20 months after its initial release, Raiden V is back with a Director’s Cut to mark the 25th anniversary of the franchise. It’s interesting to see how long this series has continued to run for as most – if not all – other franchises have been swept under the rug due to the decline of the retro shooter genre. Now that retro and twin-stick shooters are springing back in full force, it’s great to see such a big name make a return and Raiden V: Director’s Cut returns with style.
From the very beginning, the screen is blazoned in colour, effects and constant motion with no part of the game feeling like it ever stops. The screen is split into segments of thirds, with the middle reserved for your main gameplay and shooting, the right containing the story and interaction between characters, and the left encapsulating tabs of information regarding your weapons status and mission scores.
It all looks incredibly wonderful when starting each mission too, as the camera zooms in on your ship before it then pans out to reveal the level before you. As you progress, a contrast of bright colours fills the screen as you dispose of enemies from both air and ground. The weapons (that you can upgrade) have their own distinctive look and create beautiful looking effects on the screen, while the constant ever streaming of action makes for a relentless experience.
However, all of these effects cause a massive downside to the gameplay. As beautiful and gorgeous as it is to look at, the screen is so busy and the colours are so vibrant that it’s hard to notice enemy projectiles. There were times where I get hit and think “where did that come from?”; it was a bewildering experience and it happened more often than expected. Boss fights are fine as the screen is less crowded, but frequently I found that random hits seemed to be a cornerstone of my experience with Raiden V.
In each mode that Raiden V boasts, you can be aided by a second player to have co-op, which makes the screen fill up even more rapidly but the action is a lot more fun as a result. All the same, because there’s a lot more happening on screen then there’s a higher chance that you will be getting hit by enemy fire without knowing.
Thankfully there are an infinite number of continues, so if you’re hardcore enough you can play through the game on the hardest difficulty setting and make it all the way through to the end. Essentially this does take away a lot of the strategy and just lets you go in all guns blazing, but your score will be wiped, though it’s worth bearing in mind that trying to get through to the end of the game without dying is incredibly tough, even on normal.
Each mission is split up into four routes and, which route you will take is determined by your score and objective completion performance from the previous section. It’s worth noting that that this can change throughout the same mission as there are three sections per mission and if you didn’t complete the game and simply wish to return to the game at a later time, you can continue where you left off by going to the stage select screen.
The story campaign isn’t the only playable option in the game, as Raiden V also offers a Boss Mission mode where you can go up against set challenges to complete bosses in a set time, with the game over screen greeting you should you fail to destroy the bosses in the allotted time.
A very important part of every retro shooter is its soundtrack, and it’s an incredible, thumping soundtrack at that. From the starry, atmospheric of lonely space feel of the menus to the sudden increase of tempo during battle, it’s a wonderful score to hear and a real treat for the ears, but this is also another downside to the game.
Much like the visual effects during gameplay, the bombardment of audio from the story, the soundtrack, and the weapon sounds forms a layer of complete audible flatness, since while the soundtrack is blaring out the speakers, the sounds are incredibly low, and the speech for the story is almost inaudible most of the time. Granted you can change the audio sliders in the menu but it’s still very hard to hear and discern what’s happening during the action.
Trying to concentrate on the speech is hard enough, but when the story is not only written to the right of the screen but also at the top, you think you’ll be able to read what’s happening instead, but with the text being so small, even on a large 4K TV, it’s impossible to take a second to even glance at the text and especially given that the story is ever persistent.
The story isn’t really what these games are about, but rather it’s about the fun that you get from destroying armadas of ships, tanks, and bosses, and Raiden V: Director’s Cut does this in spades; especially with the upgradeable weapons you get and the three types of ships you can choose from.
Speaking of which, the weapons are still pretty much unchanged from the originals back in the 90’s; they simply look much prettier now, with the purple line of weapons being the most fun to use, especially the “Catch Plasma” where the weapon latches onto anything nearby until it has been drained of all health. The blue “Perfect Laser” is also fun to watch, if only just to see a disco ball like aura spinning around its crystal.
If you do become desperate at any point then there is a “cheer mode” meter that gives you a massive boost to help you out in tight situations. This allows you to effectively unleash a heavy stream of firepower, emblazoning the screen with rockets, or a laser sweeping the field to eliminate not only enemies, but also any stray projectiles that might hit you too.
All-in-all Raiden V: Director’s Cut is a fun game that a lot of retro shooter and bullet hell fans will love, but it does nothing for the genre that hasn’t been done before. Instead of taking the genre forward by doing something new and innovative, it instead builds upon its current trends and adds flair and colour instead.