As with the end of the PlayStation era, obscure games can now find a welcome home on the PlayStation 2 as its reign comes to a close. Raiden III is hardly a technical powerhouse, involving experience, or a $30 purchase you’ll come back to after a period of time. It is a fantastic update for fans of this shooter series keeping the best pieces from the first two games and nicely designed replay mode to show off bullet dodging right from your memory card.
Aside from becoming the first 3-D entry, Raiden III returns to the roots of the series. While spin-offs like Raiden Fighters offer ship selection, Raiden III remains in the core series red and blue ship assignment. Three weapon choices are available, along with three sub missile choices.
In typical SHMUP fashion, this vertical blaster takes place through seven levels of enemy attacks, leading to a brutally difficult final confrontation. Two-player co-op is the expected standard, while a dual mode creates another layer of technicality by allowing one player to control both ships at once. Boss rush becomes available after beating the game, adding the only piece of replay value for those not wishing to capture their level runs for showing off later.
While in tune with prior Raiden titles, ship movement is sluggish. In the previous two games, this was acceptable and in-line with the pacing of the game. Here, bombarded by a rain of bullets possibly tripling that of previous games, it’s a lead in to cheap death. The weapons are definitely a means of keeping enemies at bay until the last two levels on the lower difficulties, while those looking for a challenge will find the higher options completely overwhelming.
The sharp if somewhat unimpressive graphics engine doesn’t do much for the eyes, though keeps the game moving at a steady clip. Even with two players fully powered up, there’s no slowdown to be had at any point in this short shooter ride. Sadly, that short length doesn’t make the $30 price any easier to swallow, and those with finicky PlayStation 2’s might want to take note that the disc is a blue bottom CD-ROM.