iPhone/iPad App Review: Raiden Legacy

The Raiden name may not be instantly recognisable to those who didn’t spend much time in arcade halls in the nineties, but if you did, then you’ll more than likely be familiar with this highly regarded series of shoot ‘em-ups. Produced by Japanese gaming company Seibu Kaihatsu, there are seven entries in the series, four of which have been reproduced by DotEmu for the iPhone and iPad.

DotEmu has built itself a decent reputation as a company dedicated to giving old classics new life on mobile platforms, with its excellent conversion of Avenging Spirit representing a high point. Its background with shooters has been less impressive, as its P-47 The Phantom Fighter wasn’t as playable as it should have been. It was, however, still produced with care.

Now we come to Raiden Legacy, the name given to DotEmu’s collection of Raiden titles. Inside the pack you get the original Raiden, then the more recent Raiden Fighters, Raiden Fighters 2 and Raiden Fighters Jet. Each has three different settings, the standard Arcade mode, then a Mission mode to individually select unlocked levels and finally, a Training mode to practice the more difficult stages.

Well, we say the more difficult stages, but Raiden is almost all difficult. The game took elements from popular shooters of its time and put them altogether in a single game, so you’ve got insanely powerful weapon upgrades, a chargeable weapon (just like R-Type) and smart bombs at your disposal. In addition to the ideas, Raiden has emptied all the difficulty of its influences in the melting pot too.

There are elements of bullet hell to Raiden too, with enemy fire coming from all directions, some of it following a defined course, leaving you to squeeze through the gaps. The enemy varies from fixed gun emplacements to tanks to fighter aircraft and huge, deadly bombers. Their fire varies too, as some will follow a set pattern while others take deliberate aim. The speed variation is particularly outrageous, with some barrages requiring superhuman reflexes to avoid. You’ve got four lives and three continues to get as far as possible into the game.

To help you on your journey, you’re given two control options in each game, which differ according to their speed. The arcade controls are slightly slower and make the game even harder, while the fast control option speeds your ship up, making things a bit easier. Guess which one we recommend. It’s also worth switching to the game’s original aspect ratio, as this provides an area below the action for your finger to move around, cutting down on it obscuring incoming fire.

So of the four, which is the best? Raiden shows its age and will probably be the one you return to least often, but Raiden Fighters and Raiden Fighters 2 are both excellent. It’s Raiden Fighters Jet that stands out though, as it’s the most graphically accomplished, has some truly massive baddies and some very powerful weapons. It’s hard to argue with Raiden Fighter 2’s weapon upgrades though, which are the most over-the-top.

Each game has several fighters to choose from before you start, boasting different characteristics and weapons too, so if you can’t beat a level using one ship, try it with another. One Raiden game on its own will take hours to master, so four represents terrific value in terms of longevity, even if the gameplay in each title is almost exactly the same. The game has been enhanced for the iPhone 5’s longer screen, but with the original aspect ratio activated, the play area is really small, even when compared to games such as Cave’s Espgaluda II which uses a similar technique. Playing on the iPad is more satisfying thanks to the bigger screen, and DotEmu has been generous enough to make the app universal so iPad support comes at no extra cost.

Playing Raiden is a manic experience whichever title you choose. Electronic  music pumps away in the background, ever-larger ships are shooting at you from all directions, while your weaponry – no matter how insane – never seems to be quite enough to take the enemy down quickly. It’s completely engrossing, pulse-racingly exciting and more than a little bit bonkers. The conversion is brilliant and it’s difficult to find any faults, although there were a few graphical glitches with the video filtering turned off.

Priced at £2.99, Raiden Legacy may be a little more expensive than some of its peers, but you are getting four absolute classic arcade shoot ‘em-ups, each lovingly converted over to iOS, which play superbly. If you’ve never played Raiden or a similarly tough shooter before, there are better (and much easier) introductions to the genre; but fans should pick this collection up right away.

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