We’re continually surprised by the number of 2D shooters released in this day and age. Fair enough, there aren’t as many around as there are, say, first person shooters, but there have probably been more released on PlayStation 2 in Europe than on PSone. So much for a genre dying on its arse.
Although not as well known as the R-Type or Gradius franchises, the Raiden series is still more renowned than Gigawing, Gunbird and the like. There was even a Raiden game released on the Atari Jaguar, and that only had around 50 games released for it. So going by our rough estimate, two percent of all Atari Jaguar games were Raiden. This isn’t actually the third Raiden though – there have been at least ten spin-offs and semi-sequels since the series first began in 1990.
What sets this apart from other shooters is that enemies acknowledge your whereabouts and act accordingly, rather than moving on pre-determined paths. This of course means that there are no attack patterns to learn – which might be a blessing in disguise for some – and it also does a fine job of keeping you on your toes.
There are only three weapons, not including auto-firing secondary weapons such as rockets and homing missiles, but each comes in handy. For instance, when entering an asteroid field it’s a good idea to have the wide shot equipped, the standard straight-forward shooting laser is good for bosses, and the wavy green laser for when things get hectic. When you lose a life you aren’t stripped off all the fire-power you’ve accumulated – a bunch of power-ups spawn from your wreckage, ready for you to pick up again.
It doesn’t look as sharp and polished as Gradius V, and the backdrops and bosses aren’t quite as exciting as those seen in R-Type Final, but it’s still better looking than 505 Games’ other recent shooters – including Samuari Aces, Homura and Dragon Blaze – with some nifty explosions after finishing off a boss. There’s also a boss rush survival mode and a co-op mode in which one player moves and the other shoots.
The thing with games of this ilk is that if they’re too easy then they’re pretty much over before they began – see Gigawing Generations, which can be blasted through in twenty minutes – but if they’re too hard then most gamers will get frustrated all too soon. Raiden III’s biggest triumph is that it manages to get the balance just right – on very easy you’ll probably get to the last stage, or thereabouts, on your first or second go, but stick it on normal and you’ll find the difficulty level almost perfectly pitched.