by Robert A. Jung
Atari Corp., for the Atari Jaguar
You'd think that by now humans would get tired of defending the Earth from alien attacks, and simply move to Mars instead. But no; in Raiden, the invaders are at it again, and this time have taken both the Earth and the Moon. As in the 1991 Fabtek arcade game, this Jaguar version of the vertical- scrolling shooter pits you and the Raiden supersonic fighter against these foes. Using machine guns, lasers, and bombs, one or two players fly through eight stages, blasting everything in sight while collecting icons for additional firepower and bonuses.
Raiden is a back-to-basics shooter. There are no fancy effects, no special gimmicks, and just one rule: if it moves, shoot it. The only threats to your survival are airborne collisions and enemy shots, and the sheer number of opponents promises a fair challenge. In today's market, the game's low-key tone may make it seem dated, but that is due to the source.
Still, the Jaguar version of Raiden takes a few liberties in its adaptation. Game balance is changed in subtle ways, such as increasing or decreasing the aggressiveness of some enemies. The overall difficulty is comparable but not completely identical, and fans of the original will be caught by surprise initially. Still, expert players will not be hard pressed to master the game.
Controls are simple enough, but the lack of a rapid-fire feature means a lot of pounding on the button, which can cause cramps. The ship moves a little slow; this becomes a problem on the higher levels, where darting opponents come out faster than they can be dodged. There's no way to change the game's difficulty, but one can set the number of "credits" (continues) available. With five ships per credit and up to eight credits, substantial progress can be made.
In terms of graphics and sound, Raiden matches the original but does not go any further than that. To preserve the vertical orientation of the arcade, a status display fills the right side of the screen. The side effect that smaller sprites are used, and it takes time to adjust. The landscape is colorful but flat, and only a few areas use two layers of scrolling. On the plus side, flickering is nonexistent and slowdown is incredibly rare, and the Jaguar handles numerous sprites effortlessly.
Sounds are about average, mostly dominated by weapons fire and explosions that are functional and little more. Each level has an individual background tune, done in an electric guitar/pop rock vein. While decent, they are a tad short and present nothing extraordinary. As with other Jaguar titles, the volume levels of the sounds and music can be set individually.
For those who wanted a pixel-perfect arcade adaptation or a Jaguar showcase, Raiden will disappoint. For those who want a basic, moderately difficult title, however, this will provide a fair challenge. At best, Raiden is passable; though there's nothing grossly wrong with it, there's also nothing truly special, either.