We’re not exactly sure why MOSS and NIS America insist on releasing their Raiden games in such a bizarre order, but following on from Raiden 5: Director’s Cut and Raiden 4 x MIKADO, here is their last updated port and this time it’s Raiden III x MIKADO MANIAX.
Dating back to 2005, Raiden III is a vertically-scrolling shoot ’em that debuted in arcades before finding a way over to the PS2 (although don’t try to pick up a copy unless you’ve got a lot of spare cash). Although it’s had a couple of releases on PC, fans were eagerly awaiting an updated console port, albeit mostly on the Switch which has become the home of shoot ’em ups this generation.
But here we are in 2023 with Raiden III available on PSN and it comes with a few enhancements too. But before we get into that, the main thing to know is that Raiden III is very much a traditional Japanese shoot ’em up. You know the sort of thing, you’re at the bottom of the screen flying upwards through seven levels while a huge alien force is trying to stop you.
You control your ship with the left stick or d-pad and you’ve got two buttons to worry about: shooting and bombing. You can assign these functions to multiple buttons too which does make the game very comfortable to play. We had each mapped to face and shoulder buttons and it worked well.
Being an earlier game in the series, everything is a lot simpler here. You only get the one playable ship, so that cuts out on any pre-game selection worries, and there are just three weapons to worry about. You’ve got the crowd-clearing spread gun, the boss-bothering laser and, for the first time in the series, the famous wibbly-wobbly plasma laser. We have to admit, we were actually pretty pleased to have our options limited like this as it meant we could just focus on the not-inconsiderable task of actually staying alive.
Yep, Raiden games are tough, sometimes a bit too much so, but this one feels a bit more balanced than the rest of the series. Like you’ve got a fighting chance. At least for a while as later stages are still brutal but you’ll have a nicer time getting to them.
As ever though, we did have the occasional ‘what hit me?’ death mainly thanks to the game enjoying a combo of brown backdrops and orange bullets. It’s not ideal but not quite as bad as it was in Raiden IV and the problem goes away on the later space-based stages.
But generally the game is nicely playable throughout with slick controls and enemy bullets that never quite go full bullet-hell. Also, you do get a great range of difficulty settings to play on and also the option to up your stock of lives and bombs (which you should do as there’s no penalty for it). You earn credits as you play also, so you don’t need to worry about never seeing the end levels which is a big improvement over something like R-Type.
However, like R-Type, the game does punish you a little for dying by stripping you of one or two weapon power upgrades. You’ve got the chance to collect them as they float away from you but you are often left to fight through difficult situations with little more than a space pea-shooter. Also, while we’re moaning, the Plasma Laser feels like a bit of a liability. Sure, it has a handy way of locking onto enemies but you’re often firing at nothing, or just the wrong thing, due to it’s haphazard targeting. Still, no-one is making you use it, so that’s fine.
As a 2005 shoot ’em up, Raiden III isn’t exactly going to seem all that original now. Especially to anyone who has played the later games in the series. The standard formula of fighting over Earth-based battlefields before taking to space means that you’ll be seeing all the usual types of cityscapes, rural landscapes and so on while fighting a mixture of enemy tanks, turrets, planes and so on. It’s not all that exciting but it’s okay and surprisingly it all looks pretty decent for a game this old.
The graphics have had a nice refresh with enemies looking particularly sharp and well-defined. The backdrops definitely don’t look as good but they’re not awful and they scroll by at some speed (and aren’t repeating tiles or anything, so there’s always something new to look at). We were pleasantly surprised by how it all looked, aside from that minor bullet clarity issue. It certainly all looks nicer than the usual PSN fodder.
The sound is great though. As with the previous release, the MIKADO collaboration is purely a musical one and it provides the game with great soundtrack that you can actually customise so that you’re picking each level’s music. The roster of tunes is generally split between electronic music and full-on guitar madness, so you can decide what it is you’re after. It all sounds decent though and provides the game with a good shot of energy as you play it.
So generally we’re pretty pleased with Raiden III. By nature it had to be simpler than IV and V but, for our money, that improves things a bit. The game feels a bit more streamlined and a tad more playable too. It’s nice to have choices in games but sometimes it’s nice to just know you’ve got the best ship for the task so you can just crack on. And because of that, this title, above all others in the series, feels like a great option for beginners who want to see what the series, and genre, is all about but also for experts who want to take on the game’s trickier difficulty levels. We like it a lot.
+ more streamlined than other Raidens, and better for it
+ very well-presented and with excellent music
+ good range of difficulty settings
+ suitable for new players and experts
- no surprises in terms of enemies and setting