Despite its relative lack of popularity in Japan (ok, complete lack of popularity in Japan), somewhere down the line, the Xbox 360 became the unofficial home of the SCHMUP genre (that’s shoot ‘em up for those not down with the lingo).
Equally, despite its relative popularity in Japan, the PS3, bar a few notable exceptions, was, somewhat surprisingly, left largely unloved by the major SCHMUP developers. The PS3 however, is enjoying something of a late renaissance in this field and hot on the heels of the brilliant Under Defeat HD, comes the definitive version of Raiden IV.
Despite being released in arcades back in 2006, with the standard version later ported to Xbox 360 in 2009 (in North America anyway), that shouldn’t put any potential punters off what is unquestionably one of the finest SCHMUPs of the last generation. It may not have the looks of a DoDonPaichi or the finesse of an Ikaruga, but in a genre that has been somewhat flooded with bullet hell shooters, it’s, well, refreshing to find a ‘slightly’ slower paced, and somewhat less hectic shooter find its way to market.
It’s still hard as nails and certainly not for the weak of heart, but this top down shooter feels more like the kind of shooter you would have found on the SNES rather than say, the Dreamcast. There’s still plenty going on and dodging waves of enemy projectiles is still a massive part of the gameplay, but in Raiden IV: Overkill, there is just as great an emphasis on shooting and a more prominent and measured upgrade system than those found in many of the genre’s most recent outings.
With three ships offering up a surprising amount of variety and a power-up system built around solid risk vs reward mechanics and a pleasingly old school upgrade system, Raiden IV: Overkill, despite its old school credentials, feels surprisingly fresh – especially on a platform that has been so short of top quality SCHMUPs. The visuals might be quite dated, but the art style is solid and all the usual SCHMUP pyrotechnics are present and accounted for.
While it certainly fails to wow visually (it certainly looks its age), it does at least offer an olive branch to the uninitiated thanks to an array of difficulty settings and gameplay options. Even on the standard settings, while certainly challenging, thanks to its more considered pace, is infinitely more welcoming than the often mind boggling explosions of colour found in many bullet hell shooters.
That’s not to say it’s easy though. Sure, the difficulty can be turned down, but equally, pros can also crank up the difficulty the other way with Overkill mode also offering veterans, not only two completely new levels, but also an all new mechanic that allows for truly outrageous scoring possibilities. Overkill mode allows for players to keep blasting at the destroyed wreckage of previously destroyed ships which, once smashed, offer up huge points bonuses. Newcomers probably wont be that interested and, on paper, it might not sound that exciting, but Overkill mode really does change the way you approach the game and, for veterans at least, will provide a new lease of life on a game that has been out in one form or another for nearly 8 years.
Cheaper than the Xbox 360 version, more accessible to newcomers and home to an array of new challenges for veterans, Raiden IV: Overkill offers up a package that is very difficult to criticise. It might not be the best looking game out there, but it offeres a tactical, approachable and highly enjoyable SCHMUP experience and a fine return to the days when shooters were about more than simply dodging bullets….….oh, and the soundtrack kicks ass too.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 3 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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