|System: X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Guilti||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Valcon Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 12, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Robert VerBruggen
Even during their mid-to-late 90s heyday, the Raiden Fighters games weren't all that special. They were basic arcade shooters with all the stereotypical features, such as rapid-firing weapon power-ups to collect, "bullet hell" screens full of enemies, gunfire, and explosions to survive, huge bosses to defeat, war-zone backgrounds to traverse, and bombs to give players a little space in tight situations. However, these were exceptionally well-designed and fun games, and the new Raiden Fighters Aces collection pulls Raiden Fighters, Raiden Fighters 2, and Raiden Fighters Jet together for just $19.99. Toss in countless difficulty, gameplay, and display options, and the disc is a very solid buy.
Of all the tweakable settings these titles feature, the difficulty is by far the most important. Those who simply want to run through the games can give themselves infinite continues (the only remaining obstacle being that on some levels, the use of a continue boots you back to the beginning). Obsessive players wanting to memorize enemy entrances can go with the very lowest difficulty, in which the enemies don't shoot, and turn on slow motion. Accomplished players can play in the special Expert mode (where the planes you demolish leave debris). Everyone else can adjust the difficulty from Very Easy to Very Hard, and the number of continues from one to nine. In other words, pick the level of dedication you plan to apply, and this collection will give you a way to play.
There's a decent amount of gameplay variety as well. In addition to the plain-old Arcade mode, you can fight just the bosses or play score-attack battles. There's local co-op as well if you don't mind the screen getting even busier, and competitive types can sign in to Xbox LIVE to vie for a spot on the leaderboards. You can even save videos of your offline matches and download videos of the leaderboards' top scorers to ape their techniques.
The visual options are great as well. The graphics, like the sound, haven't been updated since the original arcade releases, but on an HDTV, they still won't look quite authentic. Connoisseurs of the genuine experience will want to turn on scan lines, drop the framerate to the original 54 fps, and find a suitable visual filter. Conversely, modernists can flip the game on its side to use more surface area on a widescreen (they can play the game horizontally, or flip their TVs sideways to make the game vertical again), and even adjust the way the computer smoothes the edges of the pixelated visuals.
Obviously, the lack of re-made, high-definition graphics will irritate some modern gamers, as will the lack of decent sound. The visuals are noticeably bland relative to those seen in modern shooters such as Ikaruga (or even the XBLA R-Type remake), and the techno music can be a bit much. However, the many options that are available will make these flaws livable, at least.
Returning to the games themselves, again, there's nothing here that will shock or awe a jaded "shmup" fan. You shoot constantly, avoid enemies and bullets, and try to memorize where all the bad guys come from so you can eliminate them quickly. With bosses, you look for the weak spots and unload into them and try to steer clear of the generous streams of projectiles they fire. The games are very short in themselves; with unlimited continues, they're maybe 20 minutes apiece.