The Raiden Fighters series dates back to 1996, when arcade manufacturer Seibu Kaihatsu (Stinger, Raiden) released the original pseudo-Raiden-spin-off in Japanese arcades. Now, thanks to the magic of our futuristic game boxes, both Fighters and its two sequels—Raiden Fighters 2: Operation Hell Dive and Raiden Fighters Jet—can be experienced in one package, all for the low, low price of 20 clams.
Being that this is a collection of vertical shooters, most people probably know the drill based on that ground-level information alone. Raiden Fighters Aces isn’t a generic journey from bottom to top, though; these are some high quality shooters that should be in everyone’s library. The music is completely insane, and a lot of care obviously went into the overall production of each title. Tanks tear into frame, level-sized boss ships fire from countless turrets, and everything is lively and well-animated without being too distracting.
The barrier to entry for the genre in general can be a pretty tough obstacle to surmount for newcomers, but Raiden gets rid of that entirely by offering a really customizable experience. With the difficulty tweaked to the fullest, all three games can be pure ballbusters, but with seven levels of difficulty starting at “Training,” there’s at least something here that most can handle. Hell, enemies don’t even shoot in training, so there’s no excuse not to get that one-credit achievement.
On the flipside, I could see the more hardcore shooter veterans feeling a little bummed about those achievements in general. Very few of them are skill-based to a high degree, since they can more often than not be earned on any difficulty. I wouldn’t personally let that get in the way of the fun, though; Gamerscore ain’t nothin’ but a number, after all.
Out of the three games in the collection, Jet definitely has the most interesting scoring system. Once a medal starts hovering around the ship, it can combine with any subsequent medal it touches, gradually expanding both the size and value of the medal on screen. A medal that’s allowed to reach its full size before being collected results in the appearance of gold bars that multiply in value as those are collected, as well. Even if it sounds a little unwieldy on paper, it works well in the game as a risk-reward distraction from the oncoming hail of bullets.
There are also other ways to earn bonus points spread across the series as a whole, like Quick Shot, for instance, which adds to the player’s score if they destroy a large enemy before it has a chance to fire off a shot. The only one that really discourages the trigger finger has to do with collecting fairies, because a stray shot can easily hit one of the coveted sprites and ruin the fleeting opportunity for a score boost.
Raiden Fighters Aces may have a tough time being randomly picked up at a place like Best Buy, but those that do plunk down are in for a treat. Valcon Games has a beefy collection here that should please established fans while having the potential to bring in new ones. The only true desire that’s still sticking with me every time I return to the disc is the ability to flip my HD set on its side and select Tate mode for some truly vivid vertical shooting. It’s probably better that I can’t, though, at least for the sake of my television.
Publisher: Valcon Games
System: Xbox 360
Rating: E 10+