Publisher: NIS America, Inc.
Platforms: Windows (Reviewed), Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
Release Date: 7 September 2023
Price: $29.99 USD / $44.95 AUD – Available Here (Xbox Series X US), Available Here (PC Steam)
Strictly speaking, Raiden III MIKADO x MANIAX is the same old Raiden III that was available on Steam before. Brought on consoles in the US by Nis America, this new version offers the usual technical improvements seen in the many old game remasters that abound on the market nowadays. It also adds a slew of unlockable variations to its soundtrack which was composed by big names in the Japanese arcade scene.
I remember playing the PlayStation 2 version of Raiden III back in the day, but I almost instantly put it on the back burner due to its simplicity. Back then, I was mostly interested in games that pushed the graphics and audio to the next level such as Gradius V and R-Type Final. Many years later, the excellent and easily accessible Raiden IV Overkill – which also received a Mikado remix – put the series back on my radar. Funnily enough, the first Raiden to receive the Mikado treatment was Raiden IV, with Raiden III following it up just recently.
Humanity forms an alliance to fight back an alien threat known as the “Crystals.” To that end, they use the enemy’s own poison, namely crystals, to build a fighting aircraft and take the fight to enemy territory. Yup, that’s a wrap. This brief summary isn’t even in the game proper, so you have a very good idea of how important the story is.
Raiden III is a difficult vertical-scrolling shoot ’em up with simple and addicting gameplay. Due to your ship’s slow speed, memorizing enemies’ bullet patterns is vital. Three types of shots, with different power and function, can be acquired on the fly. Additionally, a limited stock of bombs is available for use in more dire situations.
In arcade mode, up to two players must face the alien menace throughout seven stages, with the difficulty spiking up after every boss. It’s even possible to control two ships at once by choosing dual mode which provides an interesting challenge that will test players’ hand-eye coordination. Five difficulty settings, ranging from easy to very hard, can be selected. Even players not familiar with the genre can get better at their own pace. The arcade difficulty setting is the middle ground, and it’s relatively manageable after some practice. Boss rush and score attack modes are unlocked after clearing the game, and they add much-needed longevity to Raiden III. Regardless, an extra mode or stage would be a much appreciated addition. In fact, Raiden III veterans won’t find anything new gameplay-wise in MIKADO x MANIAX.
MIKADO x MANIAX is a faithful recreation of the arcade version of Raiden III. It’d be fantastic to replay this game with redone visuals, but at this point, that’s just wishful thinking. Even so, MIKADO x MANIAX features locked 60 FPS gameplay while running in a much greater resolution when compared to its older versions. That said, there’s no option to enable VSync in-game, and that’s a problem because the screen-tearing gets pretty bad at times. Forcing VSync through the Nvidia control panel crashes the game. Fortunately, PC players can make use of a variety of tools, such as SpecialK, to enable VSync without any perceptible hit to the game’s performance.
Some might be wondering what exactly this Mikado crossover with Raiden III entails. As it happens, Mikado is an arcade game center in Japan that specializes in retro games. Thing is, the owner of this arcade is a member of a band called HEAVY METAL RAIDEN that is also the official Raiden band. How cool is that? He, together with other known composers in the shoot ’em up scene, provided remixed tracks for this version of Raiden III while also including new versions of older Raiden tracks. The result is some of the best shoot ‘em up music that I’ve listened to in recent years. Players can assign each stage a variety of heavy metal and techno tracks that are unlocked through gameplay. Overall, the sound in Raiden III was completely remastered to a much higher quality than the original version. All of its sound tracks were brought to the same standard found in the Mikado remixes. This is also true regarding sound effects, which now sound crisper than ever.
While Raiden III x MIKADO MANIAX won’t provide enough new content for Raiden III veterans, it’s still a formidable effort and an excellent entry point for newcomers.
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