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 Post subject: Raiden V / Raiden V Director's Cut (XB1 / PS4 / PC)
PostPosted: Mon Jun 20, 2016 8:51 am 

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Joined: 11 Oct 2008
Posts: 301
Location: Autobot City, Sugiura Base
"Is that all you got?, I'll take your best shot. I'll take your best shot!, I'LL TAKE YOUR BEST SHOT!!"
- P.O.D. "Boom"

Licensed titles, Hits of the Moment, Arcade Hits, Long-time Classics, Games that came-and-went and Clones, they can try, but Raiden will prevail at the end.

Time has passed by and it has spoken. Just like the "Natural Selection" where only the strongest species survive the pass of time, the same thing happens to shmups.
After all the Gradius, R-Type, Star Force, Darius, Thunder Force, Triggerheart Exelica, Gridseeker, RayStorm, Blazing Star and many others, many many shooting games tried their best shot on this competitive world known as "Shooting" giving all what they've got, some of them have a little success while others failed. But in the end, all of them didn't survived the pass of time, except for one, a lone survivor who managed to reach its way to the next generation consoles: RAIDEN.
As Raiden reached it's 25th Anniversary, MOSS released Raiden V, opening the doors to the future of the shmup genera and a new step towards the legacy of this videogame genre.

The game features two modes: Story Mode and Boss Mission. For some reason there's no 2 Player or Dual Play Modes, which is a step back on gameplay if we compare it with Raiden IV.

So, let's start with the Story Mode. This is the main mode while the Boss Mission is your unlockable bonus mode, i'll talk about this one later. so let's talk about the Story Mode.

To begin with, the game allows you to pick 6 different difficulties to play with. Once you have selected your difficulty, you have a choice of three Fighting Thunders, which cover the basic principle of power-speed-strength on shmups and general gaming. The japanese Fighting Thunder Azuma is the "Average Speed, Power and Armor", the american made Spirit of Dragon is the "Slow, Strong and Powerful" and the french Moulin Rouge takes the "Weak and fast" class.

I like to call this selection "The Basic Trinity" of shmups, just like Silph, Valkyrie and Seylen from Vapor Trail, Phoenix, Rynex-R and Syrinx from Thunder Force VI and Exelica, Crueltear and Faintear from Triggerheart Exelica Enhanced, in Raiden V it's Azuma, Spirit of Dragon and Moulin Rouge. Some Raiden fans will probably complain because the ship variety is less than the Raiden Fighters series, but remember, Raiden was always a franchise that relies on the basic elements of shooting not on fanciness or varieties.

Unlike the previous Raiden games where you can decide if you want normal Missiles or Homing Missiles during gameplay, each ship has its own sub-weapon. Azuma keeps the Sub-Homing Missiles, the basic Missile now belongs to the Spirit of Dragon named "Awl Missile", and the Moulin Rouge has a new sub weapon called Chase Laser.
Once you select your ship, it's time to build up your three weapon combination from 9 selectable options (3 Vulcans, 3 Lasers and 3 Plasma types), you can create a total of 27 weapon combinations, but before picking a weapon you've must know how they work.

There's three types of Vulcan weapons in the game. (NOTE FOR BEGINNERS: Vulcan is powered up by picking a Red Crystal)
V-001 SPREAD VULCAN: The basic spread shot from the Raiden series. A curtain of twin bullets fired at angles (Example: "\\ || //"), each individual bullet is weak but its strength and rapid fire increases with each Power Up item picked. Like in Raiden III, Level 1 starts with a 3 way shot, giving the player some chance to take a little more enemies as the guns are powered up.

V-002 SWING VULCAN: Similar to the Spread Vulcan, but it comes with a new twist: The bullets "angles" towards the side the ship is moving, covering a better range and allowing the player to take down enemies much easier, also it's bullets are faster and here's the catch; they're stronger than the Spread Vulcan.

V-003 MOVING VULCAN: This is a new weapon. It fires either focused or scattered shots in any direction, even negative angles, pretty much like the Round Vulcan from Axelay, However you have a frontal shot to get rid of the enemies in front of you while the side shots do the rest.

Laser weaponry was also improved with two new Laser Types (Blue Crystals)
L-001 LIGHTNING LASER: Your basic, yet powerful Laser shot. It's only problem is that the Laser isn't great for wide attacks.

L-002 CHARGE LASER: This laser is similar to the Lightning Laser, it's main feature is that the beam can be charged into a wider beam which helps a little bit on the traditional Laser weakness of being unable to hit non-front positioned enemies. It's only problem is that you have to wait without firing to charge the weapon, which results in runaway enemies.

L-003 REFLECT LASER: This new weapon fires a reflective crystal that splits the beam fired by the ship in multiple spinning rays. On it's first power levels the beam splits in three laser streams, as its powered up, they became four and finally five beams dealing 360┬░ of damages.

Plasma gets a line-up to help the player on his/her mission (Purple Crystals)
P-001 BEND PLASMA: Anyone who player Raiden II/Raiden DX and Raiden IV will be familiarized with this weapon. A flexible purple laser that bends as it locks on multiple enemies. Like in Raiden IV, the Bend Plasma is fired without being charged like in Raiden II. It's a good weapon for those who want to aim their targets and still be able to evade enemy bullets and beams.

P-002 CATCH PLASMA: The "Trap Beam", this is a new form of Plasma that shoots what it seems to be a short ranged beam, but it's just an illusion, once an enemy appears, the beam will extend, catching the enemy until its destroyed. As the beam powers up, the catch plasma shots will fire from 1 to a max of 5 beams waiting for their prey.

P-003 HOMING PLASMA: This new weapon combines the Plasma laser weaponry with the homing capabilites of a Homing Missile, very reminiscent of the Lock-On lasers of RayStorm, minus the sight for lock on target.

The main feature of Raiden V isn't just the new weapons or the ship selection. It's the Cheer System. This new interface takes the player's data on the XBOX Live network with other Raiden V players around the world who are playing at the same moment as you. The Cheer System works like this:

1: Users SturmvogelPrime, GuiltySpark343, HomerD_oh, Exelica2006 and Diol_Twee are playing the game on different stages.
2: GuiltySpark343 gets a "Flash Shot Rank Max" message on his screen.
3: SturmvogelPrime, HomerD_oh, Exelica2006 and Diol_Twee get a message on the upper left part of the screen while GuiltySpark343 is playing the game.
4: SturmvogelPrime, Exelica2006 and Diol_Twee press the "Cheer button" (Y button) on their controllers.
5: GuiltySpark343 gets 3 "Stage Yells".
6: Sturmvogel Prime and Exelica2006 and Diol_Twee's Cheer Call Gauges increase because they supported GuiltySpark343.
7: GuiltySpark343 also gets an increase on his Cheer Gauge because of the support given by the users.

What does the Cheer Gauge does?, once it's full or at least 1/3 of it, you can unleash a special attack, however the special attack is determinated by the user who supported you the most, Here's another example:

1: User SturmvogelPrime is playing with the Azuma.
2: User HomerD_oh is your major Cheer supporter (example 50 Yells) and he's using the Spirit of Dragon ship.
3: SturmvogelPrime's Cheer attack will be an unleashed array of Awl Missiles like if he had the Spirit of Dragon selected.

In resume, users now became a co-operative power source as they help each other with their support.

For the first time in the Raiden series, you have a Shield gauge, yes, a life bar. So you can take multiple hits before you die. However there's one small flaw. You only have one life, if your shield goes down you'll be on the Continue screen. It's pretty much the same as Jaleco's Earth Defense Force/Super E.D.F., fortunately the game has unlimited continues. Also, you can keep your power levels and Cheer Gauge if you continue.

Also, this game is the first one in the series to include a Story Mode, and its execution is well made. Remember how annoying were the Story Modes of Triggerheart Exelica Enhanced and Strike Witches: Hakugin no Tsubasa where the gameplay was constantly interrupted because someone has to talk?, in Raiden V everyone is constantly talking but without interrupting your gameplay, so it's a big step in the correct direction just like Otomedius Excellent and Silpheed: The Lost Planet.

The ending of the game varies on your performance. Unlike Triggerheart Exelica where dying and continuing means getting the Bad Ending, in Raiden V the ending route changes depending on how much enemies you killed off (think of a destruction rate), let many enemies escape and you'll change the route in your next stage (Example: Low kill rate in Stage 1A leads to Stage 2B. High rate in 1A and 2A unlocks Stage 3S), so, reaching the ending routes are no longer a science project like in Raiden Fighters Jet, but there's one more thing that you've MUST KNOW: In the S-Route if you want to face the real final boss you need one final requirement: Have all 3 weapons in level 10. My strategy to reach the S-Route and the true final boss is picking the Swing Vulcan, either Lightning or Charge Laser and the Bend Plasma. Stages 1 and 2 will be focused on powering up the Vulcan, while the rest of the game will be switching from Laser to Plasma until they're maxed up, then switch back to Vulcan and never change the weapons for the rest of the game.

With this new gameplay mechanics known, the rest of the game is the classic and traditional vertical non-stop shooting action that made the Raiden series the classics they are. In this game Stages are now divided on scenes kinda like in Alien Soldier, giving the impression of being a larger game. A new element of gameplay introduced is that the camera zooms out so the game can throw more enemies and give the player a bigger movement range, just like Warashi did on Shienryu in the final boss battle.

Like in Raiden IV, the Power-Up item has a "timer" before changing its color, if you're not pressing the A button, the timer will not spin, freezing in a specific color. The medals dropped by airborn enemies will be automatically absorbed by the player when you're not shooting. The Flash shot is back and better since it has its own gauge to fill 5 times for a total of 5 ranks, although the closer to the upper part of the screen remains, it also seems to work as a multiplier. The Miclus is much easier to find than in Raiden IV, The SOL Towers from Raiden DX/Raiden IV are back for the high scoring enthusiasts and to give cheer points to other players. The Fairy also returns, but unlike the previous games where she was a Power Up dropping item, her role was changed. Once you pick her, it will give you bonus points and the "Fairy Get!" message for the Cheer System. But if you get damaged and your Shields are below 50% the Fairy will appear and if you pick her you'll recover some energy.

If you quit the game (Pause, then select Quit Game) you can have the option of continuing later by selecting "Continue" on the Main Menu.

The plot of the game was also well executed mix of situations instead of your typical "Aliens on Earth, destroy them all!", we have (along with the alien Crystal invasion) a mysterious organization called SHIFT trying to use the Crystals for science purposes, and Valbarossa Hawkeye, a pirate who wants them to sell them for a big price. All of this resulting in a deep, intriguing and interesting story for a shmup.

Now let's talk about the graphics. Starting off with the animated opening, which combines the best of a nowadays dogfight anime with great illustrations. The mechanical design once again pushes the details to a major level, just like Raiden IV did on the XBOX 360, but this time they decided to increase the detail not just on the ship and backgrounds. Remember those wallpapers on the sides of the screen?, this time they turned the "Extra space" of the screen into an interactive monitor where you can check your in-game performance, read hints and your gameplay status on your gaming session of the day. Instead of your typical wallpaper thing, they decided to bring something new and more functional to the player in the form of an interface. You can also see the communications officer and your captain, below them there's a dialogue box of what they said during the level and on the bottom right there's a radar indication the postion of both you and your enemies.

A new feature introduced in the series is the character design. Yes, there's now human characters in the series which give more "identity" to the game, well except for the pilot who is supposed to be you. The character designer was no other than Kotobuki Tsukasa, known for the 90's anime Saber Marionette J and the fighting game Battle Arena Tohshinden, but unlike his memorable designs, the artist decided to take a different turn drawing a more detail and somewhat realistic style kinda like in Slam Dunk and Ghost in the Shell.

While the immense amount of detail on the ship design, the zoom-in-zoom-outs of the camera and the return of Kotobuki Tsukasa are memorable for Raiden and shmup fans, there's one thing asking to be criticized: The Story Mode cutscenes. They're simply unacceptable for XBOX One standards, just take a look.


Remember how much i criticized the Story Mode of Triggerheart Exelica Enhanced?, as you can see and believe it or not, Raiden V's cutscenes are EVEN WORSE. I hate to criticize something about a classic game such as Raiden, but a simple "Narrated text" prologue (and ending) on a new generation console such as the XBOX One is simply an insult. Let's take this "premise" to other game genres. Imagine that you're a Halo fan and then 343 Industries tell their beloved fans that Halo 6 will feature cutscenes of this quality, they'll told them of what they're gonna die. Compare Raiden V cutscenes with the Story Mode of Strike Witches: Hakugin no Tsubasa, although that game used still-crossfading background and pose-changing character graphics, it looks more advanced than Raiden V. I'm sorry eh, sorry everyone if i have to give you this bad news. But think about it, we are no longer on the Nintendo Entertainment System or the Sega Genesis where 8-bit / 16-bit limitations resulted in simple cutscenes. If you're gonna pay $60 for an XBOX One shooter you expect good quality on all departments, not just gameplay. After all, well made cutscenes are also a crucial part on the investment, so i hope MOSS can fix that with an update and give us the animated cutscenes that we deserve.

The music in this game takes a new twist. With Go Sato gone for whatever reasons, a new composer enters the scene; Yoshimi Kudo, who was known in the shmup scene as the composer for Cave's Deathsmiles II and MOSS' Caladrius, and the RPG Muramasa: The Demon Blade, were he worked with Hitoshi Sakimoto (Gradius V). Unlike Go Sato's electronic paces, Kudo used a different musical style for Raiden V, aiming towards ambient, hard rock and epic orchestration combining piano keyboards with guitar riffs and choruses. Unlike most of the guitar riffs of shmups that aims to the common U.N. Squadron and Thunder Force hard rocking pace, in Raiden V are more reminiscent of Vapor Trail and with a slight reminiscence of Ayane's song "Gravity Error" giving a more anime atmosphere, the piano keyboards are very similar to those of Harumi Fujita's works (Blazing Star to be exact), and if all this greatness wasn't enough, the orchestration sounds heavily influenced by RPG masterpieces such as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Xenosaga and the Final Fantasy series. In a nutshell we have a mix-up of memorable genres that come together to create a new, original atmosphere to the game and a breath of fresh air for those who want something different from the music of Raiden III and Raiden IV.

One of the problems with the very first release of the game (both physical and digital in Japan, and digital on Europe and America) was the lack of spokean dialogues, MOSS fixed that with a downloadable update that give the game more life and action, and not to mention it's the first time in the series where the game has spoken dialogues.

On to the Bonus features of Raiden V, the Boss Mission consists of 65 challenges splitted in 5 "Ranks", where Time Attack is combined with predeterminated conditions such as play only with the Azuma and/or starting with less energy than normal.

There's no DLC unlike Raiden IV, although i criticized this on my reviews of Raiden IV and Otomedius Excellent, this time i missed them a little bit, since the built in unlockables are way too easy to unlock, clear the game in any route and any difficulty to unlock the gallery and the Boss Mission. Although i hate the DLC "Buy to complete the game" thing, i think MOSS and Seibu Kaihatsu missed a big chance in this department, if they included DLC like the original Raiden and Raiden II/Raiden DX arcade games and/or additional ships like Miclus, the Fairy and the Raiden Mk-II ship, i'd bought them without complaining.

While the gameplay retain its basic concepts of shooting, it still did what its necessary to withstand the pass of time. ┬┐Will MOSS bring Raiden VI sometime later?, only time will tell.

UPDATE!: UFO Interactive and MOSS announced that Raiden V will be released on the PlayStation 4 and the PC, but not the standard game, it's gonna be a "Director's Cut" edition. Yeah, Raiden V Director's Cut. You'll ask me "What's so different from the XBOX One port?", well, the game will finally include a local Multiplayer mode, just like the other Raiden games, and both players can use the Cheer Attack. however the game lacks of the Dual Play (1P controls both ships), which some gamers will miss and others don't. As a final bonus the game will a Soundtrack CD, but that will be an exclusive for the PlayStation 4 port. Seems like the PlayStation consoles always get the best ports: RayStorm (Tanz Mix), Thunder Force V Perfect System, Triggerheart Exelica Enhanced and now Raiden V (you can call the PS4 port as Raiden V Enhanced).

UPDATE - September 18th, 2020: Now that I've got the PS4 "Director's Cut" I've noticed the inclusion of two bonus stages that bring medal picking fun. The objective is to get the highest amount of medals possible without getting hit or at least don't get too much hits 'cos you'll lose some of the medals you've got. The inclusion of the local co-op two player action is well received as it brings back the traditional simultaneous play of the series.

Final question: Is Raiden V worthy of my XBOX One, PlayStation 4 and PC collections?, my answer is Absolutely, The game is an absolute "Must Have" for shmuppers and Raiden fans alike.
If you're looking to assemble a line up of shmups in your PS4, this is a must pick (even if you had the original Raiden V on the XB1 just like I did.)
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