I am, in many ways, the worst possible person to review a Raiden game. It’s not because I hate the series, or can’t appreciate the beauty of a vertical shmup. Quite the reverse. I’ve loved Raiden ever since the first time I lined up a 20c piece against a grubby machine in my local video store – if these sound like archaic terms, reader, bear in mind that I’m ancient and this totally was the style at the time – and got drawn into its simple but satisfying gameplay loop.
So much so, to give some context, that I spent serious time on my honeymoon tracking down a copy of The Raiden Project for the original PlayStation while on honeymoon in Paris. Picture it: I’m in the city of love with the love of my life, and I’m spending my time tracking down semi-obscure Japanese shmups rather than taking in the sights. Luckily (for me), the love of my life loves me just as much, and more importantly she understands me. So she helped while I tried in my broken French to explain that I did need to make sure the second-hand disc worked, because I couldn’t exactly bring it back from the other side of the planet easily!
But I digress.
In many ways, Raiden IV x Mikado Remix isn’t the most inventive in terms of in-game mechanics, leaning as it always has on a triple weapon system – essentially bullets, lasers or a twisty purple plasma beam, which comes in two player-chosen variants in Raiden IV x Mikado Remix. You get a choice of three ships – two regular plane types and a mostly-naked fairy because sure, why not – and that’s your lot.
Raiden IV x Mikado Remix doesn’t offer quite the chained scoring mechanics (quite) of other titles, or the sheer bullet hell chaos of some of the more highly regarded classics. Well, not quite; there’s still a respectable quantity of player-killing ordinance being flung your way at any one time, including some nicely inventive boss fights that do really tax my mental flow while playing.
Raiden IV x Mikado Remix isn’t exactly a new game, either. It’s new to the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, but has been on the Switch for more than a year now. And it’s Raiden IV – basically – and that came out originally in 2007. Which was, in case you’ve not looked at a calendar recently, quite some time ago. I mean, Raiden V dates from 2016, so this is not by any reasonable stretch a new game. It is quite a decent game, however, remixed with a variety of semi-new modes and a new soundtrack provided by a wide and varied range of Japanese artists and bands, all apparently inspired by the Japanese Mikado Game Centers. So those of you hoping for that long-awaited Raiden/Gilbert & Sullivan Mashup will just have to keep on waiting. One day. One day.
Raiden IV x MIKADO remix bundles this new soundtrack against a range of game modes – your typical arcade, score attack mode and modes that give you additional levels or an overkill mode that rewards you for pumping extra shots into larger enemies as they die. Not that this is in itself new; that was part of the Raiden IV Overkill remix that released back in 2014. Essentially Raiden IV is a bit like George Lucas’ take on Star Wars, a series that will seemingly never be definitively collected or “finished.”
Is there a deep, arching plot that covers the existential horrors behind the never-ending war that seems to plague the world of Raiden? Hell no, there’s no time for that kind of thing. The series antagonists, the Crystals are back, and you’re charged with shooting them down. That’s all you need to know, and all you need to do. Raiden as a series does have some light plot elements, but Raiden IV isn’t where they’re explored in any way. If it makes you feel better, you’re fighting because the evil alien invaders spilled your milk, OK? Is that any better? Somehow I suspect it is not.
What Raiden IV x Mikado Remix gets right is that essential fun element that pulled me in so many years ago. It’s not the hardest of shmups – though unless you do play on easy it’s not a cakewalk either – but it’s one that’s very easy to explain to anyone who’s ever played anything since space invaders in most modes. I can see that being a turn-off for the hardcore shmup faithful, the folks with way more skill than me, mind.
I will give a special callout to the dual screen mode, AKA good old-fashioned couch co-op, because it’s one of those ideas that seems to have fallen out of favour in recent years. Raiden IV x Mikado Remix is good, but it’s a whole different level of fun with a mate by your side blasting away. While I’m at it, I should also note that somebody in the development team was insane enough to realise that if your game can support two ships onscreen at once, then you could throw them both in the hands of the one player with the one controller. Is this a smart tactical way to play Raiden IV x Mikado Remix? Definitely not, it’s absolute chaos and nearly uncontrollable, but also somehow laughably fun when all it costs you to continue is a tap of the button, not a hard-earned coin or two.
All od that said, though, the reality for Raiden IV x Mikado Remix is that hardened fans of the series probably do already own this game in one form or another already. In some respects, this is just a late port, and a slightly odd one given it’s gone from the lower-powered Switch to the PS5 (as reviewed), XBX and PC. If you do already have it, while this is a nice take with some great music choices, it’s hardly essential.
If you don’t, it’s a very good shmup, if not one of the most complex out there in terms of gameplay mechanics. You’re still ultimately chasing a high score and not much else – and I didn’t appreciate that the default high scores were set pathetically low, because I’d rather have something to chase from the get-go. Still, I am a bit of a Raiden tragic, so in that frame at least, this is definitely a top game – for me.