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Video Game / Raiden

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Raiden is a popular and influential series of vertical Shoot 'em Up created by Japanese developer Seibu Kaihatsu, and later handled by MOSS. It is quite notable for popularizing (though not necessarily creating) many concepts and conventions still used by vertical shmups today. Spawned the Raiden Fighters series.

The plot of the series is completely nonexistent (aside from V, which has some backstories) and inconsequential, much like most shoot'em ups. The gist is that alien crystals (called "The Cranassians" by the fan base) is invading Earth, and it's up to the Raiden supersonic jet to stop them.


The series is composed of the following games:

  • Raiden (later ported to the SNES and Genesis as Raiden Trad)
  • Raiden II
    • The Raiden Project (A Compilation Re-release of the first two games for the Playstation)
    • Raiden DX (an extension of Raiden II with a more elaborate scoring system and several different modes)
  • Raiden III
  • Raiden IV
    • Raiden IV Overkill (an extension of IV for PSN and PC/Steam with a new game mode)
  • Raiden V (a straight-to-console title for Xbox One)
    • Raiden V: Director's Cut (an extension of V for the Playstation 4 and on PC/Steam which adds co-op and bonus levels)
Not to be confused with the thunder god of Mortal Kombat, or the Metal Gear character of the same name, or the big wrestler from Fatal Fury...

The series exhibits the following tropes:

  • Airborne Aircraft Carrier: All of the games begin by launching from one of these, and end by landing on it.
  • Big Bad: The giant, ominous red diamond that debuts in Raiden II and seems to be the enemy leader, at least from what can be observed. It spends the bulk of the game harrying you by flying out of the wreckage of every boss fight, confronts you as the Final Boss, and comes back for more as the end boss of III and IV.
  • Book-Ends: Raiden IV's True Final Boss kicks off with a glorious reprise of "Repeated Tragedy", the stage 1 theme of Raiden II, and ends with the boss theme of the original game, signalling the whole series coming full circle.
  • Boring, but Practical: The red Spread Shot, mostly because if (if) you can nose up close enough to an enemy to make all of the spray hit it, it will suffer more damage more quickly than even with the full-power blue laser. It is not uncommon to get a mid-sized enemy destroyed this way before it can even start shooting. At further range, the spread is wide enough that anything in front of you will continuously be pelted with damage, the only drawback being that you have to mash on the fire button, unless you use autofire or play Raiden III or IV, which officially have autofire for this weapon. To summarize, red is your standard-purpose, blue is for concentrated power when point-blank is not an option, and purple/green is for blue purposes that also need you to hit things behind that strong opponent.
  • Bullet Hell: Later games have denser bullet patterns, although the focus remains on fast aimed shots.
    • This is the Final Boss red diamond's bread-and-butter every time you face it. It's not going to let you beat the game without surviving a torrential downpour of curtain fire.
    • Averted if you set difficulty level to "Practice". See Easier Than Easy below.
  • Capcom Sequel Stagnation: Happens with almost every title in the series, with the original getting Raiden Trad and Super Raiden, and Raiden II getting DX. Raiden IV seems to be getting this, since it was ported to the Xbox 360. The newest update, Raiden IV: Overkill, has been ported to PSN and PC/Steam. Raiden V is also this with the subtitle Director's Cut, and will also be ported to the PS4 and PC/Steam.
  • Checkpoint: The Japanese version of Raiden has these.
  • Combination Attack: In 2 player mode, a very strong attack happens if both players shot collide with each other. It's a little unpredictable (the bullets of this attack fire in random directions), but at close range can waste bosses in seconds.
  • Continuing Is Painful: As with most shmups, you lose all your power ups when you die, although you can find a hidden Fairy that gives some of them back (and one time only). Raiden II and subsequent games are kind enough to spill a few power-ups from your ship on death, in addition to the Fairy, so it's not as crushing as it was in the original.
    • Raiden V double subverts this. Given a Life Meter system, the player could survive some hits before it is crushed. However, you will lose all power ups when the meter clocks to zero, resulting in a game over. Depending on difficulty, the player could play this straight or avert it.
  • Cool Plane / Series Mascot: The titular ship. The fifth game even splits it into various models.
  • Difficulty Spike: Usually occurs around the second or third stage.
  • Divergent Character Evolution:
    • In II, player 1 starts with standard bombs, while player 2 starts with cluster bombs.
      • An odd example induced by porting tweaks: In the Japanese version of the PS1 port found in Raiden Project player 1 does not have checkpoints and continues through the stage if they are killed and respawn. But player 2 gets checkpoints, going back to the last one upon death.
    • In DX, the player 1 ship moves faster vertically, while the player 2 ship moves faster horizontally.
  • Double Play: The home ports of both III and IV, as well as V, have a mode where you can control both ships on the same controller.
  • Dual Boss: The first Boss fight of I and II are two tanks and two Spider Tanks, respectively.
    • Two tanks again in III. In IV, the fourth boss is a pair of tanks that take to the air when they suffer enough damage.
  • Dynamic Difficulty: In I and II, if you manage to make it far without dying, the difficulty gets batshit insane. Tanks will fire very fast and accurate shots almost as soon as they enter the screen!
    • According to Word of God, this is traced to a common rule of thumb in the arcade industry at the time: if your game doesn't defeat the player in about 3 minutes (on average), you're not making money.
  • Easier Than Easy: The "Practice" difficulty level. Even bosses don't throw bullets at you in this level.
  • Easter Egg: Seibu Kaihatsu's artists snuck quite a few into the first two games:
    • Besides the cows example below, keep your eyes peeled in the first stage of Raiden for little people running around.
    • A few seconds into II's second stage, look toward the left to find a dude obliviously doing jumping jacks in the street.
    • Later in that stage, if you clear out a row of tanks along a certain road and haven't died up to that point, a red sports car will zoom by; shoot it quick for big points. DX's Training stage gives you a similar spot with a chance to shoot multiple cars.
  • Easy-Mode Mockery: Clear Raiden IV's Light mode and you're treated to an ending cutscene where the Airborne Aircraft Carrier you took off from gets attacked (to the tune of the happy ending theme). Then you're told to try Original mode and the game ends without going to the second loop.
  • Embedded Precursor: The "Normal" course in Raiden DX consists of the first 5 stages of Raiden II with DX's scoring system applied.
  • Everything's Better with Cows: Every game's first stage sends you flying over a farm with some cows. Cows that have animated sprites.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: How Max and the rest of the world justifies the banning of research on the Crystals.
    • The organization SHIFT does not believe so and tries to subvert it by applying their research to the Fighting Thunder project.
  • Featureless Protagonist: We never figure out who the Raiden pilot is in each of the games, other than the third game revealing your ship to be a fairy. Especially in Raiden V, where you are simply referred to as "Raiden".
  • Gainax Ending: Raiden III's ending. Your ship flies into the crashed remains of a fighter shown before the first boss battle in the original game, then it transforms into a fairy and flies away. Was your ship a fairy the whole time?
  • Game-Breaking Bug:
    • A non-game example occurs with the version of the Raiden IV soundtrack that came packaged with copies of the NA-region Xbox 360 port, in which "Tragedy Flame", the stage 4 track, only loops once and abruptly cuts out (rather than looping twice and then fading out).
  • Golden Ending: To achieve the best ending in Raiden V, you must reach Stage 8-S while filling out the criteria for the True Final Boss by fully powering up your weapons before confronting the Stage 8 boss.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: In II and DX, destroyed airborne enemies have a pretty good chance of crashing into the ground instead of just exploding in mid-air. If their landing point happens to be on top of a ground enemy, that poor enemy is going to be hurting (if not destroyed outright). Like with the things noted in Serial Numbers Filed Off, this is another element from Toaplan games, in this case Flying Shark/Sky Shark. In that game, if an enemy biplane was shot from far enough away, it would indeed crash-land rather than just explode—and destroy any hapless tank, patrol boat, or anti-aircraft gun that happened to be underneath.
  • Harder Than Hard: Raiden IV has Very Hard difficulty, which in turn is trumped by Ultimate difficulty. That is to say, Harder Than Harder Than Hard.
  • Hitbox Dissonance: Later games in the series reduce the ship's hitbox to the size of most Bullet Hell
  • Lightning Gun: Come on! Don't fool us with the laser-beam shape, Plasma! We know you to actually be lightning!
  • Macross Missile Massacre: A maxed-out Missile sub-weapon looks like this.
  • Marathon Level: The “training” campaign of Raiden DX is one long (about 15 minutes) continuous level.
  • Multiple Endings: Raiden V is the first game to feature them, since Raiden Fighters Jet.
  • Nerf: The Lock-On Plasma Laser became the Proton Laser in III then came back in IV albeit with different coding.
  • Nintendo Hard: The older games in the series show that just because only a few enemies do Bullet Hell doesn't mean it's any easier.
  • 1-Up: Most games in the series avert Every 10,000 Points; instead, you gain 1-ups by fulfilling some obscure requirements in later stages. And you often get only one 1-up per game, so use those Smart Bombs well!
  • Painfully Slow Projectile: The "sniper" enemies' aversion of this trope is part of why the series is Nintendo Hard.
  • Power Crystal: The Crystals become this for any machine they contaminate, while the Big Bad is one itself.
  • Product Placement: The Genesis port of the first game adds a really hard level that appears after the credits. Beating it will show a message advertising one of Micronet's (the port developer) game, Heavy Nova.
  • Recurring Boss: The giant jet bomber that launches missiles that look kind of like smaller planes.
  • Recurring Boss Template: The first boss battle of the first three games pits you against a duo of ground enemies (gun platforms in the first, spider tanks in II and giant tanks in III) with the weaker one appearing slightly before the other. IV broke the trend by having a single spider tank instead.
    • Also, there's the missile-carrying bomber in those games' second stages, and the giant aqueous vessel in the third stages (a battlecruiser in I, a submarine in II and III).
  • Recycled In Space: Seibu's own Viper Phase 1 is this series IN SPACE! Its soundtrack is even unlockable in the Playstation port of Raiden DX.
  • Regional Bonus: The US version of Raiden Project allows the player to turn off the checkpoint behavior in Raiden, which was enforced in the Japanese version. On the downside, it dummies out vertical rotation, requiring the player to use a cheat device if they want to play the game on a vertically-oriented TV.
  • Sequential Boss: The fifth boss of Raiden II. First you destroy a space shuttle, then fight the fighter it was carrying, and finally face off with the orange jet housed inside it. Also kind of a Climax Boss, considering it's the last level on Earth.
    • Also the Final Boss, which has you fire at the core of this giant purple obsidian-temple-thing, with more and more crap coming out of the temple (Mooks and bulletfire) as the battle goes on.
    • Many of the bosses of the later games do this, as well as Turning Red.
  • Smart Bomb:
    • Unlike in many other scrolling shooters, the bomb's activation is not instantaneous; it doesn't provide the area of bullet cancellation until it explodes a second later. This often leads to prematurely firing bombs because being under a heavy storm of fast bullets will most likely result in death whether you have five bombs or none at all. This was changed in III onwards, where firing a bomb now has the bomb effects activate immediately.
    • Raiden II introduces the Cluster Bomb in addition to the standard big-blast-radius bomb, which serves as the default bomb for the player 2 ship. It releases a ton of bombs all over the screen that do less damage but can more reliably hit everything at once. It still has a delay between firing and detonation, so plan your bomb use in advance!
  • Spider Tank: The first Boss(es) of II, Zelzelei Se Ful and Zelzelei Y Ek. You have to fight two of them (thankfully, not at the same time, unless you're slow in cutting down the first one). One is also the first boss of Raiden IV, Exerey Iss.
  • Spread Shot: The default (red) weapon.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: This is one series that's proud of its explosion animations. Bosses do not go down quietly, visually and literally. The speakers on an actual Raiden cabinet really get the most out of the mighty BOOM.
    • The artists of Raiden II poured an incredible amount of detail into basic Mooks being shot down, from the debris all the way to the craters and burning trees left when they hit the ground.
    • IV's True Final Boss truly takes the cake, spending 24 seconds exploding to a crisp! (As it should, given how hard it is to reach.)
  • Tank Goodness: Out of all the futuristic war machines thrown at you, they sure do love tanks. Expect them in several varieties around every corner. Hell, the red diamond's secret weapon in DX's hidden ninth stage is a giant tank!
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Maxwell cares a lot for his coffee.
  • True Final Boss: Raiden DX's Expert course has one as shown here, if you can make it to the end in one credit. Raiden IV has one at the end of the second loop.
  • Updated Re-release: Raiden DX, Raiden IV Overkill and now Raiden V: Director's Cut.
  • Video Game 3D Leap: Raiden III took the presentation approach.
  • Wave Motion Gun: Your blue powerup becomes this at max level pre-III. In III and IV, it just gets steadily thicker.

Alternative Title(s): Raiden II, Raiden III, Raiden IV


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