" and the "Expert Course" (as it's called in the Japanese version), since you will play all the 8 stages. You can continue if you lose all your lives. However there's a reward if you survive without continuing: an extra stage where the player arrives on a ice-crystal themed landscape where the true final boss awaits for your challenge: the Steel Wyvern. In this mission, the stages are a total redesign of those of Raiden II with new enemy formations and attack patterns.

But the rules aren't just applied to the Stage Select concept. When you begin the game sometimes you could have the red bomb or the yellow one. At first you'll probably ask "The bombs are a random thing?", well there's one way to decide which bomb you want. During the Mission select screen, pay attention to the lightning bolt on the DX logo, depending on which color the lightning bolt is when you select a mission, that will be the bomb you'll be carrying. If you want the red bombs, push start when the bolt is red, yellow bolt will give you the yellow bombs. While the weaponry of Raiden II remains the same, the bonus medals features an entirely new score mechanic. As soon as you open the box, the medal will start to "rot" (losing color), as they begin to rot, they'll lose their initial value, until they turn gray. However, once they've turn gray, they'll flash for a last time before becoming gray again. If the player picks the medal when they flash, their value will be bigger than their default value (3,000 for the small 500 point medal and 10,000 for the large 3,000 medal), the Miclus item also has its playing mechanic; if you pick it like normal you'll get 10,000, but if it "sneezes" (once it stops walking, wait for 2 or 3 seconds), you'll get 50,000 points, that's really a matter of pure luck. There's also an "Alignment bonus" if you put your ship in postion before the Stage Clear screen appears you can get 1,000 and if your alignment is PERFECT you will get 5,000 points. Yeah, believe it or not, something that nobody cares such as centering the ship correctly gives you bonus too.

The "Secrets" in both Alpha and Bravo Missions include hidden towers called "Radars" that only appear when you fly your ship over their exact position, once you find one and destroy it, you'll get some extra points, there's three types of Radars in the game, the normal gray ones which give you a little quantity of points, the Red Radars which give you a little more than the gray ones, and finally the Gold Radars that are quite tricky to find and reveal, but if you find one and destroy it you will get 200,000 points. Finding the Gold Radars can be tricky and requires some problem solving to figure out where's the correct spot. In Mission Alpha, you have to make appear the small gray radars but without destroying them, while in Mission Bravo there's a "clue" indicating it's possible location, so you've got to figure out where's exactly using the clue as your only guide, it's challenging, but it doesn't feel frustrating or tedious and enhances the original gameplay much further. This changes in the bonus system implies timing, precision and luck (considering you'll be surrounded by enemy fire). The enemy formations and attack patterns are different and more intense than the previous two games, resulting in a really interesting improvement on the traditional gameplay of the Raiden series. The boss battles are also improved, because when you're fighting a boss, a timer will appear, you might ask "what for?". Well, the timer is a new bonus system. Kill the boss quickly and you'll get a lot of points for doing so. So if you want to reach a high score, stop focusing on destroying a boss part-by-part and concentrate all fire on the main weakpoint. (stages 2 and 5 bosses as example), the time bonus basically compensates that part. Curiously in Stage 3 the timer doesn't appear until the crystal shell that covers the submarine's main cannon is destroyed. An expert player can take the advantage by destroying the smaller cannons as they emerge and taking the medals hidden next to the turrets on the sides. While the rest of the game you can respawn immediately after losing a life, in Stage 9 the game activates the Start Back Mode, sending you to a checkpoint.

To sum up the whole thing, Precision, time and timing are the new rules in this game, which enhances Raiden II's replay value in Raiden DX.

Graphically, the color palette is the same as Raiden II, and so the ship and most of the enemies of this game, however there's still place for some new effects, like the color changing Proton Laser when it hits an enemy or the enemies and Steel Wyvern that emerge from the ground in Stage 9, so incredible. The stages we're also redone at the point they're much larger, detailed and entirely different from those of Raiden II. The original intro sequence of Raiden II / Raiden DX is still being the awesomest part of the game in my opinion, because back in the early 90's the use of CG's or rendered 3D graphics was a groundbreaking feature in gaming, and we're talking of 1993-1994, a time before Pulstar. So that was a whole innovation.

The sound department is also improved. There's a new theme for the Mission select screen which is a well recieved thing. But the best part is the inclusion of the music from Raiden, along with the themes of Raiden II, but it's not the same versions you heard in 1990, this songs are new arrangements from the music of Raiden, and the themes used are "Gallantry", "Rough and Thumble" (erroneously called "Fighting Thunder" in Raiden Trad), "Go to Blazes!" and "Fighting Thunder" ("Lightning War" in Raiden Trad), the new sound card used in Raiden II / Raiden DX make this new arrangements the definitive versions of the music from the first Raiden.

There's also a "New Version" of the arcade hardware which contains an entirely different soundtrack, but it's a "Bootleg" of some sorts, with a horrible soundtrack that consists of horrible loops and sound effects of horrible quality, unlike Raiden II NEW, the "New" version of Raiden DX at least keeps the introduction.

The PlayStation port include more features that improves the game even further, the inclusion of a new intro sequence, a credits screen with new images, along with the inclusion of the original soundtrack, a PS exclusive OST called "New Release" which includes a hard rocking soundtrack in the style of Thunder Force, and that's not all, there's another selectable soundtrack: Viper Phase-1, so you can hear the music of Raiden's spin-off while you're playing Raiden DX.

There's three unlockable difficulty levels: Arcade 2, Arcade 3, Arcade 4, a new gameplay option called Judgement which changes the gameplay in two factors: the first one is on Mission Alpha where the seventh Gold Radar only appears until the other 6 are destroyed, and removing the Radars and final results on Mission Charlie (making it arcade-accurate). Other unlockable options are Game Speed which changes the regular speed of the game (Normal) to the "Arcade" like, which makes the game scroll slower as it emulates the arcade speed, but it feels strange due to the PS limitations. Speaking of speeds, there's the Ship Speed option, with three options; "Normal", which is the default, "Fast" makes your ship to move as fast as the Judge Spear in Raiden Fighters and "Very Fast" if you want to go even faster.

There's also a video called "The Master of Raiden" which shows an expert gameplay on Mission Alpha, a Boss Rush "Special Stage" and the "Raiden DX Encyclopaedia" which is a gallery of 3D models of your ship and enemies. In the Encyclopedia you can rotate the 3D models, zoom in and out and also play with the lighting angles, which is something interesting for a gallery. As a little bonus, the PS version includes a demo of Mezase! Senkyu Oh, which is the PlayStation enhanced port of Senkyu (Battle Balls), a puzzle game that is considered as Seibu Kaihatsu's version of Puyo-Puyo.

Along with the new features in this version, there is a new improvement on the gameplay. When you play on Mission Charlie, the Secret radars were included along with the "Results" after dying or completing the game, removing the loops in the process, increasing the challenge and fun factor of the original version, if the player has unlocked the "Judgement" option and enables it, the Radars and results will be removed. The only issues that i've found in the PlayStation port is the lack of Analog Control compatibility, forcing the player to use the D-pad, the music is slightly different than the original arcade, basically the same problem of The Raiden Project, and not to mention that the original arcade opening was once again removed like the PS and PC ports of Raiden II, why is the arcade intro such a dilemma for Seibu Kaihatsu?

TRIVIA (UPDATE: Dec.12, 2015)

- Did you know that MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) developers took 12 years of effort on unlocking the ROM encryption of both Raiden DX and Raiden II?, the reason of this was the heavy encryption made by Seibu Kaihatsu to prevent any attempt of piracy, but in a more deep and complex way that Capcom did with the CPS2 hardware and its drastic "Battery Suicide", but not as the unusally large and complex encryption used by Atari Games on Primal Rage which is still encrypted to this day.

- Speaking of development, it took 6 months to Seibu Kaihatsu to develop Raiden DX.

- The PlayStation port of Raiden DX was only released in Japan.

- The "Secret Radars" concept was retaken in Raiden IV as hidden pillars.

- There was an unused design for a boss, which was later used in Raiden IV as Exerey Iss (Stage 1-1 / 2-1).

- This is the first time "Go to Blazes!" was arranged, because we will hear this song re-arranged in Raiden IV.

- This is the last game in the series where the "2 different bombs" feature was used.

- Alpha, Bravo and Charlie are letters of the NATO Phonetic Alphabet.

- The 3D models as bonus feature in the gallery were later included in Raiden III and Raiden IV.

- The "Alternate Soundtrack" feature was included in Raiden IV OverKill, where the player could select the original Raiden IV soundtrack or remixes of Raiden DX, Raiden III and IV.

- "Conflict" the Stage 1 theme of the New Release soundtrack is included in Raiden IV OverKill as the Stage 3 theme.

- The screenshot of Raiden DX on Raiden V's site is from the PlayStation port, you can notice it by the position of the score and bombs.

- "Radars" made a return as SOL Towers in Raiden IV and Raiden V where they are much easier to find.

In conclusion, Raiden DX is not just a simple upgrade of Raiden II. This game is a major overhaul that takes the good old Raiden sequel and remakes it with new features and improved gameplay at the point that it feels like an entirely new game. In my opinion, this is the real Raiden III so we should be on Raiden VI instead of V.

If you haven't played it yet, better give it a good try. 10/10.
Fan of Transformers, Shmups and Anime-styled Girls. You're teamed up with the right pilot!
Bringing you shmup reviews with humorous criticism.

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