By: Matthew Striplen
If I had to describe Raiden IV: OverKill in as few words as possible, I would probably describe it as unbridled, beautiful chaos. As the newest installment in the classic Raiden franchise, OverKill sticks closely to its arcade roots.
OverKill‘s controls are simple, smooth and wonderful. Why mess with something that’s already so good? With OverKill‘s simple premise, utter annihilation of everything, complicated controls would not serve the player well. All you need to play single-player mode is the d-pad or analog stick, fire and bomb. That’s it! Very little changes, even when playing with dual ships, which is hard as hell I might add. The ship, however, moves painfully slow across the screen, though I feel this was an intentional challenge.
Making a game that stands out graphically in 2014 presents a challenge to any game designer. That said, OverKill‘s graphics are a huge disappointment. Just about everything looks like it could have been rendered on a PS2 or similar generation console. Also, the actual game screen is significantly smaller than the display, as seen in the screenshot above. The backdrops are changeable, but it hardly makes up for the tiny play screen.
OverKill‘s sounds fall into two categories: electronica music and destruction noises. Neither are particularly noteworthy, but they provide a decent background to the action.Hearing a bunch of the old tunes and jingles made me smile.
As I stated earlier, OverKill keeps its history close. Very little has changed since the beginning of the franchise, including its high degree of difficulty. Luckily, many difficulty settings are available to choose from, though even the earlier stages present a formidable challenge.
The player has a choice between a number of game modes. While they may sound unique, the similarities overpower the differences. However, the only new mode, OverKill, lends one big new feature to the existing gameplay. This mode tweaks the scoring system, but the biggest change comes in the gameplay.
Up until now, when enemies are destroyed, they explode and disappear. In OverKill mode, once a larger enemy is shot down, the wrecked ship will remain in the sky for a few moments, allowing the player to continue to ravage it. This causes a small bar to fill, and after the enemy finally falls, a special bonus token is released with a value proportional to the amount of damage dealt to it.
Three different ships are also at the player’s disposal, each with their own unique look and abilities. This inclusion is important because it allows gamers to find their own play style, especially since these ships were originally paid DLC in Raiden IV.
OverKill also has deceptively few levels, even with the two new additions. At first glance, there seems to be seven stages per world, but in reality the other world just repeat the original levels with marginally tweaked difficulty. This enables players to continue earning points for a higher score and reach the new levels at the end, but repeating the same few original levels quickly gets boring.
Since its inception in 1990, Raiden has been a staple of arcade gaming. Since I hadn’t played an installment since the original, I was excited to see how much the series evolved. Although OverKill is just an updated remake of Raiden IV, the changes are very minimal. I wish more content was provided. Although the action is still fun and chaotic, the game lacks the innovation and polish to take the series to the next level.