The Raiden series have been one of the shmup genre’s most well-known franchises since the series started over 25 years ago. Admittedly, I’ve never really been that in to that kind of bullet hell experience. I’ve played them occasionally, but Raiden V‘s release on the Xbox One last year was my first real foray into the genre. I guess you could say I got more than my fair share of enjoyment out of Astebreed on PC, though. I enjoyed Raiden V a good deal, so I was definitely interested to check out the recent re-release on PlayStation 4 and PC.
For the most part, Raiden V: Director’s Cut is the same as the original Xbox One release. The graphics seem more or less identical on PS4, and besides for the two small bonus missions added to the game and the new two player local co-op multiplayer, it’s functionally the same as the original Xbox One release. Sure, it’s enough to mean that anyone looking to pick the game up should consider this new release – but if you already own the Xbox One version, I can’t say there’s enough new here to make double-dipping worth it for even the most hardcore of fans (I can’t even say that the western physical release might sway those fans, since although the original release was digital only in the west, there was a physical Xbox One release in Japan!)
Raiden V, much like other games in the series, tasks players with using their supersonic fighter jet to take down enemies, while dodging screen-filling attacks. At the start of a playthrough, players choose a ship (each one has a unique passive shot, such as missile, as well as unique stats), and one of three shots from each category – spread, laser, and homing. Each weapon in these three categories are distinct enough from the rest, to make playthroughs using different combinations of them feel unique. Players also have access to a screen-clearing bomb (with limited charges), another staple of the shmup genre. As far as the basic gameplay, Raiden V seems to be pretty standard as far as shumps go. Not that that’s a bad thing, as the game seems more than competent at what it attempts to do, and both the stages themselves as well as the boss fights felt both fun and fair. Branching paths and different difficulty modes gives players plenty of incentive to replay the game, which is a must for a shmup to feel like a good value.
Players can swap between any of their three weapons at any time, and downed enemies will occasionally drop colored power-ups that can strengthen one of the three weapons in your arsenal. These power-ups change to a different color over time, corresponding to the category of weapon it’ll affect. So, even if an enemy drops a power-up that you don’t want to use, you can always wait until it shifts to the color you want or need. Enemies also drop medals which award players points. If you stop shooting for around a second all the medals on the screen will get sucked up by the ship, though this will make you more vulnerable. On the flip side, maneuvering to try to collect all the medals enemies drop manually is just as dangerous, and they’ll even disappear if you take to long. Either way you’re balancing the risk versus the reward depending on each situation you find yourself in.
By far what seems to be Raiden V‘s biggest change would have to be the “cheer” system. Every time you or someone else playing the game does something noteworthy, a notice is sent out on the side of the screen. It’s easy enough to ignore, but if you press the cheer button you’ll help replenish their “cheer” gauge, which when maxed will allow them to do a super powerful attack for a few seconds. Similarly, other players can cheer you – meaning that it’s in your best interest to keep the cheers going and make sure everyone has a better chance at succeeding. This constant barrage of information helps make the game more hectic, but thankfully it’s easy to drown it out when you need to. It’s trivial to only listen for the telltale jingle that a notice has just popped up and press the cheer button while keeping your eyes on the level in front of you – and you know almost immediately when your own cheer gauge has been filled.
The other major feature that Raiden V boasts is a fully voiced story mode. While I give all props to the team for trying it, I can’t say it makes the game anymore engaging. For one, the voice acting is generally pretty awful. That, and on the default audio mix it’s pretty hard to hear what the characters are saying at times. I was hoping this would be fixed with this re-release, but it definitely feels just as awful as it did on Xbox. A shame, but I doubt a better audio mix would’ve changed much. I still feel like you’d probably get a better experience with the voices muted.
Raiden V feels just as home on PS4 as it did on Xbox, if not even more so. But regardless of where you decide to pick the game up – the aforementioned platforms or PC – you’re sure to get an engaging shmup, with some interesting social gaming quirks. Although I’m relatively fresh to the genre, it’s easy to see that Raiden V checks all the right boxes for what makes a shmup great.
Our Raiden V: Director’s Cut review was conducted on PlayStation 4 with a review code provided by the publisher. The title is also available on PC.
Raiden V is just as good on PlayStation 4, though this rerelease doesn't quite add enough to justify picking the game up a second time.
- Varied Weapons
- Interesting Cheer System
- Great Soundtrack
- Visuals Occasionally Lack Polish