Raiden Fighters Aces collects and emulates three top-down, vertically scrolling arcade shooters and ships them out at a budget price. The three games comprise the Raiden Fighters series, starting with the original 1996 arcade game, its 1997 sequel, and Raiden Fighters Jet, originally a 1998 release. These are all pretty good shooters, and the game offers enough different options and modes to ensure that the collection can appeal to players of all skill levels.
The game boots to a menu, where you can tinker around with display options and choose which of the three games you'd like to play. The visual options are fairly detailed, letting you adjust the size of the game screen, rotate the view (in case you've got a sideways TV), turn on and adjust scanlines, and so on. Once you've selected a game, you're presented with another menu where you can adjust the difficulty and play in a few different modes. The difficulty adjustments are pretty key and make a huge difference. For example, when you set the game to practice mode, the enemies don't fire back. That makes it (and most of its achievements) pretty easy. If you turn on expert mode, enemies explode into a cloud of bullets. That makes it, well, quite a bit harder. You can set the number of continues, replay for a higher score, or practice specific sections to get them down just right. When you're done playing, you can save recordings of your performance for later viewing.
The games themselves are fairly iconic vertical shooters that don't change that dramatically from one game to the next. Each one lets you pick from a variety of different ships that have different weapon systems, but the main upgrade path has you choosing between collecting missile power-ups or laser upgrades. Typically, the lasers home in on their targets. The games have a lot of tanks and jets to blow up along the way, but they're also focused pretty heavily on boss battles against huge war machines that spew bullets and take a real pounding before going up in flames. Each game isn't terribly long on its own, but provided you're playing on a difficulty setting that puts up a fight, it won't be a total breeze, either. Even on its hardest setting, none of the games delve into bullet hell territory, which helps make them feel like games you might actually be able to complete without being some sort of twitchy superhuman.
At $19.99, Raiden Fighters Aces compares favorably to the standard Xbox Live Arcade pricing structure, where each one of these three games would probably run $10. So if you have a hankering for this type of classic scrolling shooter gameplay, Raiden Fighters Aces is a strong package that you'll certainly enjoy.