Thursday
Dec092010

Quarter Circle Forward: Raiden Fighters Aces

There's always that one single title that truly defines a gemers love for a particular type of game. When it came to RPGs, the one that hooked me was Final Fantasy Legend II for the original Game Boy, spurring an intense love for the genre. RPGs were my bread and butter which sustained me almost entirely on their own, until that fateful day in 1998. I made my way to the absolutely massive arcade in Les Galleries de la Capitale, located in downtown Quebec City and it was there that I discovered the game that would make me question my RPG loyalty, and entrance me with a whole new genre: The 'Shmup. And that game was Raiden Fighters.

Three generations have passed since then, each with the hopes that there'd eventually be a home release. Finally, after 10 years, hope: a lone trailer on Xbox Live in 2008 for Raiden Fighters Aces, a compilation containing Raiden Fighters, its 1997 sequel Raiden fighters 2: Operation Helldive, and the 1998 follow-up, Raiden Fighters Jet. Then... Nothing. No announcements, no advertisements, no mention of the game at all, outside of a Japanese release. In North America, the 'shmup used to be all but dead, and the prospects of new Japanese arcade 'shmup releases were bleak at the very best of times. Eventually, Raiden Fighters Aces became forgotten, and the months turned into years.

 

All of a sudden, whilst looking for a review of a completely different game at random one day with Raiden Fighters being the very last thing on my mind, I stumbled upon a review for Raiden Fighters Aces and balked. Loudly. There was nothing to indicate its release at all, and I was fast to secure the last copy at my local retailer. Not only is it worth more than its weight in gold, it was also a steal at just 20 bones. Considering it was a full-priced retail release for a Yen-cost-equivalent to a whopping $70.00 in Japan, we're really getting quite the bargain.

 

All three games are vertical-scrolling shoot 'em ups that fall somewhere between standard and bullet hell in terms of enemy fire and patterns. With each, you have the choice to select from a multitude of creatively designed aircraft, each with unique weapons and attributes such as speed and firepower. You'll find yourself up against your typical assortment of enemies such as tanks and planes with larger variants requiring more effort to destroy. Of course, at the end lies the main objective, a massive oversized boss machine that will fire all kinds of death at you while you try to take it down. In addition to the actual games main arcade mode, additional boss rush and expert modes are available, which keep the good times rolling.

 

To aid you in your endeavors, you can pick up L or M icons which give you your choice of missile or laser power ups to increase your default firepower. Certain planes will force you to choose between one or the other with more powerful or wider-shooting default guns while others will allow you to have both at once with less guns. Finding the one that's just right for you can be a challenge, but once you do, you'll be laying waste to your enemies in no time at all. But lasers and missiles are just one way to jack up the pain; you also have massive bomb attacks that can vary depending on your plane, and Slave Fighters, which will flank and assist you an varying ways. With Slave Fighters, you can only have two with you at a time, but if you continue to collect Slave Fighter tokens throughout the game, they will change formation and will eventually seek out and attack your foes at point blank range.

 

When it comes down to difficulty, Raiden Fighters Aces is pretty hard. You can scale down the difficulty, but of course, some of the challenges (read: achievements) can only be done on normal difficulty or higher. Adding to the difficulty is the lack of any sort of extend score. This means that when you start any of the three games here, it's win or bust: you'll be left only with three lives and however many credits you start out with (default 3). The scoring is pretty straight forward; with the medals you collect increasing in value as you consecutively collect more and more of them. In addition, you will obtain a bonus score in conjunction to how many you have collected in total. Then there's Raiden Fighters Jet with it's unique “medal collection” mechanic. There will be certain medals that sweep up and absorb smaller medals on the field; this “sweeper medal” will increase in size and value as it collects more smaller stray medals, allowing for a massive score if you can grow it enough. You can also gain secret scores in all of the games by meeting certain conditions. More often than not, a fairy will appear, distributing bombs and allowing for a 100,000-point bonus if it is actually collected. They are susceptible to your gunfire though, so watch where you shoot!

As far as presentation goes, it can be hit and miss, depending on your tastes. There's an overall heavy techno groove going on here, and while I'm all for it, many others might not share my enthusiasm. The sound effects are pretty slick, and the sprites and 2D elements here are really smooth and well-defined. The special effects like the lasers on the Raiden Mk.2, for example, are jaw-droppingly awesome, often looping and snaking all over the screen with satisfying destructive force. Everything is well animated as well, making it quite pleasing to look at compared to most 'shmups from their time. Finally, there's the text bits. Riddled with terrible English, this can be a plus or a minus, depending who you are. In my case, I'm the kind of person that loves this kind of thing, but again, many probably don't share that taste.

-Ser

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Reader Comments (1)

Great review. I'm terrible at 'Shmups yet I enjoy them (See my Galaga Legion scores). Your review really made me want to play Raiden Fighter Aces. Great show w/Sega-Addicts BTW. I truly enjoyed that.

December 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbluemanrule

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