The Raiden series has been a shoot-em-up mainstay ever since the original game hit Japanese arcades in 1990. Since then the series has seen a number of sequels, spin-offs, and subseries. The most recent entry, Raiden V, released for Xbox One in 2016, and now a year later it has made its way to PS4 with bonus features.
Since the series has been around for nearly three decades, the gameplay found within Raiden V: Director’s Cut is a very traditional vertical shoot-em-up. Players have full control of a ship (it’s not locked to a 2D plane), and they’ll be holding down the fire button at all times in order to blast the quickly appearing enemies into particle matter. While most of the gameplay boils down to how well a player can dodge the onslaught of bullets on-screen, there are a few systems to worry about while playing.
Before the player jumps into Raiden V‘s story mode, they have to choose which ship and weapons they’ll use. These are important decisions, as the three ships available all control quite differently from one another. They all have varying speeds, attack strength, armor and an automatic sub-weapon, so players will have to choose whichever one fits their play style (I’ve never been the best at dodging a spray of bullets, so I chose the fastest ship to get away from the action if it got too busy).
Picking the weapon layout is just as important, as there are a total of nine different weapons to pick from in three different categories. Players pick one of each category, and weapon change opportunities will occur during action. These are key moments as players can either choose to upgrade their current weapon, or switch to another one of the types if they don’t dig their current setup. This adds a nice sense of progression to the story mode, as the player’s ship becomes way more dangerous by the final stages.
The story mode is comprised of a bunch of branching paths, and there’s a ton of voiced dialogue and text that accompanies the stages. Sadly, I don’t remember a single thing about the narrative. It turns out that it’s really difficult to pay attention to talking heads while focusing on the intense action. It works in a game like Star Fox since it consists largely of one-liners and simple story beats, but there’s way too much going on to take in while your brain is already occupied with the core gameplay. As such, I found it difficult to figure out why I ended up in one stage or the other (I assume it has something to do with score). There’s a helpful stage select that makes it so players won’t have to replay all the stages, but it’s still more difficult than it should be to figure out how to see all of the endings.
Other than the story mode players will find themselves playing Raiden V‘s Boss Mission mode. There’s over 60 different missions here, all that revolves around taking on the game’s different bosses under certain conditions (for example, your health might be halved). These fights are definitely the highlight of the story, so it’s great that they can be enjoyed at any opportunity.
One of the new features included in the Director’s Cut is the ability to play through Raiden V with a friend. Cooperative play works exactly as advertised, although it is relegated to local play. It’s definitely fun blasting through the waves of enemies with a pal, but the screen, which is already busy in solo, gets even more crazy when two people are firing away. Ultimately, I preferred playing by myself, but it’s great to have the option there nonetheless.
Players will also get access to a pretty sweet gallery while playing through the game. It features 50 different pages of concept art, and it’s not exactly hard to unlock it all (I got the complete set, and I didn’t manage to find all of the endings). I always love to look at the different iterations that ship and boss designs go through, so this was a real treat for me.
Raiden V doesn’t feature any crazy features or design choices that turn the shoot ’em up genre on its head, but it doesn’t need to. Instead, it offers up an extremely polished shooter that sticks to the basics, while also having plenty of customizability due to a robust weapon system. There’s enough missions and story branches to keep players busy for quite some time, and it’s a great addition to any SHMUP fan’s library.
Raiden V PS4 review code provided by publisher. Reviewed Version 1.02 on PlayStation 4 Pro. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.