Review – Raiden V: Director’s Cut (Switch)

I was more than ready to tackle a well-known vertical shooter from a well-known franchise like Raiden V after playing the largely unknown Vasara games. My knowledge of this legendary franchise is brief, but it started on the last console you’d expect: the Atari Jaguar. After that, I had little contact with the series, even though I knew about it, mostly because its games were usually released only in Japan or just plain hard to find before the advent of digital distribution. I’ve been wanting to get Raiden V for a while, but I was waiting for the more than inevitable Switch port, as an arcadey game like this is just perfect for portable play. Now that it’s finally out, I can tackle it.

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Meet the toothpaste laser, the series’ staple.

Raiden V differs itself from most of its peers by actually trying to focus a bit more on storytelling and also by being a very beginner-friendly shooter. In a genre full of challenging titles like Ikaruga and the recently released Pawarumi, Raiden V ended up being a lot more forgiving than expected. I don’t consider myself a phenomenal shooter player, even though I’m a huge fan, but I barely died during my runs and even decided to increase the difficulty level after a while.

It’s not like there aren’t tons of bullets onscreen for you to dodge, but the fact that you possess a very strong weapon, no matter which ship you choose, as well as a very generous health bar, makes this game the ideal candidate for those curious about vertical-scrolling shooters who are too scared to tackle Ikaruga from the get-go. There is also a bizarre mechanic called “cheer”, in which players online can cheer on your ongoing feats and increase a power bar that allows for you to spit out tons of missiles for a while. To be fair, it makes little sense, just be sure to know that you’re able to do that every once in a while, as Raiden V has a surprisingly active online community.

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Meet the suped up, totally ridiculously awesome upgraded version of the toothpaste laser.

I had fun with Raiden V, even if it was a bit too on the easy side, but that doesn’t mean the game was devoid of issues. In fact, Raiden V is quite flawed, but not in a “broken” sense. It’s just filled with weird design choices, as well as missed opportunities.

One of my main gripes with it is the fact that this game is only playable on a horizontal aspect ratio. Unlike Ikaruga, Vasara, as well as the shoot-em-up games included in Namco Museum, you cannot flip your Switch sideways in order to play the game in a vertical aspect ratio. That means that the game’s overall playfield is reduced to a bit less than half of the actual screen. If you decide to play Raiden V on a TV, that’s not a big deal, but if you decide to play it on-the-go, which is most certainly the reason you decided to buy it for the Switch in the first place, it makes everything look way too small onscreen.

Remember when I said that Raiden V is story-heavy? It certainly is a selling point if you’re into the series, but I don’t think that the way the developers decided to tell said story during the game was a very good idea. The best way I can describe it is that the game pretty much dumps exposition onscreen and not during cutscenes. A lot of text and voice acting is just thrown at you while you’re maneuvering your ship and you’ll most certainly never pay attention to what’s being told. The reasons are simple: you’re not going to stop avoiding being shot in order to read subtitles and the game’s sound mixing is so faulty that you won’t be able to hear what people are saying either.

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A true japanese shooter needs to be filled with missiles and ridiculous explosions. Raiden V just barely makes the cut.

Maybe I expected too much from Raiden V, considering how important the franchise is in the shoot-em-up spectrum. It’s still a completely decent and very competent game, don’t get me wrong, but it focuses too much on irrelevant and unnecessary gameplay elements that hinder it from being anywhere near as good as its predecessors. With that being said, I actually recommend it to those who want to dive into the crazy world of shooters without prior experience, as it ended up being much easier than anticipated.

 

Graphics: 7.0

While the visuals are decent enough, the amount of particles onscreen is large, and the framerate is solid, you can only play the game horizontally. This reduces the actual playfield to less than half of the normal screen.

Gameplay: 8.5

The controls are easy to grasp and very responsive. The excellent framerate also helps. The cheer mechanic is confusing to understand at first and due to the game’s fast-paced nature, you’ll hardly manage to use it strategically.

Sound: 6.0

A decent soundtrack, some very loud sound effects, and weirdly enough, a lot of voice acting you can’t and won’t ever pay attention to due to the amount of action onscreen and bad sound mixing.

Fun Factor: 6.5

Raiden V is somewhat fun, but it focuses too much on some unnecessary elements, such as too much story and text onscreen, as well as some puzzling gameplay mechanics. Weirdly enough, it’s quite an easy shooter, so it’s recommended for beginners.

Final Verdict: 7.0

Raiden V: Director’s Cut is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of Raiden V: Director’s Cut was provided by the publisher.