Thanks to UFO Interactive Software for the review code
Title: RAIDEN V: Director’s Cut
System: Playstation 4
Release Date: 10/10/2017
The plot to Raiden V is completely nonsensical. By default, if you don’t change any of the audio settings in the options menu, you won’t be able to hear any of the dialogue at all, since most of it will be drowned out by the action. There’s still subtitles though, and from what I was able to gather as I occasionally glanced at them during the game, you’re part of an organization that has discovered a strange group of crystal-obsessed fighters who are attacking bases on earth, and RAIDEN is set to move out and destroy them while also investigating their origin! Pretty strange, and honestly not worth paying attention to.
Compared to the previous installment, (Raiden IV Overkill for the PS3) Raiden V doesn’t really have much when it comes to visual improvements. In fact, a lot of the game looks worse than it did before, mainly due to the fact that the left and right sides of the screen are cluttered with UI elements in order to keep the vertical resolution as close to the original arcade game as possible. It’s faithful in that regard without the need of a vertical monitor, but I found it to be a bit too faithful, especially since it can be very easy to get distracted by all the notifications on the sides of the screen.
Combine this with the fact that the right side of the screen is cluttered with story elements, and you have a situation where the actual game only takes up a tiny portion of the screen. Sure, you can also see your weapon levels on the sides of the screen, (that part of the UI does help you know what to upgrade next) and it’s still easy to tell where your ship is, but I still wish there was an option to remove the cluttered UI entirely, and replace it with something akin to an arcade banner, like in Raiden IV.
The audio problem with the whole “default settings make the story dialogue impossible to hear” has already been touched on, but when it comes to the music Raiden V also lacks in that department as well, with most of the tracks coming off as generic synth tunes that don’t have anything memorable about them at all, which is rather depressing since first-print runs of the game came with the OST, yet there’s barely anything worth listening to.
Similar to Raiden IV, the main goal of the game is to use one of several different weapons, (A red spread shot, a blue laser or a purple plasma beam) each with different varieties along with choosing from one of the multiple ships to destroy the enemy forces and waves of bullets as you make it to the end of each stage while dying as little as possible. Unlike prior installments however, Raiden V allows you to take multiple hits before dying, making your one life the only thing stopping you from getting a game over. While it’s barely different from a traditional, three life system, I found this made the normal difficulty option of the game a lot easier than in the previous game. Sure, infinite continues is nothing new, but even without continuing I found that compared to the prior game on the same difficulty level, Raiden V was much more tame until the final boss, when the difficulty spiked up to ludicrous amounts due to bullet spam and really stupid enemy placement.
Odd difficulty issue aside, you still have plenty of options to make the game easier and harder if you so choose, so rest assured there is still a harder difficulty mode available for purists worried that the entire experience is a cakewalk, as it certainly isn’t, especially if you aim after all the trophies, since some of them require that you find alternate routes the game will only give you if you play flawlessly. There’s also a Boss Rush mode to tinker around with, but outside of that the main game is rather short if you’re only going for one playthrough and not interested in any of the other routes, though even non-completionists should at least give it a second attempt due to the returning local co-op, which leads to a fun way to spend an afternoon with a friend.
With all that out of the way, there is one major new addition that Raiden V adds to try and shake things up with, and it’s a feature known as the Cheer System. Upon hitting a certain button at random times during the levels (supposedly depending on the state of the online leaderboard and if you’re near-death, but for me it just seemed to be whenever a certain amount of time has passed), you will be granted a brief, random powerup to aid your ship for a short period of time, while all on-screen bullets will be cancelled as if you used one of your screen-clearing bombs.
In conclusion, RAIDEN V is an OK sequel to the PS3 hidden gem, although it doesn’t do too much to blow you away. Elements of the original arcade version have been reproduced faithfully, a bit too faithfully considering all the clutter on the sides of the screen, but if you can get past that, the completely insane story and the genericness of the level design, then you have an average vertical shooter with plenty of alternate routes, trophies and secrets to unlock, but with nothing that makes it stand out from other games in the genre besides the confusing Cheer System, which is really sad considering how this franchise brought out legendary games such as Raiden Fighters 2 JET. I give RAIDEN V: Director’s Cut a 6 out of 10.