Raiden III Review
Unfortunately, the days of two dimensions are fading into the past, but that doesn't mean it has completely disappeared. Of course, the handhelds have a nice inventory of 2D titles (although even handhelds are starting to become predominantly 3D), but to see any less than three dimensions on a home console has become exceedingly rare. Sure, we've got the re-issuing of classic games - Sega Genesis Collection - for example, but what about new games? Well, they're still out there, believe it or not. One of the most recent, Raiden III, is a port of a classic arcade shooter that will revive those old nostalgic feelings deep in the recesses of any veteran gamer's heart. But is it worth the price of admission, especially in this day and age? Let's find out.
First off, you know what to expect from the graphics if you're a fan of scrolling shooters. There's a surprising amount of detail in every little pixel, a lot of pleasantly bright colors from top to bottom, and your typically solid presentation. There just isn't much to talk about, although we will say it's one of the prettier shooters we've seen in a while, although there's a bit too much repetition in the design and art style. Then again, considering this is a port of an arcade flight shooter, what did you really expect? At the very least, there are no major graphical errors and while the screen is narrow - and thus, classic arcade - everything works together to bring us a cohesive visual experience. So here's the simple bottom line: if you can remember 1992, you can probably identify with these graphics, and you won't be turned off by them.
The sound isn't quite up to snuff, even for a shooter, but there's still plenty of old-fashioned electronic ditties to keep you company during the hectic action. There are some decent sound effects at play, too, especially when you finally get your hands on some of the more devastating weapons. The game sounds pretty darn good for an old arcade title, but as expected; it suffers from any real semblance of diversity. They just recycle the original theme and make a few small changes to it in every level, so you'll soon grow tired of the soundtrack. Of course, you'll likely be concentrating so hard that you might not care, and the sound effects are vintage old-school-shooter, anyway. We just hoped we had finally found a scrolling shooter that boasted a decent array of music, that's all. Then again, maybe we simply have difficulty relating in this technologically-oriented generation.
Obviously, the gameplay centers entirely on the player's reflexes and dexterity, as all good shooters did in the past. There is no story to speak of (that would be blasphemous), there are hundreds of never-ending enemies, and your goal is a simple one: destroy everything on the screen as fast as you can without getting killed. In fact, wasn't that the basic theme behind most games back in the day? Sure it was. Raiden III offers all the smooth, fast-paced shooting action any fan could hope for, even though it's not the longest or deepest experience out there. There are only seven total levels, and while they will ultimately present a stiff challenge, there isn't much left to do once it's over. Yeah, you can fiddle around with getting high scores in particular levels, but that's about it.
One of the more appealing facets to this one is the amount and frequency of power-ups you will encounter. They certainly don't skimp on the good stuff, as you'll probably bag your first three or four upgrades within the first five minutes of playing. Of course, just like with all games of this nature, the key is to hold on to those upgrades as long as humanly possible; hopefully long enough for a boss fight. But even if you die, the good news is that you'll likely have at least a couple power-ups back within seconds. It stands to reason that the better your default firing weapon, the better chance you have of surviving the unbelievable onslaught. And when we say "onslaught," we're not exaggerating in the slightest. It's a 2D arcade shooter, remember?
You'll be battling foes in the air and on the ground, even though you never leave your ship. Blasting away to your heart's content, the key is to avoid getting nailed by the sometimes overwhelming number of bullets and other ammunition fired in your direction. The game makes the transition to the PS2 relatively nicely, as the use of the analog stick for maneuvering your ship is always accurate and responsive. However, on more than one occasion, we found ourselves desperately wishing we could move faster than we did...even a quarter of a second difference in angling and banking would've been preferable. But then again, that's just the way the gameplay is; we doubt it has anything to do with the conversion from arcade to console. In the end, we consider it a minor flaw - we've played faster shooters before - but it doesn't hurt the gameplay.
What does hurt the gameplay, on the other hand, is the messed up collision detection. It's easily the biggest problem in Raiden III because it's a glaring error that stands out in sharp contrast to the stability and consistency of the rest of the game. Sometimes, a bullet will destroy your ship, while others will mysteriously glide over without touching you...perhaps due to an unseen wind gust, or something. You'll recognize this almost instantly, too, as it's a constant issue that never seems to go away. It does, however, appear to get better during the tougher parts of the game, which can be insanely frustrating. So unfortunately, this flaw is significant enough to greatly hamper your experience, and while we're at it, we do have to mention one more little problem. Don't worry, it's not anywhere near as grievous.
The other issue revolves around the difficulty balance. For some odd reason, the difficulty would spike at strange times throughout the game; for instance, the final battle in the second level seemed more difficult than the one at the end of the third. It was kind of weird playing this way, because you never knew what to expect next. But there are a lot of games that have an ever-shifting balance in difficulty, so it's hardly anything new. Still, we remember all those old shooters as having a more consistent balance, so we were a little disappointed to see this. But overall, and even despite the poor collision detection, Raiden III is exactly what you would expect: a 2D shooter that should be a blast for at least a little while.
It's just not worth the $30, though. The game doesn't take long enough to beat, there's no real reason to play it again, and there isn't anything even remotely special about the experience. You could have some fun with a friend for a while, but even that addition doesn't make this one a good buy. It is a solid and effective shooter, so if you're a fan of the genre, you should definitely consider renting this one. But you can find better games to spend thirty bucks on.
5/20/2007 Ben Dutka