I can almost smell the arcade.
Raiden Legacy brings back memories of the small arcade shoved into the back room of my local pizza parlor. This was quite some time ago, and I’m not sure if my memories are of Raiden or of one of the many games to mimic Raiden’s style. Nevertheless, the art style, sounds, and shocking amount of explosions evoke a strong feeling of nostalgia. Raiden Legacy is a collection of four games from the franchise, all of which are steeped in the video game tropes of their time.
I am almost certain that not everyone interested in playing Raiden on iOS has experienced the games in the arcade. It is likely that more iOS gamers are familiar with the bullet hell games released by Cave. Games of this ilk hurl hundreds of enemies and bullets to dodge as the player’s aircraft or character flies at breakneck speed over the landscape below. The player can adjust their positioning along the plane running parallel to the ground, but vertical positioning and the speed of the scrolling level are typically locked. This allows the player to focus solely on avoiding bullets, and filling the enemies with their own bullets.
“Bullets” is a loose term in the Raiden games. The variety of ships you have to choose from typically let forth something more akin to lasers and bursts of plasma. Ships vary in power and speed, but the most noticeably different element is the variety and pattern of missiles or lasers that each ship lets forth. The variance in color and fire patterns is enough to give each ship its own feel. Not different between ships is the preposterous level of destruction. As enemies enter the screen, the majority are automatically destroyed by the ludicrous output of your ship’s weaponry. Large, tinny sounding explosions quickly blossom all around the player. It is difficult to describe in words the extent to which things are blowing up on screen in the Raiden games.
Gameplay doesn’t change drastically as you play through the sequence of games included in the Legacy collection. The same basic premise of killing enemies, obtaining weapon powerups that are lost upon death, and avoiding high volumes of enemy fire are all present in the first Raiden game. Most significant between versions is the constant increase in bombast. Each game is flashier and more explosion riddled than the previous. I happen to think for purely aesthetic purposes that the series peaked with Raiden Fighters 2, but Raiden Fighters Jet is still a fine shooter.
Considering that these are older, 2D games, the graphical presentation of the Raiden games is spectacular. The level of detail and amount of moving parts is something to behold.
The games have been adapted well to iOS, and use the typical control method for vertical scrolling shoot ‘em ups. The player places a finger on the screen, and upon dragging their finger the ship will move relative to the finger’s position. I did find myself covering key pieces of information with this method of control. This is a typical problem in iOS games, but one that is magnified when enemies are capable of firing upon the player from flanking positions where the hand normally resides.
As ports of arcade titles, the Raiden games are designed to challenge. Video gaming is still tied to the arcade in many ways. The concept of lives and continues are elements designed to enforce a pay wall within games. The Raiden Legacy collection is presented with minimal change to its player death system, and this took me completely by surprise. Kudos to the publisher for not finding a way to shoehorn “credits” into the game. Players are only provided two continue credits for each attempt at the campaign, and they must make due with the provided lives to progress through the game. Training mode allows the players to hone their skills.
The game’s live system transforms a game that was intended to munch quarters into a game that places a challenge before players and ample opportunity for players to meet it. It also provides a fair playing field with respect to high scores, as a player cannot simply buy their way through the game.
Even with these smart decisions on the part of the publisher (or possibly decisions made at the behest of the developer), and the quality of the ports, I can’t say that the Raiden games hold up against shooters tailored more towards iOS. Even with the faster touch controls enabled, I found that my hand was getting in the way far too often, and that I didn’t have the same level of immersion that I would have with a physical joystick. I also found the constant breakneck pace and recurring gameplay elements to grow tiresome quickly. Perhaps having the game available in its unrestricted form exposes the weaknesses of an otherwise fantastic release.
Raiden Legacy is available for $4.99 on the app store as a universal app. The collection contains Raiden, Raiden Fighters, Raiden Fighters 2, and Raiden Fighters Jet.