A Solid Offering for the Shooting Faithful
In this day and age, it's surprising to see any type of classic side or vertical scrolling space shooter to be released. Given the extremely niche market that the shoot 'em up genre (or shmup) has acquired, it is all too common for developers and publishers to satiate the known market with products, specifically Japan. So when it was announced that Raiden Fighters Aces, a compilation of the Raiden Fighters arcade games, was coming stateside, the quiet American audience behind this series arose to welcome the game with an eager response. Despite a few delays, Raiden Fighters Aces is an excellent compilation of the classic Raiden Fighters games that shouldn't be missed by fans of the genre.
The gameplay remains virtually identical to the arcade version which is no surprise considering this is essentially a porting job from arcade to console. In all three games you control a spaceship battling hundreds of enemies while gaining increasingly better weapons through powerups. As you progress, the levels get more complex and the bosses become more intense. Each game isn't very long; you'll probably muscle your way to the end within 20-30 minutes with free play enabled, but there is definitely incentive to replay with another fighter or with limited credits.
The one spin that the Raiden Fighters series puts in compared to the Raiden games is that most ships can only be armed with either missiles or a laser, but not both. The powerup sequences are also much shorter, but this is a good thing because the focus here is definitely on the action and puts less of a penalty on death. When you die, you spawn back right away and can level your ship pretty close to the top again in a few seconds. A few other items such as slave ships, small drones that can take hits and fire back at the enemy, as well as some new additions with the bomb, round out overall changes. There are even a few cameo ships that players might recognize from the Raiden series.
Make no mistake about it though, this is a love it or hate it kind of formula. You die instantly when colliding with an enemy or enemy fire, so there truly isn't much room for error here. Most looking to buy this game will probably be familiar with these elements of this game, but introducing the game to the uninitiated is not as easy as it is with other games.
Of course it wouldn't be much of any compilation to just give the game only. The game includes several customizable features including several display supports for aficionados to tweak with; you can set what ships are available from the selection screen, which was something that the original arcade versions had depending on the version the machine. All this really does is make some ships accessible by control inputs, but it's still a cool feature. Score attack mode lets you compete against the clock to gain the highest possible point total and a boss rush mode, along with a practice mode, round out the package from the extreme and the extremely new. Practice mode even comes with a slow motion ability to help out with those tricky situations for newcomers.
On the online front you can download and save replays from other players around the world and watch how they achieve the scores and perfection that they do. Sadly, no online multiplayer is included, though it's not that much of a loss, especially considering how even a little lag can mess with a player's timing and reaction.
In the end, Raiden Fighters Aces offers exactly what it promotes: classic arcade action. This is a no nonsense type of game that is intended for a very small audience, offering extremely focused gameplay for those who still enjoy playing scrolling shooters. If you've enjoyed the genre for a long time, Raiden Fighters Aces should be on your purchase list. If you're on the fence, I'd still suggest a purchase because at $20 it's an outright steal for such quality gameplay. To close, Raiden Fighters Aces is a game that you can play time and time again.