If there’s a genre that hasn’t seen the fair share of titles it deserved over the past years, that’s the shoot-em-up (or shm’up) genre. Back in the 90’s and early 2000’s, it was as if a new Japanese shm’up would be released on a weekly basis on arcades and consoles. Titles like Gradius, Radiant Silvergun, Axelay and Ikaruga became instant classics that still hold up to this day, given the genre’s “easy to learn, extremely hard to master” gameplay.
Over the last few months, the Switch has received lots of retro re-releases of Neo Geo shooters, as well as Graceful Explosion Machine and Earth Atlantis, two decent titles, but far from being chaotic and challenging as shooters used to be back in the day. Well, our prayers have finally been answered with the arrival of this new shooter that showed up from out of nowhere in the Switch eShop. Here’s RXN Raijin.
RXN Raijin is a vertical bullet-hell shooter made specifically with the Switch in mind. Unlike the vast majority of shooters featuring a more vertical-focused resolution, Raijin takes advantage of the Switch’s 16:9 aspect ratio for a combat style centered mostly on having larger spaces for you to evade enemy attacks. The game takes some influences from one of the best shooters ever made, Radiant Silvergun, in the sense that there’s little focus on collecting power-ups or different weapons. Each of the three ships you can choose from contains three different attacks and one ultimate blow, each one assigned to one of the face buttons. The whole gameplay is centered around trying to survive the onslaught of thousands upon thousands of bullets thrown at you while trying to destroy all enemies onscreen.
The game has some design choices that are more suited for a portable as well. Levels are extremely short, some of them being comprised of just a wave of enemies or a boss battle. For some people, that’d be a bummer, especially if you’re looking for a proper successor to classic shooters from decades ago. The shorter levels made up for a better portable experience, however, as you can easily play a level or two while in line for a movie, for instance. The game is also a tad more forgiving than your average shooter, as it has an “unofficial” difficulty setting (some ships are clearly easier to play than others) and by featuring an auto-healing health bar to your craft. You’ll still need a ton of experience in other bullet hell titles in order to survive the deliciously nonsensical amount of bullets thrown at you, though, so it’s still lots of fun for veterans.
RXN Raijin also features an unusually high level of artistic value for a game like this one. Quality voice acting, great J-Pop and J-Rock tunes (some of which even feature lyrics), and while the graphics are far from being considered a current-gen staple, they win extra points by featuring lots of colors and some really trippy visual effects, especially when there are loads of beams and bullets onscreen. And then we reach the (thankfully few) problems the game has.
For starters, for some reason beyond my comprehension, the game features some sort of glitch whenever you resume the game, rendering your ship extremely slow for a few seconds. Those few seconds can be crucial in determining whether or not you’ll survive a boss covering half the screen with lasers or not.
The other main issue revolves around the framerate. For most of the time, the game runs at a very smooth 60 frames per second. Whenever there are tons of assets onscreen, however, the framerate tends to dip a lot. Everytime you use your screen-clearing special attack as well, the framerate also dips a lot. Given the amount of times you’ll be facing literal dozens of enemies at once, all of them shooting tons of bullets at you, you’ll quickly get annoyed at the framerate issues.
But despite its annoying glitches, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised with RXN Raijin. For a game with little to no promotion prior to its release, and without knowing much of what I’d expect from it, I can’t help but feel very pleased with this great love letter to bullet hell shooters from the past, all coupled with a great sound design and trippy visuals. If you’re a fan of this type of game, don’t even think twice.
Copy of RXN Raijin provided by publisher.