The classic shmup series delivers again
Back when the Xbox 360 was getting shoot-'em-up releases left and right, hardcore fans of the genre sprung at the chance to pick up Raiden IV for a whopping $40 price tag. The expensive nature of the game ensured that only the most dedicated of fans would pick it up, and as a result a lot of people missed out.
But that all changed this year when UFO Interactive decided to publish Raiden IV: OverKill -- an enhanced version of the game that comes in at a much easier to swallow price: $20. Like I always say -- shmups will never die.
Raiden IV: OverKill (PS3)
One of the key ingredients behind the successful nature of the Raiden series is simplicity. All you need to know starting off are two concepts -- shooting and bombing -- that's it. One button fires your weapon, and the other enacts a powerful screen-filling explosive. It's genre-standard stuff for sure, but things do get a little more complex.
For starters, power-ups are designed around branching paths and differing levels of utility and style -- kind of like the Contra series. Each weapon type (lasers, spread shots, and so on) can be morphed into its own variant depending on what power-up gems you pick up in order, which are all color-coded so that you can dodge or dive in and out of grabbing them.
Raiden is not a bullet hell shooter, but there are patterns to learn and things can get hectic. Thankfully, the simple nature of the shot system can be really easy to pick up at first, and there are plenty of difficulty settings to tweak until you can find the style that suits you the most. Whether you've never played a shmup before (one setting allows you to destroy enemy bullets with your own) or play them every day, you'll be able to manage just fine.
It doesn't look amazing by any means visually, though -- even if you're just comparing it to other shooters. It lacks that hand-drawn feel that really makes games like Neo XYX stand out, and often times the levels and enemies can blend together. While the patterns and bosses may change, the fact remains that it's a bit dated on arrival, even with the reworking of the Overkill package. The old-school rockin' soundtrack is timeless, however.
So what's in OverKill? A lot actually -- well, a lot of things that are basically variations of the core game. OverKill mode itself is a new feature that allows you to keep shooting the broken shells of enemies after they're dead for more points. The more damage you do, the more points you get. It's a simple way to entice veterans to replay the entire game over again in a new light, but I'm not sure casual fans will really care. There are two new stages though, which will appeal to everyone -- all in all the game will take around 45 minutes to complete.
Outside of that things get very familiar. There's a score attack mode, leaderboards, multiplayer, the ability to change your resolution and display mode (so you can rotate a monitor vertically), and replay data. My personal favorite is "Double Mode," which lets you control both multiplayer ships with one controller (both analogs and the shoulder buttons for separate shots). It's a cool way to play even on lower difficulties, and I loved trying to master it for hours on end.
Raiden IV: OverKill could have used a few more extras, but the fact that you can get it cheaper than the Xbox 360 version when it launched (it's $20 now digitally as well) is a compelling reason for genre fans to pick this one up. While the Raiden series in general isn't my favorite collective of shmups, it's been a steady staple for over two decades for a reason.
THE VERDICT - Raiden: Overkill
Reviewed by Chris Carter