Who doesn’t love Raiden, for goodness sake? If you are a certain age, and you are into shooters, then you will have encountered Seibu Keihatsu’s legendary vert scroller in one incarnation or another. You know the drill – the choice between two upgradeable weapons of spread shot Vulcan or the more direct and powerful laser beam, the two varieties of missile, and the all-destroying smart bombs – it was one of the more memorable blasters of its era, competing with the likes of Truxton, 1941 and Fire Shark for a share of the arcade spoils.
The iconic red spacecraft has certainly evolved since the relative simplicity of the 1990 original. Gone are Seibu in their original guise, with ex-employees forming MOSS out of the ashes of the company’s unfortunate bankruptcy. Although numerically we are now technically up to the fifth Raiden, the fourth entry has been extraordinarily prolific in its reinventions and tweaked versions.
Raiden IV x MIKADO Remix is the best and most comprehensive version of Raiden IV as one could reasonably expect. Already released in 2021 for the Switch, it now finds it way to all other formats. It takes the time-honoured Raiden IV gameplay but sees fit to include not only the 2007 arcade original, the 2014 Overkill revision, a new “Additional” mode which bolts on two brand new stages, and an extremely fun unlockable boss rush mode. As well as this, thanks to the titular crossover with Game Centre Mikado, there is an incredible soundtrack that consists of a number of absolute belters from a plethora of well-known videogame soundtrack luminaries.
Gameplay wise, the versions of IV on offer are quite different beasts. The OG arcade version, and indeed the Additional mode, use the Flash Shot system that was first introduced in Raiden III. The quicker you shoot down enemies as they appear in Raiden IV x MIKADO Remix, the better your score multiplier. This encourages you to take risks at learning patterns and anticipating when foes will materialise. You can also earn an improved score by allowing your ship to brush closely against enemy ordnance.
Overkill mode encourages you to earn additional points in a way befitting its name. When you take out some larger enemies, rather than explode in classic sci-fi fashion, they remain on screen after their demise, allowing you to nihilistically continue to pump ordnance into to bump your score. Of course, doing this allows other, newer enemies to enter the fray and for you to worry about. It is a cool little risk/reward situation.
The most interesting way to play Raiden IV is the Double option, where you actually take control of two ships at once with one controller. It may sound bonkers, but it is surprisingly intuitive once it clicks and you find yourself in the groove and realise that most of the enemy attack formations are in fact kind of suited to a dual wield approach. Of course, you can also play couch co-op, which is fun but gets a bit busy. Double mode aside, there are online score leaderboards for all modes i Raiden IV x MIKADO Remix, which provides a real incentive to learn the systems and maximise your high scores.
Technically and in terms of the sheer depth and bullet hell wizardy, Raiden IV isn’t ever going to be troubling the upper echelon of vertical shooters, but as a no-nonsense bullets and bombs outing it is an extremely fun one – and this version does have a lot going for it. It is what I would consider more of an entry level bullet-riddled shmup – and one that is slightly more accessible and a fine way to tune up your skills before you start thinking about a Ketsui or a Deathsmiles.
It is fantastic that titles like Raiden IV x MIKADO Remix are still being released. I have always been a sucker for anything Raiden related. What it doesn’t have, unless you have the ability to rotate your screen of choice, is the ability to play in the original TATE mode. If that is what you want, then I would recommend the Switch version over the console release all day long.
Comprehensive compilation of Raiden IV versions
Easier for casual players
Visuals a tad dated
No TATE mode