Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Raiden V Review (XONE)

The Xbox 360 was THE system for shoot-em-ups last generation, but things have been a little slower going for the Xbox One as most Japanese developers have jumped on the PS4 bandwagon (or are making pachinko games now) instead this time around.  There are still some shmups around, though, like Moss’ Xbox One exclusive release of Raiden V.  Raiden V tries to justify its Xbox One exclusivity through a number of new features using the power of Microsoft’s cloud, but the results leave you wondering why they bothered.  See our full Raiden V review for details.     

Game Details

  • Publisher: Moss
  • Developer: Moss
  • ESRB Rating: “E” for Everyone
  • Genre: Shoot-em-up
  • Pros: Fun gameplay; lots of content; online score chart
  • Cons: Cheer system is dumb; messy visuals; pointless story; price
  • MSRP: $50

As with previous Raiden games, Raiden V features you playing as an awesome heavily armed space attack craft flying through levels and killing everything that moves.  There is a story here – in fact, there is a TON of story here presented through lengthy text scrolls and a ton of text dialogue on the side of the screen while you play – but it is generally awful and easy to ignore.  Or, at least I think it’s awful.  It’s impossible to actually read all of the dialogue on the side of the screen while you’re playing, so it all just seems like a huge waste.

“Stuff on the side of the screen” basically describes all of the major additions to Raiden V over previous entries in the series.  While the right side of the screen is dominated by text and character portraits popping up to tell you when you’re doing good / screwing up, the left side is dedicated to tracking high scores and the cheer system.  First off, the good.  The middle of the left side of the screen features a graph that shows your current score against your previous high score, the average top 100 score in the world, and the world high score.  This is awesome because you can see exactly how well you’re doing at a quick glance, which makes making repeated runs through the game to get high scores very appealing because you always know exactly where you stand.

That left side of the screen has some not so good additions, too, like the cheer system.  The cheer system is a feature where other players can “cheer” you based on your accomplishments in the game.  When you kill X# of enemies or a boss or reach high score milestones or a number of other things, a little notification pops up in the corner of the screen of other people playing at the same time you are.  If they press the “Y” button when that pops up, you get a “cheer”, which fills a special attack meter for you.  Likewise, of course, you can cheer other players when you see the pop-up on your screen in the top left corner. 

The problem with the cheer system, however, is that there are never, ever, ever enough players ever playing at the same time to actually make the system work like it is supposed to.  There are either no other players online, or when people are online they don’t bother to cheer you.  Or you get disconnected from the server partway through the game (you can still keep playing, thankfully).  The whole system is just a total waste of effort.  I have to admit that when you do somehow manage to play a round when other people actually cheer you, it does sort of pump you up and make the game more fun and more interesting.  You can see the glimmers of potential of a great feature here, but when 9 times out of 10 there is either no one else playing or you get disconnected midway, the cheer system can only be considered a bust.

The core shoot-em-up gameplay is still solid, though.  In typical Raiden fashion you have different shot types like a spread gun or purple energy snake of doom that you can upgrade during the game to make them better and more powerful.  Unlike past games, however, you don’t pick up nearly as many upgrades / have as many opportunities to switch weapons in Raiden V, which means you tend to stick with your favorite rather than playing with all of them over the course of a run.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just different.

Something that hasn’t changed in Raiden V from past games is that the game still does a poor job of making it easy for you to actually see what you’re doing.  Moss just does a particularly poor job with its shmups in differentiating your shots from enemy shots and making sure the shots and enemies don’t simply blend into the background.  A high percentage of deaths in Raiden V come simply because you didn’t see the shot or the enemy that killed you because it all just blends together. 

With all of that said, the core gameplay is still plenty fun for fans of the genre.  Raiden’s trademark risk/reward scoring system that gives you higher multipliers for being more aggressive and killing enemies at the top of the screen is intact and just as good as ever here.  The levels are mostly well done and the boss fights are generally solid as well.  There is also a decent amount of content as the game takes an hour to play through, but there are multiple routes that open up depending on how well you played.  Seeing all of the levels, plus chasing high scores means you’ll get dozens of hours out of the game before all is said and done.

The presentation is a little up and down in Raiden V, though, as the game doesn’t really look like it really needed to be on Xbox One.  It just isn’t noticeably better looking than Raiden IV or any other 360 shmup, and it also isn’t throwing more enemies or bullets at you than past games to really make you go “wow”.  It does have a rock solid framerate, though, so that is one area where it actually is an improvement over 360 shmups, which tended to chug along pretty regularly.   The sound is noteworthy simply because the soundtrack is freaking awesome.   

Raiden V is a solid enough shmup all around, save for one huge problem – it costs $50.  Almost every shmup on the 360 and PS3 launched at $30 or less, which was just about perfect in that they were usually priced low enough, and were high enough quality, to get some impulse buys from casual fans instead of only selling to the hardcore.  Raiden V at $50 will only ever sell to the most hardcore of the hardcore shmup fans, and that is a shame.  We should be trying to grow the genre, not contract it even further.  As solid as Raiden V is, it isn’t anything particularly special.  It’s just good, not great.  Which makes it even harder to recommend at this price point.  Sadly, it is only available as a digital game in the U.S., so I can’t even tell you to rent it if you’re interested.  Instead I can only say to wait for a price drop.  At $30 or less it’ll be awesome.   
Disclosure: A review code was provided by the publisher.