Last week we reviewed Spirit of Hero, a Windows Phone-exclusive MMORPG from Vietnamese developer TeaMobi. Although a large and potentially fun game, Spirit of Hero suffers from a poor English translation and several technical issues. I must be on a janky Asian games kick, because today I’m back to review Raiden X for Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 and RT. This one comes from a Chinese publisher called Kim Labs and indie developer HeartTour.
Although Raiden X bears the name of the famous Raiden shoot-em-up series, it’s not an official Raiden title. The developer borrowed the name and a few assets and made their own Raiden game without permission of Raiden owner Seibu Kaihatsu. Yet unlicensed fan games like this are actually part of a longstanding tradition in Japan and Asia. They’re called doujin games, and exist in something of a gray market in their native countries. Some doujin games are great, while others are totally amateur hour – like Raiden X.
Nobody will ever mistake Raiden X for the product of an English-speaking developer. The game starts out with a brief introduction that steals artwork from the horrible Michael Bay Transformers and a couple of other movies. The introductory text reads like more of a poem than a real intro:
invasion of alien races.
Loss of life,
Is that you?
Can you save the world?”
This same poor translation rears its ugly head during the ship select screen and in-game tutorial. Spelling and grammatical errors abound. The tutorial is so garbled, you might be left wondering what some of the items and on-screen buttons do.
Shoot ‘em up, whydontcha
Like the real Raiden games, Raiden X is a vertically scrolling shoot-em-up. Only here, all the stages take place in space – no land levels to be seen.
Players control a single ship and its two wingmen. The main ship can take multiple hits. That comes as a blessing in the shmup genre; most of the time your ship would be a one hit wonder in this sort of game.
The two wingmen’s shots don’t do too much damage unless you buy better ones in the shop, but it’s still cool to have them along. Should your wing-dudes take hits and be destroyed, you can bring them back by collecting a certain power-up.
As you kill oncoming fighters, they will often drop one of three weapon power-ups. If you don’t pick up a weapon right away, it will cycle between the other types of weapons (much like in the real Raiden games). The more of the same weapon you grab, the stronger that weapon gets… Until you take a hit, which reduces the weapon level by one. Oddly, I could never figure out which power-up gives which weapon. Either it’s mistakenly random or just really hard to tell.
Your ship also has access to three limited-use special weapons: bombs, invincibility, and super weapon. The bomb acts like it would in any other shmup, except for the visual effect. Instead of just covering the screen with explosions, a gigantic stealth bomber flows by to deliver the explosive payload. The modern-day aircraft doesn’t fit with the game’s sci-fi setting, but few of this game’s elements really mix well together. The invincibility gives you a temporary shield, and the super weapon causes your ship to fill the screen with bullets for a moment. You’ll mostly want to save these items for bosses.
Raiden X consists of a scant five levels and three difficulty settings. To add replay value, players have to complete one difficulty before gaining access to the next. Finishing Hard unlocks a Survival mode. The difficulties are actually aptly named (unlike Cave games). A less skilled shmup player like me was able to complete the game on Easy and Normal without any real trouble. I did buy some upgrades via In-App Purchase (IAP), though.
After launching as a paid game, Raiden X soon switched over to free to play. Everything within the game’s ship stores and Tech store costs coins, which you’ll pick up during gameplay. Coins can also be purchased via IAP at surprisingly reasonable prices; at the maximum purchase of $3 you’ll be able to buy the second best ship or most of the Tech upgrades.
99 problems but polish ain’t one
Although Raiden X is fun at its core, the game has so many problems that I’ve dreaded writing about it. Where do I begin?
Putting aside the illegal use of the Raiden name and even its loading screens, Raiden X is still a hodge-podge of elements lifted from other games. The single in-game song comes straight from Ken’s stage in Street Fighter II, for instance. I love me some SF2 music, but the tune doesn’t fit this game at all and also becomes repetitive awfully quickly. The sound effects are fairly limp too.
At least one of the level bosses comes from another property as well. The first boss is the NX-01 from Star Trek: Enterprise! Actually, that’s kind cool in a doujin game way. But the bosses still disappoint as a whole. None of them actually move at all; they just sit at the top of the screen and fire. The shot patterns barely change from boss to boss, so they all feel the same even though they look different. You don’t even get any visual representation that you’re damaging them; they just blow up when they’ve had enough.
The backgrounds are none too impressive either. Each one looks extremely plain and lacks parallax scrolling or animation. Worse, they repeat after just a couple of screens with no attempt made to hide where one screen ends and the other begins. And one level doesn’t even have a background – just plain black space.
The Windows Phone game suffers from technical issues to boot. The game crashes a bit too frequently, though not all the time. I’ve also seen large blue bars appear in place of the art on the ship select screen and all over the pause screen.
Windows 8 version
When playing on a monitor instead of a tablet, the game will retain its vertical nature but have black bars on either side of the display. That’s not a bad choice as vertical games feel off when played horizontally, but I wouldn’t mind having the option anyway.
The Windows 8 version lacks Xbox 360 controller support – a real missed opportunity. In fact, it doesn’t even support keyboard controls! If you play on a computer, you’ll have to use the mouse for all controls.
Needless to say, saved game and purchases are not shared between the two versions.
It’s easy to rag on Raiden X because of its many technical problems, design issues, and lack of respect for copyright law. I honestly haven’t played such a wonky game in quite a while. And yet the game is actually sort of fun thanks to its reasonable difficulty and meat-and-potatoes shooting gameplay. I’d take a Japanese-style shmup like this over more polished but less robust games like Impossible Shoota any day. But I'd still rather play the real Raiden.
Kim Labs recently published another shoot-em-up called Raiden: Air Attack. We’ll check it soon and see whether it shows any improvement over this one.
- Raiden X – Windows Phone 8 – 10 MB – Free – Store Link
- Raiden X – Windows 8 and RT – 10 MB – Free – Store Link