When the subject of the Xbox brand in Japan is discussed, the word “failure” often comes up. Looking purely at sales statistics and market share, there is no question that the Xbox has struggled in Japan since its inception. The original Xbox performed poorly, and the Xbox 360 had a few moments of triumph before hitting a permanent slump. The Xbox One in Japan is, for the lack of a better word, hopeless… utterly hopeless. Despite the commercial failures, there is still a glimmer of silver lining in form of the Japan exclusive line-up of Xbox games. Now two genres dominate Japan’s Xbox library: visual novels and SHMUPS (i.e. shoot ’em ups or scrolling 2D shooters).
Now if you don’t speak or read Japanese, you’re not going to get much out of the text heavy visual novels (such as that Psycho Pass game on Xbox One) but there is literally no language barrier in a genre of games where you control a space ship and blast anything on the screen. Sounds simple enough on paper, but these games are absolutely brutal in difficulty as you go up against a swarm of enemies and have to dodge a sea of bullets and missiles… not to mention the screen-filling bosses. These SHMUPS were pretty much the crown jewel of the Japanese Xbox 360, and given the region lock issues, many shooter fans (including myself) were proud owners of a Japanese system. With Xbox One, however, region locking is no longer an issue and so importing these Japan releases is easy. Landing as the first of many exclusive SHMUP releases, the Xbox One gets Raiden V, which is the fifth iteration of the legendary SHMUP franchise and also commemorates the series’ 25th anniversary.
The Japanese release of Raiden V doesn’t come with a full colour booklet unfortunately, it seems that even Japan is joining the trend of not packing in manuals. I mean I get that it saves the environment but damn it… I love manuals with full colour illustrations, but then again not everyone flicks through manuals any more. I still get a kick out character artwork and bios, and a lot of Xbox 360 SHMUPs had some amazing artwork. Still, the amazing artwork of Raiden V can be enjoyed via the in-game digital gallery. It may not come with any paper inserts, but it certainly comes with the complete soundtrack disc and what an awesome extra that is. The music of Raiden V is amazing, energetic, and simply epic. The rich soundtrack is filled with duelling electric guitars and atmospheric orchestra, with a whole range of instruments and styles. It’s a thing of beauty, and so it’s really awesome for them to throw in the soundtrack disc as a freebie.
Visually I was a bit sceptical about the game when it was first unveiled as it didn’t really look all that different from Raiden IV on Xbox 360, but once I popped the disc in I was absolutely blown away by dazzling visuals and overall style. Screenshots and trailers simply do not do it justice, Raiden V has to be seen to be believed. The character models don’t have a high polygon count but the texture mapping is used to produce some eye-candy graphics, featuring some eye-watering lighting and particle effects.
As a SHMUP, Raiden V‘s gameplay is obviously familiar but the level design and action is where it really shines. The pacing is smooth and there is a natural progression in the action and difficulty. Mind you, it is extremely difficult but it never feels impossible like most SHMUPs do. The boss design really stands out here, with gigantic war machines that go through some interesting phases and patterns. It’s fast, chaotic, and immensely addictive, Raiden V is a game any fan of the genre will adore.
If you own an Xbox One and are curious about these type of games, then why not take advantage of the region free-dom and enjoy this landmark next-gen SHMUP release. Raiden V looks great, sounds great, and more importantly it feeds that primal gamer instinct of mashing a button to shoot stuff up for a high score.