Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Raiden Trad (Mega Drive)

Checkpoints ON
3 Difficulty levels
8 Stages (+1)
Ship speed fixed
- - - - - - -
Developed by Seibu Kaihatsu
Published by Micronet in 1991

As decent a port as Raiden Trad is, the coolest thing about the game for me is its name. Back when it came out I had some access to arcade machines but I didn't have a deeper understanding about them or anything related, and it would take years for me to find out the name of the series was just plain Raiden. So Raiden Trad always felt like the definitive title to me, and to this day it rings better in my ears than the original, somewhat generic Raiden.

One of the several conversions that came out during the 90s, Raiden Trad for the Mega Drive is sadly also one of the most underrated shooters on the console (at least that's how I perceive the general feeling towards the game). I believe this has something to do with the old-style graphics, the well known slow speed of the ship and the checkpoint-based system, which is the main gameplay change from the arcade original. The resulting high level of challenge is probably to blame for turning off casual players from digging deeper into what the game has to offer. For years I've been wanting to finally beat it but at the same time I dreaded the checkpoints, a fear originated from past experiences and from playing the game on the EASY difficulty, the default setting. Yeah, I know… I was young, I was uninformed.

Hard choice: weaving through the pattern or using the last bomb in stock?

In a nutshell, the gameplay revolves around getting power-ups for two types of weapons: red (vulcan) and blue (laser). They're not selectable, and can only be changed when the next power-up appears. Then there are the missiles: straight (M) and homing (H). And then there are the bombs, which influence the end of stage bonus in conjunction with the number of medals collected. This is exactly the same basic structure found in the arcade version, which I explained in full detail when I wrote about the Playstation port. Raiden Trad on the Mega Drive has only minor, insignificant gameplay differences, such as the value you get when uncovering and grabbing the miclus (5.000 instead of 3.000 points) and an assumed toning down of the laser's and straight missiles' power. Because it's a checkpoint shooter, dying during boss fights will reset the number of flags/medals collected, thus considerably reducing the end of stage bonus. For some people the lack of a 2-player simultaneous mode might be a serious drawback, not for me though.

As for other aspects of the game, there’s no denying Raiden Trad bears a remarkable level of faithfulness to the arcade version. I noticed only very few (maybe 2 or 3) medium-sized enemies are missing, while everything is graphically pretty close to the original, down to enemy placement and boss patterns (some of them are actually tougher). The soundtrack takes the biggest hit but still manages to convey what the game is all about musically. Sound effects are sort of a mixed bag, yet I'm really fond of those slightly muffled explosions you hear when the missiles hit something. The screen gets a little bit jerky when a fully powered vulcan weapon is tearing everything apart, but in general the scrolling is fine and fluid.

Waging war on the two initial stages of Raiden Trad
(courtesy of YouTube user PicHutHG)

Reminiscent of early Toaplan vertical shooters, it's important to mention that this game shares the same reputation they have for being very difficult. Dying in later stages with no fairy recover in stock makes it almost impossible to go on, even if it resets rank - which makes things nasty if you play well enough and don't die. One of the features that makes the Mega Drive port a bit special is the extra stage included by Micronet after the end credits roll. This is hands down one of the hardest challenges ever posed to a gamer in shmup history. Unless you beat the last boss (stage 8) while preserving all power-ups there's no chance you might ever be able to see the end of this extra 9th stage. In case you're wondering how it plays you can check this video, recorded in the HARD difficulty with the aid of save states.

I don’t usually care to write about game covers, but in the case of Raiden Trad I feel forced to say that the Genesis version is just hideous. I’m very proud of my Tectoy variant, just check out how awesome it is. Notice how it sort of turns the Japanese art upside down. Beautiful!

Here's my 1CC high score for Raiden Trad on NORMAL (didn't even get past those four starting enemies during special stage 9):


  1. Love the American art cover! Don't get the hate... (seriously) :) The Tec-Toy and Japanese ones just look bland.

    I've heard a lot of negative reviews of this game, so glad to see someone appreciate that the gameplay is close to the arcade's. Too bad the graphics are drab and it seems to go at a slower pace than the PC Engine.

    1. Seriously, you like the US art cover? First person I know that says that!!!
      The game is what matters.... Indeed the MD version is slower than the PC Engine port, but that's only because the PCE version runs faster than it should when compared with the arcade. That's why I feeld the MD version is the best 16-bit port.

    2. exactly Ed, the Mega Drive port is the best of its era, the most accurate & the most satisfying
      its only flaws are 1 player only mode & the lack of plane / spaceship shadows. otherwise it has everything : options menu; rank; parallax; great music; good SFX with some deep bass ones very enjoyable; smooth game; highscore save... & a tough exclusive stage

      while the PC Engine / PC Engine CD versions, besides being also 1 player only, lack so many things : no options menu; no rank; no parallax; no save for highscore; etc... & they also have some bad aspects realisation-wise like some shitty SFX or some bad color choices. + ok they have the said shadows for flying-things but they constant flicker or disappear so in the end, it's not that better even in this aspect... really overrated ports but still okay






  2. i just 1cc'ed it...on default settings,so on easy è_é btw it was very fun.

  3. 1875200 points...soon i'll 1cc it on normal difficulty! XD

    1. that's awesome!
      keep at it, let me know when you get the 1CC


  4. I'm very late in writing this so please forgive me haha. Following up on your comments on the cool "muffled" sound effect when a missile strikes a popcorn enemy, you should try and play Raiden Trad with a subwoofer plugged in. Those missile strikes along with end-of-level boss explosions can really put cracks in your walls even with a small PC sub similar to the one I hook my Japanese Mega Drive up to on occasion.

    1. There's no lateness when it comes to shmups, man.
      What's new for me might be old for you and vice-versa! :)

      I'll take note of your suggestion on Raiden Trad.
      I might even boost the audio specs of my gaming room, who knows?

  5. I actually ended up 1CCing the game on Normal yesterday with the exception of the special stage after the ending. Overall, you nailed it when you said it's very faithful to the arcade version. I did find some survival exploits on some of the bosses that I haven't seen others do yet, particularly on Stage 5 and Stage 6 where I switched over to nuclear missiles instead of homing to point-blank them (along with a single bomb to be safe):


    That special stage killed me big time. I had a no-miss up to that point.

    I know my scoring could have been better because I did some bombing that was probably unnecessary or was the result of some small mistake like on Stage 7 where I accidentally switch weapons briefly.

    1. Congrats on the clear. As you mentioned in your YT summary, this is indeed a tough game despite being tamer than the arcade version. And you sure like your strategies to speed-kill bosses!

      That special stage is really something. Ever since I first played the MD version I've moved through the series past Raiden DX, and sometimes I wonder about getting back to the game and practicing the special stage in an emulator prior to replaying it. I know it is doable because pegboy did it a long while ago. We shall see!