I remember wondering into the local mall arcade as a teenager and seeing a pair of twenty-somethings dancing to near perfection in this arcade SHMUP, that's short for "Shoot em Up." They each gracefully dodged the thousands of on screen bullets, pirouetting into powerups, with the most noticeable one being a giant purple heat seeking beam. It was beautiful to watch not only in execution, but in looks. The game was Raiden II, and I was in love.
While it seems SHMUP games these days are a dime a dozen, it's still hard to touch the classics. Seibu Kaihatsu, the Raiden franchise's developer, went on after Raiden II and III to release the Raiden Fighters games. These three games; Raiden Fighters, Raiden Fighters II: Operation Hell Dive and Raiden Fighters Jet all were a small departure from the previous games and are combined in the Raiden Fighters Aces pack published by Valcon games. The Raiden Fighters games allows players to choose which craft they'd like to control, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Each ship has two unique attacks, missile and laser, upgraded by picking up the M and L tokens for each prospective weapon. In addition to these, there are S tokens that add drone wingman, also unique depending upon your ship. Finally there are medals you can collect for bonus points, and each game in the series adds a unique twist to this system to maximize your score.
Each ship has their own unique attacks, speed and handling.
The Raiden Fighters Aces collection for the Xbox 360 adds a ton of great options for fans of the classics gameplay which help keep the experience true to the original. With graphical options that change rendering framerate, to filters that add scan lines to make it display look like it's on an arcade CRT screen, and even the ability to flip the screen horizontally for the true arcade cabinet view; there's dozens of options to tailor the game experience to look and act exactly how you want. I don't think I've seen a collection of games that was so in depth in its attention to detail and tweaks to the controls and play styles. Add to that online score leaderboards complete with downloadable replays of the top players (you can also save your own replays) - and you have a full featured classics collection.
Co-Op in the Raiden games is drop-in/drop-out, so players can jump in at any time to assist their friend. Of course in doing so you'll snag one of their precious credits, something that's not an issue with free play enabled. The Raiden games are quite hectic, and there's no shortage of on screen bullets. Throwing another player into the mix adds to the chaos, and you'll begin to wonder whether you are looking at a game or a video of cheerios being poured on your televsion screen. It's a kind of controlled chaos, one that, once you find your focus, it's easy to control and conquer. And it's completely satisfying to play with a friend.
Point totals are separate, but both players are working towards the same completionist goal. Team work can come in the form of covering different areas of the screens, or communicating which kind and types of power-ups to pick up. Both players can get two drone ships in co-op, so announcing when you maxed out your wingmen to your friend so they can upgrade as well is a nice gesture of team work.
Sometime's it's easier to just close your eyes and hope for the best.