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Video Game / Raiden

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Arcade flyer for the first game

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 a detailed story to flesh everything out) and inconsequential, much like most shoot'em ups. The gist is that a Hive Mind species of alien lifeform, the Crystals (called "The Cranassians" by the fan base), is invading Earth, and a world organization known as the VCD deployed a new weapon based on Crystal technology, the Fighting Thunder craft, to stop them and save the Earth.

    Games in the series 

Raiden (1990, Arcade)

Later ported as Raiden Trad on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, Raiden Densetsu on the Japanese PC clone FM Towns, and Super Raiden on the TurboGrafx-16 CD-ROM system. All other console releases were simply called Raiden.

Raiden II (1993, Arcade)

Introduces a third weapon, the Bend Plasma laser. Also the first game to have composer Go Sato aboard, and the first game to be released for Microsoft Windows platforms.

Raiden DX (1994, Arcade)

Considered a standalone game despite being an Updated Re-release of Raiden II, it looks like the base game at first glance, but it has a lot of new content, such as a more elaborate scoring system, three different game modes, and the addition of music from the first Raiden to the soundtrack. The console port was released only in Japan for the PlayStation in 1995.

Viper Phase 1 (May 1995, Arcade)

A spinoff of the Raiden series, taking place exclusively in outer space and featuring some different gameplay in the form of temporary secondary weapons. This is the game that the Judge Spear and Blue Javelin ships come from. Developed on the Seibu SPI arcade hardware, which the Raiden Fighters series also uses.
  • Viper Phase 1: New Version (August 1995, Arcade): An Updated Re-release released in the same year, this version makes some gameplay changes to be closer to the Raiden series, most notably the secondary weapons are now permanent and have different levels of power. Also known as Viper Phase 1: USA when Fabtek distributed it in North America.

Raiden III (2005, Arcade)

The first game in the series developed by MOSS after Seibu Kaihatsu disbanded in 1998; also released for the Playstation 2 and the PC. It replaces the Bend Plasma with the green Proton Laser. The Windows PC versions were initially exclusive to Japanese computers before rereleased internationally on Steam eight years later.
  • Raiden III × MIKADO MANIAX: A 2023 rerelease for the PC/Steam, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. This enhanced rerelease updates the 2005 game with HD graphics, customizable wallpapers, and support for vertically rotated displays. It also features 20 remixed music tracks from the game by a group of artists produced by the Japanese arcade chain, Game Center Mikado. Featured remix artists are oSatoBan, Heavy Metal Raiden, Fantom Iris, O.T.K., Soshi Hosoi, Daisuke Matsumoto, Cosio, Keishi Yonao, Ryu☆, Raito, and Yu Shimoda.

Raiden IV (2007, Arcade)

Reintroduces the Bend Plasma weapon (which was not included in Raiden III). The best known feature of this game is its inclusion of new arrangements of music from Raiden and Raiden II as part of the soundtrack.

Raiden V (2016, Xbox One)

The first in the series to include an elaborate story to flesh out many of the mainstay narratives in the series that had gone unexplained until this game. It also introduces game mechanics changes from those long-standing in the series, with some elements from the Raiden Fighters games. It is also the first game in the series to have no arcade releases at all, being a straight-to-console title.

Compilation rereleases:

  • The Raiden Project (1996): Released on the PlayStation, it includes the first two games.
  • Raiden Legacy (2012): First released on Android mobile devices, then on Steam and GOG for Windows PCs, it includes the first Raiden and all three Raiden Fighters games.

Not to be confused with the thunder god of Mortal Kombat, note  or the Metal Gear character of the same name, or the character from Honkai Impact 3rd, or the big wrestler from Fatal Fury, or the Virtuaroid from Virtual-ON...

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. Raiden V gives it a name: the Bellwether.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: The Arcade Archives version of Raiden allows the player to start a game from the 2nd player side as well as to adjust the starting rank, as in the original version of the game starting rank is determined by what stage the Attract Mode is showing when you insert your coins, which isn't hinted at in the original arcade release.
  • Arrange Mode:
    • The "New Version" build of Viper Phase 1 removes the fininte-ammo sytsem of subweapons; they now last until you are killed. However, subweapons are less powerful as a counterbalance.
    • Raiden IV Overkill has the "Overkill" mode, where attacking a medium-size or bigger enemy after it's been destroyed allows you to fill its "Overkill" meter, which, depending on the level of the Overkill meter filled, gives you score medals. In addition, Silver and Gold Score rings appear when you kill enemies quickly as they appear.
  • Astral Finale:
    • After completing stage 5 (of 8) in either of the first two games, you land back on the Airborne Aircraft Carrier and take off into space for the final three stages.
    • Raiden IV takes you into space for the fifth and final stage of the game. In the Xbox 360 / Additional Mode on consoles, this part of the game is split up into three stages.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The Bend Plasma weapon, first introduced in Raiden II, is one of the most visually-impressive weapons in all of Shoot 'Em Up games. It is a laser weapon that bends while locking on to enemies, dealing damage to many enemies at once when fully powered up. However, it is the weakest weapon out of the three available weapons, and the bending all over the place can distract you from enemy bullets at times. It is a difficult weapon to master, as most players who use it usually spend much longer on boss fights than they would with the other less flashy (but higher DPS) weapons.
  • Big Bad: The Crystals. First introduced as a giant, ominous red diamond that, at least from what can be observed, seems to be the leader. 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. In Raiden V, it's shown that the Crystals actually have been contaminating Earth's own machinery and using them to eradicate humanity. Their purpose? To reset the world by wiping out all life through pollution and assimilating their own weaponry, cleaning up all the pollution, and making it habitable again.
  • 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, the Wide Vulcan. If you are close enough to an enemy to make all of the spread hit, it will suffer more damage more quickly than even with the full-power blue laser. You can usually destroy larger enemies this way before they can even start shooting. At further range, the spread is wide enough that anything in front of you will continuously be pelted with damage, with the only drawback being that you have to mash on the fire button, unless you use autofire or play Raiden III or later, which officially have autofire for this weapon.
  • Bullet Hell: Later games have denser bullet patterns, although the focus remains on fast aimed shots. Especially in highest difficulty settings where enemies' bullets go apeshit on you in return.
    • 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, released on the PS4, PC/Steam, and the Nintendo Switch.
  • Checkpoint: The Japanese version of Raiden has these. Other versions do not, and cause the player to respawn in place if killed.
  • Combination Attack: In 2 player mode, a very strong attack happens if both players shoot each other. It's a little unpredictable (the bullets of this attack fire in random directions), but at close range it 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 subverts this. Given a Life Meter system, the player could survive some hits before going down. When continuing after dying, all powerups are retained.
  • Cool Plane / Series Mascot: The titular ship. The fifth game even splits it into various models.
  • 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.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The very first game only has two weapon types (the red Spread Shot and the blue laser) while all later games have at least three, and the Japanese version of it in particular has checkpoints whereas the export versions and all subsequent games do not. It is also the only installment with point-based extends. There are only four stage themed shared amongst the eight stages; later games have as many themes as there are stages, or at least close to it, with Raiden II reusing only one theme ("Tragedy Flame" for stages 2 and 8).
  • Easier Than Easy: The "Practice" difficulty level in DX and MOSS-developed home titles. Even bosses don't throw bullets at you in this level, and there are no Easy-Mode Mockery either (unless you play Light Mode in IV that is).
  • 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. Otherwise this trope is averted with Practice and Easy levels in MOSS-developed titles, making Light Mode an exception to the aversion.
  • Embedded Precursor: The "Normal" course in Raiden DX consists of the first 5 stages of Raiden II with DX's scoring system applied.
  • 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 the original Fighting Thunder 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, it will either be heavily damaged or destroyed. 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 enemy that happened to be underneath.
  • Guide Dang It!: Raiden I has convoluted rules for how it handles its Dynamic Difficulty. Player 2 starts at a lower rank and the Laser and Missile powerups raise rank while Wide and Homing lowers it. Most unusual however, is that the rank changes depending on which cycle the Attract Mode was at when inserting a coin (something that the e-manual for the Arcade Archives versions only vaguely aludes to by stating that inserting credits at different time affects the game's difficulty), with default rank being when the Stage 7 demo is running.
  • 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, Bend Plasma! We know you to actually be lightning!
  • Lightning Lash: The Bend Plasma is this. It starts as a rapid firing purple laser stream. Continuously firing it will overcharge it and turn the weapon into a plasma stream that locks on to multiple enemies. It looks as awesome as it sounds◊.
  • 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. In Raiden V, the eighth and final stage is the longest stage in the game, lasting about 9 minutes until encountering the boss.
  • Mercy Mode: In all games except V, if you lose all your lives, a 'P' item drops from your ship. If you continue, you can claim it and power your weapons up to maximum. Too bad you lose all of that extra firepower when you (likely) inevitably die again.
  • Multiple Endings: Raiden V is the first game to feature them, taking a cue from Raiden Fighters Jet.
  • Nerf: The Bend Blasma became the Proton Laser in III then came back in IV albeit with different coding.
  • Nintendo Hard: Bullets move very fast, it takes many stages' worth of powerups to get your ship into a reasonably powerful state, losing a life knocks all of those powerups out of your ship making recovery nightmarishly difficult, and there's a sheer drought of extra lives; these games often only give one extra life in the entire game. The Seibu-produced games also don't give invincibility when firing a bomb and bombs take about a second to detonate, so it's quite difficult to whisk yourself of imminent death.
  • 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.
  • Scenery Porn: 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.
  • 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 does not cancel out enemy bullets until it explodes. 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. The Cluster Bomb serves as the default bomb for the player 2 ship. It releases a ton of bomblets all over the screen that do less damage but can more reliably hit everything at once. Unlike the original bomb, the bomblets can protect from enemy attacks even before they explode, making the Cluster Bomb a much better panic attack than the original bomb.
  • 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.
    • IV's True Final Boss truly takes the cake, spending 24 seconds exploding to a crisp!
  • 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!
  • 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. Raiden V has Divine Rampart, fought only if all three of your weapons are fully powered up to level 10 before confronting the stage 8 boss.
  • Updated Re-release: Raiden IV Overkill and Raiden V: Director's Cut, both of which add new features to the original games. Raiden DX can be seen as this, but it adds so much on top of its Raiden II base, such as all new stages and bosses, that it is considered a standalone game rather than this trope.
  • 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