Raiden

The Jaguar is often criticised for it's lack of power when it came to 3D, polygonal gaming. After recently sampling the often overlooked Sky Hammer, I would challenge that opinion, but titles like Club Drive and Checkered Flag did their damage and the reputation of the Jaguar as a 3D-capable system was irreparably tarnished. To this end, the consensus amongst many is that Atari should probably have marketed the Jaguar as a 2D, sprite-shifting monster akin to the Neo Geo and when you look at sprite-based titles like Super Burnout and Rayman, it is hard to find fault with that opinion. Another game that lends support to this theory is Raiden.

Raiden was developed as an arcade shooter by a Japanese developer called Seibu Kaihatsu and released in 1990. It's vertically scrolling shooting action took the world by storm and the inevitable console ports soon followed, resulting in FM Towns Marty and PC Engine conversions. Obviously, a port for the Jaguar also happened and this was published in the West by American publisher Fabtek, a company also responsible - rather oddly - for a Super Mario Bros pachinko machine. Thanks for that info, Wikipedia.

As previously mentioned, Raiden is a vertically scrolling 2D shooter in which the player (or players - there is a 2-player mode) takes control of the titular Raiden fighter ship in a last ditch effort to rid the Earth of the invading Cranassian forces. Strange how you're always Earth's last line of defence in these games, but hey - when the entirety of the planet's military might has been crushed...who you gonna call?! With an eagerness reserved for pilots who have the fate of an entire civilisation resting on their shoulders, you naturally jump into the cockpit of the Raiden, lock your QRF (that's Quick Release Fitting, for the uninitiated) and crush the ignition switch with your leather glove-clad ham shank of a fist and take to the skies to ram humanity's greatest weapon down the Cranassians' slimy, putrid throats. Cranassian? More like Kick-their-assian! Thank you - I'm here all week.

So with the back story covered, what does the actual game consist of? Well, Raiden is a traditional 'up the screen' shoot 'em up in which you dodge enemy bullets, shoot the shit out of baddies, collect medals and power-ups and confront bosses...all before moving on to the next stage. It's a tried and tested formula that plays very smoothly, looks great and has a fantastic and suitably up-tempo soundtrack. The Raiden is equipped with a special weapon in the form of a bomb that can decimate a fairly large area of the screen, but has a minor drawback in that it will only destroy enemies that are engulfed in it's limited fireball. As you'd expect, weapons can be powered up by collecting the icons that destroyed Cranassian ships and ground units willingly give up, and extra points are added to your score by collecting medals that are revealed when you destroy either certain enemies or background items like houses, barns and civilian craft.

Raiden looks pretty good as far as 2D shooters go - everything moves very smoothly and the number of enemies and projectiles can be very high. It's not up to Dreamcast 'bullet hell' levels, but there will be times when the entire screen is full of enemies and bullets and explosions...which is cool. What isn't so cool is the way almost a third of the screen is taken up with a status/score sidebar. The game could obviously have played without this obstructing hindrance as is demonstrated at the start and end of each level when it slides off the screen, but having this sidebar means that the whole playing field is never displayed at one time and the player can scroll the playing area further to the left or right depending on where their ship is positioned. This could be seen as a benefit as you can scroll the screen away from a particularly nasty enemy unit if you desire and it's projectiles will no longer bother you, but it is also a pain in the arse because it clearly takes up most of the playing field and also allows you to blindly fly into enemies that were hiding just off-screen. Also, even in 2-player, this sidebar still takes up real estate on your telly screen, so you and a friend have even less space in which to manoeuvre your ships.

This annoyance aside though, Raiden is a fantastic example of how a 2D shooter should be executed. It's fun and addictive and has a thumping soundtrack and even though the difficulty steps up as you get further into the game, you never feel as if it's a fault of the game if you get hit by an enemy projectile. For these reasons, I would consider Raiden a hidden gem in the Jaguar's often condemned library.




















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