STAFF REVIEW of Raiden V (Xbox One)

Friday, June 3, 2016.
by Adam Dileva

Raiden V Box art Most normal people calculate their age by using their birth year, or by how many candles are on their birthday cake. I however, in true geek fashion, tend to use gaming anniversaries to see how much time has passed since I grew up playing video or board games. Case in point, the classic vertical arcade shooter Raiden is celebrating its 25th anniversary, making me 10 when it was released and finding a way into my young adolescent gaming heart.

While Raiden was not my first shmup (shoot ‘em up), as I think that award goes to 1942 on the original NES, it has always been one of my favorites over the years, mostly because of its iconic purple waving plasma gun that the series is well known for. Originally developed by Seibu Kaihatsu, a Japanese gaming studio, Raiden brought them success, but only for so long. Eventually the company went under, but many of the developers formed a new company, MOSS, whom to this day still work on Raiden titles, much like this Xbox One exclusive, Raiden V.

When translated, Raiden actually means “Thunder and Lightning”, which seems appropriate given some of the arsenal at your ship’s disposal. Normally shmups are known for one single thing: throwing tons of bullets at you along with tons of enemies and seemingly unfair bosses that feel like they were designed to munch down your pocket full of quarters. These days there aren’t nearly as many shmups as their used to be, and even less that still feel like the classics. Raiden V is a return of the classic genre, almost to a fault.

The genre is known for its gameplay and difficulty more than anything else, but given the age of gaming we’re in today, that simply isn’t enough to hold the attention of gamers, especially if you’re charging near retail price for a classic style game (Raiden V is $49.99 CAD on the Xbox Marketplace at the time of writing). MOSS has attempted to tell an intriguing story as well as bring a solid gaming experience for fans of the genre, but the execution doesn’t actually allow you to enjoy it. Let me explain.

In most games you complete a level and then you are treated to a cutscene of some sort that progresses the story and moves along the narrative. In regards to Raiden V, it has a storyline and plot, but it’s only told via character dialogue which takes place during gameplay. That’s right, when you’re solely focused on avoiding bullets and staying alive you’re also expected to follow the spoken dialogue so that you can get an idea of the overarching plot line.

As you can imagine, this simply doesn’t work at all. I’ve completed the game numerous times and I’m still fuzzy on some the narrative's details. I appreciate that MOSS has attempted to add some meaningful storyline to the genre and series, but the execution simply doesn’t work. Granted, story isn’t usually a reason you play a shmup anyways, but I digress.

Given that Raiden V is a vertical shooter and not a traditional side-scroller, you’ll notice that the actual play field is nowhere near as wide as your TV screen. The sides of the screen are used for tips, dialogue text, statistics, and more. Again, you won't actually be able to pay attention to these kind of things during the frantic gameplay. It takes some getting used to given you actually only play on about a third of your screen, but it becomes less distracting the more you play.

For those unfamiliar with bullet-hell games, your main priority is to stay alive by dodging the huge number of bullets on screen while shooting at enemies who want to destroy you. The genre is known for its brutal difficulty and the high skill needed to be successful. Normally one hit and you explode and lose a life, but new to the series is the inclusion of a health bar system; something quite uncommon in games like this.

You choose one of three ships, of which each one has their own strengths and weaknesses. One is very slow but can take more hits (damage), one is quicker but has less health, and the third is average across the board. There are achievements for beating Raiden V with all three, and given the short start-to-finish time, you’ll want to do this.

After choosing your ship you are provided with numerous options for your weaponry, again, not the norm for the genre. Normally you only start with a a basic shot and you have to collect floating power-ups to upgrade, but Raiden V lets you start with a weapon type of your choice, which include three different types including Vulkan, Laser, and Plasma. Within these three initial weapons are three variants. You pick one of each from the three main categories and then choose which individual one of each you’d like to use during that particular gameplay session. The weapons can be upgraded from level 1 to level 10 separately and they are swappable when you collect the matching colored power-up, all which can drastically change the outcome of the battle given your play style and skill.

As I mentioned, I’ve always been partial to the classic Raiden purple plasma beam that bends and locks onto enemies, but other classics like the blue laser beam return as well. While you are able to change weapons when you find the power-ups during gameplay, they aren’t very frequent so the best bet is to simply stick with one weapon and keep upgrading it rather than trying to have numerous lower-level weapons.

One very cool innovation from MOSS worth mentioning is its unique, yet odd, Cheer system. This took me a few playthroughs to figure out, as it’s not explained anywhere at all. Essentially, when playing you are connected to the game servers allowing other people currently playing to see that you just finished the first level, beat a boss, got a certain combo, and many more in-game actions.

On the left sidebar you’ll see that XBOXGAMER_420_SNIPE_MLGXxX just got some form of achievement in game, so you can use a dedicated button (of which, all buttons can be remapped) to give them a Cheer. Doing so will not only make them feel good about themselves, as the amount of Cheers received are counted on the screen for you and it fills a small meter, that when full, allows you to unleash a powerful special attack, so it pays to Cheer others on. As I said, it’s a very odd gameplay mechanic, but I have to admit it’s satisfying to see others send Cheer’s when I do something noteworthy in the single player game.

Shmups live and die by their precision gameplay. With so many projectiles to avoid on screen, if the controls aren’t tight and precise you’re going to have a bad time throughout. I’m happy to report that this isn’t the case with Raiden V, as it has the required precision and smooth controls. This allows all people, no matter what skill, to play and enjoy the game (though the unlimited continues definitely help) without having to worry about unfairness or terrible controls that plague some games of this type.

Shumps are also meant to be played over and over again to work your way to a high score, and given that Raiden V includes online leaderboards, this will be your main source of longevity considering that each playthrough lasts roughly an hour. Sure there are multiple ships and weapon combinations to play with, but that will only last you so long unless you’re truly dedicated.

There are some negative issues that are worth mentioning. While the controls are spot on, some of the visuals are not. For example, there are some backgrounds that make it near impossible to see the bullets hurling towards you. The same goes for some enemies ships that seemingly tend to blend into the background at times. I can’t even count the number of times that I’ve blown up because of these ‘phantom’ bullets that seemingly come out of nowhere. Again, the overlapping dialogue during gameplay is the other big miss that makes it near impossible to follow along if you actually care about the narrative.

It’s quite rare for a Japanese developer to create an exclusive title for Xbox One, especially a niche 2D-shoot 'em up, but I’m glad they did. Raiden V is without a doubt a solid shmup experience from start to finish (and start to finish again and again), but the real question is if it’s worth the asking price of $49.99 CAD. If you’re an old school gaming fan of the genre, like myself, you’ll easily find value here with lots of replayability, even more so if you want to climb the online leaderboards. That being said, everyone that isn’t into this niche genre will no doubt wonder how a game like this is priced so high, so this group of gamers may want to give it a chance once it’s on sale. At the end of the day, if you want to experience a solid shmup like the ones you may have grown up with so many years ago, Raiden V is worth a close look.

Overall: 7.9 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


Site Statistics

Registered Members: 43,987
Forum Posts: 725,150
Xbox One Titles: 657
Xbox 360 Titles: 1,084
Xbox 360 Kinect Titles: 95
Xbox 360 Arcade Titles: 583
Xbox Titles: 847
Staff Reviews: 1,449
Member Reviews: 10,339
News Articles: 13,093
Screenshots: 28,876
Xbox 360 Achievements: 45,112
Xbox 360 Faceplates: 2,016
Cheat Codes: 1,706

Latest News

See News Archives

Community Forum Activity

Post by oryanphine
0 Replies, 21 Views

Games with Gold for November - Count me in
Post by TheOutcast-XBA
3 Replies, 81 Views

Xbox One Edition Limitee Borderlands The Handsome Collection
Post by oryanphine
1 Replies, 56 Views

Xbox One Edition Limitee et controllers
Post by oryanphine
3 Replies, 85 Views

GOW 4 Horde Credit and XP Earn Rate Updates
Post by Nato King
1 Replies, 88 Views

Post by Nato King
1 Replies, 80 Views

Red Dead Redemption 2 releasing Fall 2017
Post by Nato King
5 Replies, 139 Views

Xbox One S Protoype Zebra
Post by oryanphine
3 Replies, 181 Views

Xbox One South Korea Edition Limitee Mother Pearl
Post by oryanphine
1 Replies, 120 Views

Xbox One Official China Edition limitee Lunar New Year Monkey 2016
Post by oryanphine
2 Replies, 135 Views

Xbox Play Anywhere Set up.
Post by Nato King
6 Replies, 196 Views

CONTEST! Win a copy of Worms W.M.D.!
Post by Variation-XBA
9 Replies, 389 Views

The Gears of War 4 Live Broadcast Airs Today
Post by Nato King
7 Replies, 228 Views

Post by Nato King
9 Replies, 274 Views

Spoiler: First 12mintues of Battlefield 1
Post by Nato King
9 Replies, 268 Views

© 2000-2016 - All rights reserved. All trademarks are properties of their respective owners.
Xbox is a registered trademark of Microsoft. is not affiliated with Microsoft.

Made in Canada
Site Design by Cameron Graphics