Breather Level: In Director's Cut, there are two new bonus stages included. In each of these two stages, players fight only one boss; attacking it will cause it to release medals. Unlike the normal stages, the player is immortal; taking hits from boss attacks will result in only a loss of medals. These bosses double as Breather Bosses in this sense. The bonus stages serve as a means for players to have a chance to replenish the shield meter and restock on Bombs and Fairies from the total medals collected at the end of them.
Captain Obvious Reveal: The fact that Valbarossa is a woman is played up as a surprise to the heroes, however her feminine voice, which is not masked in any way, makes her gender clear well before she officially reveals the fact. This is mostly an issue in the Director's Cut version if voices are enabled (which is the default), since the original version did not have any voice acting until an update introduced it.
Complacent Gaming Syndrome: The high score leaderboards consist of Azuma (based on the original craft from Raiden, with stats similar to Aegis from Raiden Fighters games), using the Swing Vulcan-Catch Plasma-Lightning/Prism Laser combos and almost nothing else.
The Catch Plasma isn't terribly powerful at first, but at the highest levels this weapon easily becomes a Master of All and one of the strongest weapons in the entire series. Its orbs lock on to enemies instantly, allowing you to easily rack up that x6.0 multiplier on popcorn enemies, expand out in a wide angle allowing you to zap anything in front of you, and multiple orbs can target the same enemy at once, making it more than powerful enough to take on bosses. Once you upgrade it to level 10, the only real reason to use any of the other weapons (except the Prism Laser, see below) is to get them to level 10 as well for the True Final Boss.
The Prism Laser is pretty hard to use as it involves firing a laser into a crystal to launch rotating lasers out of it, so the player must be very careful to ensure that the rotating lasers keep going. However, a carefully placed crystal will waste bosses, ESPECIALLY Humpty Dumpty, in seconds with point blank rotating lasers that continuously damage the boss.
The worst Stage 8 ending features the VCD returning to Earth, thinking they returned to Mars by mistake due to encountering a big red lifeless planet, only to discover that they did return to Earth and it's already been conquered by the Crystals, rendering their victory at the alien planet completely worthless.
Another bad ending has the Bellwether receive a series of distress calls from Earth, detailing another horrifying discovery of crystals followed by the crystals changing the composition of the Earth's atmosphere. Max orders the Bellwether and all Raiden fighters to rush to Earth to help out, and it's not revealed whether they made it back in time...
On the whole, this game manages to make crystals terrifying. Large batches of them can be seen in stages 2 and 8, and their key schtick is using a given planet's military technology against the inhabitants of the planet. They're also capable of instantly transmitting information from one crystal to the rest, allowing the collective to adapt to any strategies tried against even just one of them.
Play the Game, Skip the Story: The game is noticeably more story-heavy than past entries in the series (even more so than RF Jet), but all it ends up doing for many players (especially main-series players) is have them shut off voices and top-of-screen subtitles.
Strawman Has a Point: Lt. Campbell and the rest of SHIFT get on the VCD's radar because of their illegal research on crystals, not to mention that he hired a pirate to steal crystals from the Bellwether. While Max is right in reminding him that crystals shouldn't be taken so lightly, Campbell also points out that the Bellwether and the Raiden fighters exist due to SHIFT's crystal research, and that the Montevideo agreement was in the way. Max doesn't bother to address this point and continues to have the SHIFT facility assaulted, making him look like an Ungrateful Bastard.
Blow of Hornet, the Stage 5 boss, has a Wave-Motion Gun accompanied by aimed shots that are fired periodically and rotating sidewinding bullet sprays at both sides in its last phase. The laser attack already doesn't leave plenty of free space, but navigating the already fast bullet sprays while trying not to get hit by the aimed shots is very troublesome. Expect to get hit once if you try not to bomb at that phase.
The fortress midboss in Stage 8 launches a massive barrage of bullets that is almost impossible to manage through as said barrage is full of very fast bullets launched in a dense pattern. To say that the midboss is an instant bomb is an understatement.
The first attack of Humpty Dumpty's last phase consists of rapid rotating shots that provide little space to move past the gaps of its extremely fast bullets. You better take out Humpty Dumpty fast or else you will be overwhelmed by the sheer amount AND speed of this attack.
Divine Rampart's last phase starts with 3 streams of rapid shots fired from each of its three arms, then the number of bullets fired from each arm grow rapidly to the point of no telling where to dodge as the entire screen is flooded with bullets moving at breakneck speed.
That One Boss: Humpty Dumpty, the Stage 8 boss, is this if you don't have plenty of bombs, a full Cheer meter, or the Prism Laser. Its first phase is manageable, but drag on the fight too long and you'll be overwhelmed by its Attack Drones' attacks. Then its attacks are both dense and insanely fast, and if its last phase's attacks aren't difficult enough, it will shield itself and proceed to launch a barrage of bullets flying everywhere. There's a good reason why the Prism Laser is a must to take on Humpty Dumpty.