1 Difficulty level
8 Stages (loopable)
Ship speed fixed
- - - - - - -
Developed by Seibu Kaihatsu
Published by Hudson Soft in 1991
And another Raiden port bites the dust. Yeah!
There are a few more to go, but I'll get to them eventually. As for the PC Engine's, it's important to mention that whenever you look for online information on it you'll much likely find references about Super Raiden instead - the superior version released one year later for NEC's CD add-on. It doesn't matter a bit for us shmup lovers, because every shmup is an opportunity for celebration, regardless of when, how or in which platform it was released. Provided it is, of course, playable and beatable. No matter how bad or butchered... right?
I don't mean to say that this particular version of Raiden is bad. The PC Engine was one of the lucky consoles to get a port of this now classic, unmistakable vertical shooter, and whether it is the best 16-bit version is a debatable issue. Personally I prefer the Mega Drive port, and let's not go as low as bringing the SNES port to the conversation... What matters most for the PC Engine is that the transition from the arcade original is decent. It gave all PC Engine owners a good glimpse of what it was like to play a hard, punishing arcade game at home. So there we have my first conclusion about it: the challenge is still high up in the difficulty scale.
Sharpness and vibrant colors are what this port has best when looking at how graphics were handled. The stage design was inevitably rearranged in a few parts so that the game could fit in the space of a HuCard, but all major components are there. Some of the most noticeable changes are the absence of those dangerous popcorn enemies during boss fights, the reduced number of passerby snipers (like in stage 7), the relocation or elimination of a few key enemies and the obvious impact of having the playfield stretched to fit the whole screen. This last observation probably stems from the fact that in my initial credits I had a hard time adapting to the gameplay in Raiden, mainly because I had just come out of playing an aggressively oriented vertical shooter (PS2's Dragon Spirit).
At this time and age, everybody knows how to play the game. Explode carriers to get red and blue power-ups for vulcan and laser shots. Destroy special ground boxes to get power-ups for straight (M) or homing (H) missiles. Get extra bombs by grabbing the triangular B icon. Collect medals for a special end of stage bonus (number of medals × bomb stock × 1.000). And that's it. No further complications, no deep scoring techniques, no bullshit whatsoever. Shoot, dodge, nuke! Am I forgetting something? Oh yes, the fairies! Uncover hidden fairies for 10.000 points! They are located in special areas of the terrain in stages 1, 4 and 6 - these areas seem to get "hit" as you shoot. If you've collected a fairy you get an extra batch of power-ups upon a respawn. Last bits of info: every extra power-up collected when the ship is already with maximum power is worth 5.000 points; the P icon will give instant maximum power or 10.000 points if already at max; the random blue "miclus" might appear for extra 3.000 points. And that's it! Shoot, dodge, nuke!
The start of an epic journey to stop evil aliens from conquering the Earth
(courtesy of YouTube user DigiHatesMakingNames)
The few criticisms than can be actually made about this port are related to the music, which is pretty substandard (especially when compared to the renditions on the MD/SNES), and the presence of screen flicker whenever things get too hectic. Basic rank is simple to control, just avoid getting the laser so that you don't have to face enemy bullets that are clearly faster than usual. Further rank seems to lean much more towards enemy resilience than bullet speed, and an example of this was when I reached the 5th boss without dying. I always bombed that beast away, and it took lots of them for him to die. If I died and got back to the pea shot, 2 or 3 bombs would easily waste him.
As the port of a classic, Raiden on the PC Engine is good fun. I might be wrong here, but I think the ship is slightly faster than in other versions, which makes the game just a tiny bit easier. No matter how it stands though, it's just straight pure old school vertical action recommended for everybody craving a break from the frantic shooters of today.
The game doesn't save or buffer high scores, but at least it gives you a few seconds to pause right after dying. Did I mention that completing a loop awards the player with 1 million points? That's some great motivation for not continuing, isn't it? Here's my final high score, when I reached level 2-3: