Games like Raiden Fighters Aces are rare. Being a retail shooter collection in North America is enough to make this release uncommon. On top of that you don’t need to be a shmup expert to enjoy Raiden Fighters Aces.
Castle of Shikigami III or anything from Cave are intimidating games for anyone who hasn’t kept up with the shmup scene. There are too many blinking dots dodge. The only way a novice can beat one of these games is to brute through with unlimited bombs and credits. You can beat any shooter this way, but it won’t be fun.
Raiden Fighters Aces doesn’t bombard players with seizure inducing bullet waves. Compared to modern shooters, the patterns are more manageable too. There are breathing breaks between each flurry of shots. Also, novice pilots can pick the Raiden Mk-2. This ship has a lock on laser so you can just focus on dodging. You may not get a high score this way, but you can actually play any of the three games in Raiden Fighters Aces without dying every ten seconds.
Tanks rolling out of concealed caverns are a nuisance if you like to hover in the middle of the screen. In the first few rounds those got me. Raiden Fighters Aces requires players to memorize tank placement and boss bullet patterns to beat the game with a single credit, which is the initial goal of any shooter. This compilation has plenty of tools so a player of any skill level can learn how to do this.
The first thing you want to do is download replays from ace pilots over Xbox Live. Videos of the top ten scores on each game/mode are saved online. After downloading a movie you can speed it up and more importantly slow it down to half speed so you can see how an expert handles heavy fire. Once you have a strategy ready you can skip to the specific level in training mode and practice. Want to learn how to dodge bullets better? Crank the enemy fire rate up. Raiden Fighters Aces has lots of hidden items to find like fairies and Micluses. Thanks to expert replays you can discover where these are without too much trouble.
One of the key skills to learn if you want to get a lot of points is how to grow medals. Flying medals combine with other medals they touch until they grow into a giant medal worth millions of points. You indirectly control flying medals by moving your ship so it’s possible to move them towards other medals and meld them. This is another element to pay attention to after you feel comfortable with dodging and attacking.
Compared to other shooters Raiden Fighters Aces has a lot of replay value. You get three games: Raiden Fighters Aces, Raiden Figthers Aces 2: Operation Hell Dive, and Raiden Fighters Jet on one disc. Each game also has a selection of ships that range from the speedy Judge Spear to the collectable Miclus that fires a flamethrower blast instead of a bomb. You can even play as one of the tiny gunpod slave ships. Lots of variety means players have a reason to play the same levels again.
Raiden Fighters Aces also has an impressive set of technical options. You can play the game with a vertical monitor (OK, many vertical shooters have this), play with the frame rate, and rotate the game to turn the vertical shooter into a side scroller. These kind of options and the robust training mode wouldn’t be around if each game was sold separately on Xbox Live Arcade. And the good news is in North America Raiden Fighters Aces isn’t much more expensive than a downloadable game. Valcon is selling this game for $20.