For all the woe-betiding about the death of niche games in favor of awful moneygrubbing lootboxing AAA games, we sure do see a lot of niche games show up on a regular basis. Shoot-’em-ups, for instance, are alive and well even today. Raiden V, originally released on the Xbox One of all platforms, is a great example of the genre and a worthy successor to that vaunted series’ name, and now we’ve got Raiden V: Director’s Cut on the PS4 and Steam so pretty much everyone can give it a shot.
Raiden V is the latest in the long-running series of otome games about a ship and her scandalous affair with a laser made of toothpaste…wait, no, sorry, they’re actually a series of shoot-’em-ups featuring a ship armed with a laser made of toothpaste. Same thing, really. V has our heroic aircraft battling an alien force in the usual fashion, though it makes several interesting gameplay and presentation changes that set it apart from the rest of the series.
First, your offensive options: there are several ships and multiple weapons to choose from, but we’re mostly interested in that laser. It curls around the screen in an orgasmic display of purple destruction, following your ship and twisting around to acquire new targets. It’s absolutely lovely. Sure, you can choose from several different and varied options like a set of plasma orbs that stick to enemies or, god forbid, a bullet-based spread weapon, but that’s not why you’re playing Raiden, even if you can swap weapons on the fly. When you play Raiden, you want toothpaste. Four out of five dentists recommend it.
As for defense, Raiden V goes in a slightly different direction by offering a shield meter rather than the traditional one-shot-one-kill system seen in most shooters. In practice this doesn’t change much; shield charge essentially takes the place of lives, meaning that once you run out you’re equally dead. Other arcade-style shooters have done this before, so it’s not especially new; Cave fans might recall that beloved developer’s games using this system at times, for instance. Also returning is the classic Raiden medal-based scoring system where you’re encouraged to go ham on medal-grabbing to keep your score high.
The most visible change to the formula is the Cheer system, a bizarre pseudo-multiplayer concept that encourages players to work together in a sense. When you do something cool, like defeating a certain number of enemies, a “Cheer” icon will pop up commemorating your achievement…and it’ll also pop up for other players, who can push a button to offer you a little super energy boost. You can do the same for them; so far as I can tell it costs you nothing but a little attention, so you might as well. This doesn’t redefine the game or anything, but I can’t say I’ve seen anything quite like it outside of the tangentially-related comment rating system in the Souls games. One also wonders what will happen to this system when Raiden V’s player count drops a bit.
Oh dear, I just compared a game to Dark Souls. Soon I’ll be unable to finish the tutorial in Cuphead. It’s time to hand in my games writer license.
Anyway, this is a solid shooter with a solid presentation that generally looks and sounds great. Raiden V does go with a fully voice-acted story mode, which can prove to be distracting when you’re desperately trying to focus on avoiding bullets; in gameplay terms that’s a negative, but in hilarity terms it’s undeniably positive because the voice acting is some of the hammiest you’ll hear outside of the Earth Defense Force games. It’s legendary. You’ve got local coop in this version, a feature that wasn’t present in the original release, so if you’ve got a friend who’s into this sort of thing then rejoice.
Raiden V isn’t necessarily a new game, but it was originally at home on the Xbox One, which doesn’t strike me as the go-to console for this sort of niche title. The much greater availability offered by Raiden V: Director’s Cut means that more people will be able to check the game out. Along with it being a great shooter, this also means more fodder for the Cheer System, so everyone wins.