When Raiden V launched in the Spring of 2016 for the Xbox One I was shocked and dismayed to see it was the first game in the series to not offer a co-op mode. Blasphemy I thought. The good thing is, developer MOSS thought the same thing. Now available on PlayStation 4 and PC is Raiden V: Director’s Cut - a definitive version of the game with new levels, unlockables and best of all - two player co-op.
A lot still holds true from my original impressions - the game's presentation is a huge step up from the previous titles in the series. Raiden V: Director’s Cut integrates a real time score tracking system to show your progress for the level compared to your best score and of course, the world’s best score. These stats utilize the marquee area and allow the user to cycle between in depth playthrough stats.
The in in-game transitions and scenes between levels are much more cinematic, the game never takes you back to a static screen. The weapon system has been overhauled, and while you still have the same three basic attack types (bullet/laser/plasma) - each one has three chooseable modes of fire before the starting a playthrough. My personal favorites are the spread bullets, combined laser, and split plasma. On top of the three attack types are three ship types to choose from - each with a balance between speed, health, and attack power.
Gameplay should be familiar with numerous ways to increase your score including quick and successive kills, medal pickups, and the random object like fairies or a little blue guy called meniscus. The change from previous titles in the series comes from the fact you actually have health and one life instead of multiple lives and one hit deaths. Combine with the medal collection element - depressing fire to collect all medals on the screen - the game has an almost rhythmic like pace to it.
Raiden V: Director’s Cut features a fully voiced story that plays out DURING actual gameplay. You are constantly fed lines of dialog that end up being a pretty big distraction, especially after they berate you for not killing enough enemies. All of those pages of text can be read (somehow) in a box off to the side of the screen, you know in case you missed something (you didn't) critical to the story during gameplay. Oh, and you’re supposed to read that while trying to dodge the thousands of on screen bullets.
Like Raiden V, the director’s cut features the “Cheer” system. Kill counts, medal pick ups, score thresholds, and several other actions will trigger an on screen banner somewhere in the world letting a player know your achievement and asking them to “cheer” for you. They can quickly tap the Y button giving you a cheer and powering up a gauge which you can use to unleash a special attack. You’ll also be doing the same by keeping an eye on the top left corner of the game looking for incoming achievements and cheering on your fellow pilots.
It's an interesting but gimmicky mechanic. As I’ve said before, I'd almost like to see this somehow working with Twitch streaming, allowing people to watch you regardless of medium and send you 'power-ups.'
Thankfully Raiden V: Director’s Cut has implemented a “proper” co-op mode for a Raiden game. At any time a second player can join in and help you progress through the levels. Doing so disables the cheer system and online leaderboards for the session, but that’s not why you play co-op anyway.
Each player has their own set of weapon levels they will earn independently and the game does seem to up the drops when two players are present. I can’t quite tell if the difficulty actually scaled at all, if anything, it was definitely easier. Co-Op is handled in a “free play” style, meaning even if you die you can just press start and join right back up sacrificing only your score. Really co-op in Raiden V: Director’s Cut is just for fun, the way it’s supposed to be.
The Director’s Cut of Raiden V is the version that should have been released back in 2016. The lack of co-op play was inexcusable. Now with that as part of the package, we have a pretty solid entry into the series despite the absolutely terrible and distracting dialogue. Branching levels, ship variety, and weapon variety make the game incredibly replayable. Once you’re tired of that you can try your hand at the Boss Rush mode. Hardcore shmup fans on the PC may run into some technical challenges at higher refresh rates, so beware. Otherwise strap in and enjoy this game with a buddy.