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 Post subject: Raiden III (PlayStation 2)
PostPosted: Thu Nov 05, 2015 1:19 am 

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Joined: 11 Oct 2008
Posts: 216
Location: Autobot City, Sugiura Base
"Look at me. I am old, but i'm happy."
- Cat Stevens "Father and Son"

What those words have to do with Raiden?, as i said on my review of Raiden IV where i posted a quote from a P.O.D. song, Raiden might be an old franchise, an old, simple game that despite its simplicity (and its shmup and non-shmup rivals) it was good enough to make its way into the 90's, however since the release of Raiden DX in 1994 (and aside of the spin-offs such as Raiden Fighters and Viper Phase-1) we didn't heard any news from Seibu Kaihatsu, making fans think of the worst outcome possible: "The company was closed and Raiden is no more". However in 2005, a new company called MOSS teamed up with Seibu to revive the Raiden franchise with what will became the third entry (fourth if we count Raiden DX as the third) in the series: Raiden III.
The classic shooter made its glorious comeback and ready to face the future while the rest of its potential shmup rivals were falling, basically the future was on MOSS (and Raiden's) hands.

The gameplay of Raiden III still retains the classic atmosphere from the previous games, but that's only an impression, because behind its simplicity there's a whole new game worthy of a challenge. Starting off with the introduction of the Proton Laser, this weapon replaces the purple Plasma Laser from Raiden II / Raiden DX with a flexible green laser with "Wave" (Pass through enemies) properties, making it very effective than the regular blue Laser, but not as powerful. The "Basic" weapons like the Vulcan and Laser are back and they strength remains the same as in the old games. The subweapons also feature a new weapon: the New Homing Missile, this missile combines the strength of the regular Missile with the Homing, however is not as strong as the "M" Missile, and it's homing capability is different from the "H" Missile, while the regular homing chases the enemes on any direction on the screen, the New Homing aims on targets without changing it's straight trajectory, drifting on enemies and leaving an explosion for additional damage, however is not as powerful as the "M" Missile. The New Homing Missile appears on the game as the "R" Missile.

The way of how to power up your weapons in this game was improved, unlike the previous game where do you had to pick 7 times the red crystal (or 8 if it was the blue or purple), you can pick a different crystal and still power up your weapon while changing the weapon. The same works on the missiles. The "P" item (Full power up) now can be obtained by continuing the game after losing your lives. Speaking of power ups, your ship needs less items to power up, as your level 1 is a "Three way shot" (Level 3 in the previous games), this means you'll need 6 power ups to max your firepower, in my opinion is another point in favor as the player can recover much faster when he/she loses a life.

The bomb format is a step back from Raiden II and DX, as we return to the basic giant explosion. But there's a new improvement: The bomb explosion is activated immediately instead of dropping the bomb and wait until it makes impact on the ground, saving precious time. You could probably think "in Raiden it took a couple of seconds", in Raiden III what you wouldn't have is a few seconds if you're not careful since the enemy attack patterns are more complex, not as DonPachi or Touhou Project levels of complexity, but still you could lose more than 1 life if you don't pay attention to the action. But fortunately there's 1ups throughout your mission which will come in handy the two times that appear, however, to find them you'll require some problem solving, just in case you can't find them i'll tell you where they are. The first one is located in Stage 3, to unlock and pick it you have to destroy all the cargo cranes. The second one is located in stage 6, this time you have to destroy the two spinning cannons on the tower before the boss battle, once you destroy them, the 1up will appear. This puzzle solving thing is an inherited concept based on the secret "Sol" (Radars) from Raiden DX, a simple factor that greatly enhances the gameplay, speaking of Raiden DX, some of the cool features such as the fading medal bonus or the alignment were removed, i guess since Raiden III's action demands more speed than before, those features would be impossible to perform. The medal format from Raiden II / Raiden DX was reduced to the basic medal format of the first Raiden, however if you lose a life the medal count will be reseted (kinda like Raiden Trad on the SNES).

Despite the absent features, there room for three new, interesting features. The first one is the introduction of the Flash Shot, this bonus feature works like this, if you destroy the enemy as soon as it appears you'll get 1.4 or 1.8 times its score value. The maximum bonus of the Flash Shot is of 2.0, twice their value. The second feature is the "Graze" or bullet scratching, a feature originally introduced in the Raiden Fighters series. Everytime your ship scratches a bullet without being destroyed will give you a small amount of points.
The third feature can be found on the PlayStation 2 and PC ports as the "Double Play" mode. In this third mode, a single player can take control of BOTH ships, resulting in a more challenging game, since this requires the double or triple of concentration as the player is required to maneuver two ships while trying to avoid the heavy enemy fire.

Graphically, the game takes a large jump from the classic pixel art to the modern textures and CGI thanks to the new graphic engines used in 2005, resulting in a better and more defined detailing on the ship and enemy designs, the beams got a "flexibility" effect when the ship moves, this can be seen on the blue laser, speaking of the blue laser, it doesnt split in twin or triple lasers like in the first two games, now the beam starts as a thin stream of energy which becomes thicker with each Power Up. The classic slow scrolling background now changes into a fast scrolling, angle tilting background that improves the non-stop action of the gameplay and revitalizing the classic vertical scrolling on this game.

The Sound department makes another change. While Raiden and Raiden II soundtracks were more like "Melodic Rock" based, Raiden III drop that in favor of a more "Dance-Ambient" rhythm, actually, Seibu made that change slowly since Viper Phase-1, consolidating Raiden's musical transition in the Raiden Fighters series, however the rhythm and pace of the music is well applied on each stage. For a little nostalgia, the Game Over theme features the first seconds of the Game Over theme from the first Raiden.

Along with the Double Play feature, there's unlockable contents that enhance the gameplay: Score Attack, Boss Rush and Gallery. "Score Attack" gives you the chance of aiming a high score on a specific stage, while "Boss Rush" is a Boss Fight with all the bosses of the game. "Gallery" features scans of arcade artwork, concept sketches and 3D models of your ship, enemies and bosses. However there's a little problem with this feature that the game designers forgot to revise: All of this can be unlocked even on the lowest level of difficulty. This means you can play on the "No enemy fire" difficulty level and unlock everything. This issue could be solved by giving "requirements" to unlock. Compare that with the Digital Viewer from Thunder Force V Perfect System, where the player has to play on all difficulties to unlock everything.


- This is the first Raiden game developed by MOSS.

- The post credits scene of the ending takes place on the first stage of Raiden.

- First time the Flash Shot and the Double Play were introduced.

- The use of 3D models on galleries was taken from Raiden DX and later used on Raiden IV.

- "Lightning Strikes" (Stage 1 theme) was remixed as part of the soundtrack of Raiden IV OverKill.

- This is the lone main entry in the series where Miclus is not featured.


Spoiler: show
Everyone who saw the ending of Raiden III surely have the following questions "Where did the crashed Raiden come from?, i don't remember it on Raiden" and "I thought there was a human pilot on the ship".

The first question has an answer, and it can be found on the first stage of Raiden, take a look at this pic.


Curiously, in Raiden III, the crashed ship was moved behind the large crashed ship behind the "hatch" where the brown tank appears.

As for the second question, it is quite contradictorious since the artworks from the previous Raiden games showed human pilots on the cockpit, also the plot mentions Raiden was a human creation based on alien technology. Strangely, in Raiden II and Raiden DX's introduction (except for the PS port), the ship emerges from the woods, which could imply (and support) the Fairy transformation from Raiden III, as the Fairy borrows the power of Raiden to fight. Later in Raiden IV, the ship has a visible cockpit interior, but (strangely) there's no human pilot visible, just strange machinery inside. One of the gallery sketches of Raiden III can explain this as it shows the fairy with technological components covering her lower body, implying she's physically fused with the ship on her "Raiden Form". Either that or the canopy is covering a closed cockpit similar to the COFFIN (COnnection for Flight INterface) from Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere.

With new interesting features, Raiden III makes its stand on the pages of the history of shmups in the 21st century.
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