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Raiden IV: Overkill Review – Bringing Sexy Lasers Back

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Raiden IV: OverKill is an enhanced port of the classic shmup original, a game that was actually released in the Americas back in 2009 on the Xbox 360. Despite the game finally making its way across the pond, it was a bit too expensive for the amount of content the game came with – a pure port of the original game.

This is all a thing of the past, however, as UFO Interactive has brought over the enhanced port, Raiden IV: OverKill, to the Playstation 3. The game comes with a host of new gameplay additions, and a much easier to swallow price tag at $20 dollars.

Raiden IV: OverKill is a vertical shmup cut from the same cloth as other classics like DoDonPachi, Espgaluda, and Radiant Silvergun. All of the aforementioned titles are more bullet hell type shooters, meaning you’ll be navigating the screen in an attempt to not just vanquish your foes, but merely to survive. Raiden IV is not that type of experience – instead you’ll be thrown into a veritable mix of old school shmup gameplay and some light bullet hell action.

The difficultly in Raiden IV: OverKill is definitely there, as a veteran of the genre I found myself frequently retrying and retrying again, as per the course with these types of arcade-y, shmup experiences. There’s something here for both novices and veterans of the genre, and the various difficulty settings will provide a tailored experience for players of all levels of expertise.

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Raiden IV is very much derivative of the classics in the genre, but it throws in some fun and unique new features that help spice up the gameplay. First off, there are three different types of ships to choose from (although one is a fairy spirit), and each one has its own unique movement, and its own weapon types, but there’s something more to upgrading your weapons.

In the game, you’ll see various power ups drop after you’ve defeated enemies, although they’re not static drops, meaning after a certain length of time, they’ll change over into another power up. There are a few different styles of power ups, and depending on your ship, they’ll all unlock and evolve into different shooting styles.

This creates an interesting dynamic that depends on the style of shooting and play that you prefer in shmups. If you prefer more hard hitting, traditional bullets, you’ll have to stick to that particular power up. If you prefer big, powerful lasers that obliterate things (but has a considerable cooldown), you’ll have to go for a different type of power up. They all have their advantages and disadvantages, and the key to success in Raiden IV is sticking to your guns and going down one particular weapon development path.

Instead of simply dodging bullets, you’re now trying to buy time so that you can get the next sweet upgrade for your preferred weapon. Or, you can simply grab a different weapon so that you can prepare for a battle you know will require some different tactics, and weaponry. I’ve seen this mechanic in some other shmups, but unfortunately it hasn’t been that widely adopted, and I feel like it’s a very fun and engaging technique that keeps you even more on your toes, if that’s even possible within a genre known for blistering difficulty.

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Raiden IV is definitely no slouch to difficulty, as it has over a half dozen stages and a whole bunch of difficulty selections. The game packs a punch, but it rarely feels unjustified in its difficulty, which in my opinion is a pretty tall order for a game that isn’t really attempting to reinvent the genre. The stages progress nicely and finish up with multi-level boss fights, some having multiple forms and climbing levels of difficulty. In case you’re stuck on a certain difficulty, you can always take it down a notch and see if that particular level is more akin to your current skillset.

The game comes with a standard arcade mode, a good starting point for novices, but this is generally the let exciting mode within the game as far as I’m concerned. There’s a few other modes like Score Attack, Additional Mode, and so on, but the real meat of this game is in the brand new OverKill mode, hence the game’s new subtitle. This new mode is what you should be cruising through the game under, as it sets a new level of challenge to accumulating an even higher top score.

In OverKill mode, enemies can be literally shot to smithereens even beyond their HP bar being depleted. There are five levels of an enemy being Overkilled, each with their own reward of points, and each potentially giving you medals that get you a metric butt-ton of points that will help catapult you to the top of the leaderboards. This also adds another risk and reward type mechanic – should you kill your enemies and let them die, or do you shoot them even deader to get even more precious, tantalizing points? I’ll go with the latter and shoot them dead until they’re so dead they’re.. well, super dead. You get the point.

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The music and sounds in Raiden IV are not equally as good as the gameplay, however. Sound effects leave something to be desired, as this is an older game, and the sounds simply show off its age. The music simply shines, as it’s an awesome mix of pounding rock that just simply fits in the worlds you’ll be blasting through in whichever gameplay mode. I’d say it even has a bit of a throwback sound to the score, something you’d hear out of a shmup that came out in the 90’s or something, but definitely with a fresh, awesome balance.

Coming off my disappointment with the lackluster sound effects are the visuals – they once again show that Raiden IV is an older shmup. The textures are a bit muddy and unimpressive, backgrounds are a bit bland, and the explosions and other visual effects leave something to be desired as well. The giant lasers, ship designs, and upgraded weapons are all definitely nice to look at, but they somewhat heighten the realization that lots of other stuff in the game’s visual repertoire were sorely overlooked. It’s hard to not compare it to other shmups that have come out recently that have simply gorgeous visuals, 2D or 3D.

Raiden IV: OverKill really has a wealth of gameplay that is pretty much a steal at this point. There’s challenging, rewarding gameplay, giant and fantastical lasers that’ll make your eyeballs implode, and lots of other crazy stuff like play modes that will let you control two ships at once – the latter of which is probably for the clinically insane, and or masochistic.

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If you’re looking for a lengthy experience with something of a story – that’s simply not here. Raiden IV: OverKill is the kind of shmup for purists and minimalists, it simply doesn’t try to be much more than an unadulterated shoot ’em up experience. It excels at what it does best – varied, rewarding, and challenging gameplay. With a more modest price tag and even more content, it’ll be hard to pass this game up, just don’t expect it to wow you on the graphics side.

Raiden IV: OverKill was reviewed using a code provided by UFO Interactive. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s reviews/ethics policy here.

Brandon Orselli

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Big Papa Overlord at Niche Gamer. Italian. Dad. Outlaw fighting for a better game industry. I also write about music, food, & beer. Also an IT guy.