Ul­ti­mate Guide: Raiden

Every now and again a videogame ar­rives that de­spite be­ing wholly un­o­rig­i­nal sets a new stan­dard for its genre that all oth­ers are judged by. Never was there a bet­ter ex­am­ple of this than with Seibu Kaihatsu’s Raiden and it’s time to find out why

Retro Gamer - - CONTENTS - Words by Kieren Hawken

Ev­ery­thing you need to know about Seibu Kaihatsu’s sen­sa­tional shoot-’em-up

De­spite be­ing founded as early as 1982 most peo­ple would prob­a­bly strug­gle to name any ar­cade games by Seibu Kaihatsu be­fore the elec­tri­fy­ing re­lease of Raiden in 1990. Per­haps its big­gest hits be­fore this point in time were Dead An­gle and Dy­na­mite Duke, in­no­va­tive Op­er­a­tion Wolf-style shoot­ers where you saw the out­line of your char­ac­ter on the screen so you could move around to avoid tak­ing hits. They were both a mod­er­ate suc­cess in the ar­cades, but are prob­a­bly best known for their re­spec­tive Sega Mas­ter Sys­tem and Mega Drive con­ver­sions. Orig­i­nally known as Seibu Den­shi, it had li­censed many of its games out to big­ger com­pa­nies such as Taito and Tecmo be­fore sign­ing an ex­clu­sive deal with the Amer­i­can com­pany Fabtek Inc in 1989 to both man­u­fac­ture and dis­trib­ute its games to in­ter­na­tional au­di­ences. This deal put the com­pany un­der pres­sure to not only come up with games that would be suc­cess­ful but also ti­tles that would ap­peal to west­ern au­di­ences. The funny thing is that de­spite its huge suc­cess Raiden was never seen as that game. In fact, quite the op­po­site. The boss of Seibu, Hi­toshi Ha­mada, had se­ri­ous doubts about Raiden due to its un­o­rig­i­nal game­play and felt it wouldn’t stand out in an al­ready flooded mar­ket.

The plot of Raiden, which loosely trans­lates as ‘Thun­der And Light­ning’ (and is pro­nounced as rye-den not ray-den), is every bit as generic as the ver­ti­cally scrolling game­play style. It tells us, “In the year 2090, Earth has sud­denly be­come the tar­get of de­ranged aliens known as the Cranas­sians. Fol­low­ing the in­va­sion, the World Al­liance Mil­i­tary builds a new cut­ting-edge weapon, the Raiden Su­per­sonic At­tack Fighter. Based on a cap­tured alien craft, it is hu­man­ity’s only hope for sur­vival.” So what was it ex­actly that made Raiden so damn good? To put it sim­ply, it just got ev­ery­thing right! In the highly crit­i­cal world of videogames, peo­ple will al­ways man­age to find neg­a­tives in al­most any game and rel­ish point­ing out the flaws. But with Raiden, the re­view­ers very much strug­gled to do that as they praised the fair but chal­leng­ing dif­fi­culty curve, in­tel­li­gent at­tack pat­terns, twoplayer co-op­er­a­tive game­play, well-thought-out power-up sys­tem and ex­cel­lent sound­track.

Such was the al­most in­stant suc­cess of the game that it went on to sell 17,000 units be­fore it was su­per­seded by its se­quel.

To put that fig­ure in con­text that is more units than huge hits such as Bat­tle­zone (15,122), Dragon’s Lair (16,000) and Star Wars (12,695) – no mean feat. Raiden still ranks as the most suc­cess­ful game ever pro­duced by Seibu Kaihatsu and one of the best sell­ing ar­cade shoot-’em-ups of all time.

Now let’s go back to that afore­men­tioned powerup sys­tem for a moment and ex­plain how it works a bit fur­ther, as this is ar­guably the one thing that makes or breaks a game of this type. In Raiden you have two types of power-ups that are each split into two sub­cat­e­gories, to keep things sim­ple. Each of these can be up­graded by con­tin­u­ously col­lect­ing the same icon and, by wait­ing pa­tiently, the type of power-up will change from one to an­other to help make this pos­si­ble. Be warned, though, be­cause if you col­lect a dif­fer­ent power-up to the one you are cur­rently us­ing it will not only change to the one you just picked up but also re­set to the min­i­mum level of strength. The first power-up type is your main shot and the two va­ri­eties on of­fer here are Vul­can (red) and Laser (blue). The Vul­can starts off as a fairly weak dou­ble shot but pro­gresses into a full spread of bul­lets that arcs across the whole width of the screen mean­ing only the most pow­er­ful of en­e­mies can get past. The Laser how­ever is a sin­gle fo­cused stream that while only hav­ing a very lim­ited range, has the most power and can elim­i­nate most en­e­mies with ease. Then you have your secondary weapons, which are ei­ther hom­ing mis­siles or stan­dard rock­ets. Both the power and fre­quency of these are en­hanced by col­lect­ing the ap­pro­pri­ate icons. From time to time a spe­cial ‘P’ icon will ap­pear on the screen, if you grab this be­fore it van­ishes you will be re­warded with a fully pow­ered ship and 100,000 points.

i had 256 colours to draw each sprite, more than i had ever had be­fore Sean Mcclure

No scrolling shooter is ever com­plete though with­out some sort of super weapon at your dis­posal and Raiden cer­tainly doesn’t let us down here, ei­ther. Your su­per­sonic fighter is equipped with a lim­ited amount of ther­monu­clear bombs. When det­o­nated these cre­ate a huge cloud of flames that fills al­most all of the play area, a very im­pres­sive sight to be­hold. While you start with just three, more can be col­lected as the game goes on and these are also re­plen­ished every time you lose a life. There

are also other bonuses that can ob­tained dur­ing the game, too, that in­crease your score in the form of medals, which are usu­ally re­vealed when you de­stroy build­ings, and the wiz­ard (a cameo of

Wiz from one of Seibu’s ear­li­est games) that will grant you 10,000 ex­tra points. At the end of each stage you are awarded an ad­di­tional bonus for the to­tal num­ber of medals col­lected mul­ti­plied by the num­ber of bombs you have left. Should you man­age to com­plete the en­tire game, then you are re­warded with 1 mil­lion points be­fore the game loops back to the start, only with a higher dif­fi­culty.

The huge suc­cess of Raiden in the ar­cades meant it was quickly snapped up for home con­ver­sions by a va­ri­ety of pub­lish­ers. Most of these con­ver­sions turned out well but the ports for the FM Towns, Plays­ta­tion and Atari Jaguar (where it was a launch game) were the par­tic­u­lar highlights. It also went on to spawn four di­rect se­quels, with the most re­cent be­ing Raidenz V on the Xbox One and PS4, as well as a spin-off se­ries in Raiden Fight­ers. When Seibu Kaihatsu went bust in 1993 the creators of the game went on to form a new com­pany called MOSS and promptly bought the rights from the liq­uida­tors in or­der to con­tinue the se­ries up to this very day. There’s no doubt that the Raiden se­ries has gone on to be­come one of the most beloved shoot-’em-up fran­chises and one of the few that’s stood the test of time. But it all started right here with the orig­i­nal game and if you haven’t yet played it then you def­i­nitely need to rem­edy that very soon!

» [Ar­cade] When­ever you see train tracks it means that ar­moured rail cars are in­com­ing.

» [Ar­cade] Once the set of planet based lev­els is fin­ished your ship lands at a mid-air base be­fore shoot­ing off into space to con­tinue the fight.

» [Ar­cade] Two play­ers com­pete to grab the super ‘P’ power-up be­fore the giant tank takes them out.

» [Ar­cade] The giant war­planes come from the bot­tom of the screen, so you must make sure you move out the way in time!

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