As a kid of the 1990s, games like those included in the Raiden Fighters Aces compilation are what come to mind when I think of shoot ‘em ups. The three games included display an adherence to 2D pixel graphics, when in the mid to late 1990s, at the time of their release, 3D polygonal visuals were becoming the norm. The vehicles I piloted, those I destroyed, the villages and other locales I flew over all appeared to be grounded in reality, save for the sci-fi weaponry blotting the screen at all times. And the ludicrously high scores, now those I remember. Yep, stepping up to arcade cabinets at the bowling alley and having to count out the high score in chunks of three to see how many million points I attained, that I remember.
The three Raiden Fighters games compiled in this collection were originally released into arcades between 1996 and 1998. They’re an offshoot of the traditional Raiden series, which was the bread and butter for Seibu Kaihatsu, the Japanese arcade developer behind them. Having not played the more traditional Raiden games, as best I can tell, the Raiden Fighters entries merely kicked the action up a notch, but not to bullet hell extremes. However, this compilation is loaded with all sorts of options and toggles for those wanting a tougher experience; it’s fully loaded, and the games run great!
In that regard, I suppose credit is due to the small developer known as Gulti, who ported the games to the Xbox 360. Based out Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward (better known as Akihabara), they’ve perhaps rechristened themselves Kayac Akiba Studio? Judging by their credits, they specialize in shoot ‘em ups, and ports, which checks both boxes of this compilation! Published by Success in Japan, here in the United States we can thank Valcon Games for giving it a chance. Or we could, if they were still around! As it seems they operated predominantly as a publisher of whatever could be had for cheap, I doubt many lamented their closure, but hey, they deserve some recognition for doing the work on this release.
And as I said, it’s a sterling compilation – the games are great and there are loads of options. As I initially played the games for fun, I found their default settings to be well balanced. They eased me in with a gradual increase in difficulty, allowed me plenty of opportunities to collect power ups, and eventually raked me over the coals with some challenging sequences. There was a solid selection of ships to select across the games, and between the different ways they handled and the unique dual weapon progression of each (missiles vs. lasers) I found it worthwhile to experiment with them all. Later, when I played to unlock the remaining achievements, I familiarized myself with the multitude of toggles. Whether I wanted to equip all the tools at my disposal, or create an oppressively difficult challenge, the impact I could have was baffling.
These are approachable, well-balanced shoot ‘em ups in a feature-rich compilation. Much like how raisins and peanuts form the basis of any great trail mix, you know, GORP, I feel like these games are just good ‘ol shoot ‘em ups, GOSHMUPs, if you will.