When I lived in the “big” city a few years back, we may have had a ton of modern restaurants and retail stores, but, man, did our mall ever suck. Centered square in the middle of the mall was a tiny, unmanned arcade that was notoriously stocked with beat-up overflow cabinets that typically never worked. Perhaps its only saving grace was the Raiden cabinet it had tucked away in the back corner, unnoticed by many visitors due to being housed in a plain, black cabinet and mixed among the more “deluxe” cabinets and pinball machines. For its time, Raiden was quite impressive, with its meticulous attention to graphical detail, fantastic sound design, and most importantly, its simplistic, yet challenging and satisfying gameplay. Every time I walked into the mall to check out a matinee movie or scour the clearance bin of a few electronics shops, I couldn’t resist the urge to feed at least one quarter to Raiden.
Thankfully, console players have a number of ways to experience the Raiden lineage, including the treasured long-box release of Raiden Collection on the Playstation, the much more easily accessible Raiden III on Playstation 2 and the recent release of Raiden Fighter Aces on the Xbox 360. While arcades have long been the natural home for Raiden and its shooting brethren, UFO Interactive Games has been stepping in to bring the arcades home and bringing us the long since released Japanese Xbox 360 versions of Raiden IV that many thought would never arrive to U.S. shores.
Hot off the heels of Raiden Fighter Aces, UFO is passing along the next iteration of the series, Raiden IV. The Xbox 360 version of the arcade shooter brings a handful of new modes to the table, including boss rush, score attack and an original mode that lays out a large span of difficulty modes to cater to gamers of any skill. Leaderboards, galleries and downloadable content also made an appearance in the home version, which will carry over to the domestic version. To provide further insight on the title, Chong Ahn, senior product manager and producer at UFO, took some time to answer some questions about the title, as well as the arcade shooting genre overall.
Diehard GameFAN: Can you please introduce yourself and tell our readers how you are involved with the U.S. Xbox 360 release of Raiden IV?
Chong Ahn: My name is Chong Ahn, Senior Product Manager and Producer at UFO Interactive Games. I was involved with the acquisition of the Raiden IV title from our Japanese counterparts and handling the business, marketing and production aspects of the title.
DHGF: What was your main motivation for bringing Raiden IV over to the United States?
CA: The main motivation is to bring shooter titles to the North American territories for the dedicated fan base this genre has, along with introducing a new generation to a style of play that is not readily prevalent in today’s market.
DHGF: What are your thoughts on the current state of the arcade shooter, especially in the United States where the titles seem to be delegated as low-key releases? Is releasing a title such as Raiden IV perhaps seen as a risk in the current market?
CA: In today’s market, developing and publishing any title is risky, especially with a genre like arcade shooters. However, understanding your target consumer audience and fulfilling their expectations help mitigate that risk, allowing us to release titles such as Raiden IV.
Even though some may consider the shooter market as a “low-key”Â release, we would argue that there has been a resurgence in the genre, especially with numerous remakes, ports, etc., not only in the shooter genre, but in others as well. Though the US market is not clamoring for shooters as it once was, the market is still there.
DHGF: With Raiden IV, what does the Xbox 360 hardware bring to shooter fans that previous console systems could not?
CA: The Xbox 360 is a solid console with a strong user base that is decidedly perfect for our market. With great graphics, amazing online community and support through Xbox LIVE, this current-gen console helped us bring our title from the arcades to the home console, helping us add new features that were never possible before (i.e., ability to record your sorties and share with friends, etc.).
DHGF: How does Raiden IV tie into previous entries of the series? Is there a continuation of the storyline, will we see reoccurring themes, enemies or ships, will we hear some familiar music, etc.?
CA: Fans of the series will instantly recognize the style, play, music and scenery of Raiden IV. There are also many improvements that were made, including the introduction of new weaponry, sharp, crisp and highly accurate movement, etc. We wanted players to have a fresh experience (which they will with all the new content) but have that feeling of nostalgia at the same time as they encounter sections and bosses that are throwbacks to the original.
DHGF: Is there any content U.S. gamers can expect that was not seen in the Japanese version? Will UFO be bringing over downloadable content as well, such as the extra Fairy and MK-II ships? If so, are there any plans for downloadable content beyond the extra ships, such as extra stages?
CA: We will be providing additional downloadable content, such as the aforementioned Fairy and original Raiden MK-II ship. Additional content is being planned, but I cannot say with exact certainty when that will be available. We will continue to think of ways to bring additional value to the title as long as fans have a desire for it.
DHGF: Titles in the arcade shooting genre tend to be very challenging – even though Raiden IV does have difficulty modes that accommodate the most timid of players, it also goes into deep territory with an “ultimate”Â difficulty mode. What are your thoughts on games challenging the player, bringing on almost impossible odds with little hope of survival? A lot of titles in the genre give players no mercy at all – do you think this turns a lot of players away from shooters?
CA: One of the reasons we have so many options available to the player is due to the difficulty associated with shooters, especially with ones like Raiden IV. I believe the challenging aspect is what brings fans back to the series over and over again. When you are in those “impossible odds”Â you mentioned, you feel overwhelmed, but when you escape and come out victorious, you have a great sense of accomplishment and joy. Evoking emotion through our titles is a huge driving force and the shooter genre is one of the best in doing so.
DHGF: Shooters such as Raiden rose to their prominence in the arcades. While arcade prominence doesn’t exactly reflect the United States market, do you think titles in the genre would meld well with downloadable services such as Xbox LIVE Arcade, Playstation Network or Wii Ware/Virtual Console? Does UFO have any future plans to utilize these services?
CA: Downloads and digital distribution will be/is a popular channel that will continue to evolve and grow. The medium is something that cannot be stopped and we are looking at ways to expand our reach through services such as PSN, Xbox LIVE, Wii Ware, etc. We are looking at ways to utilize these services to complement our traditional channel marketing and hope to have something exciting for our fans in the near future.
DHGF: UFO tends to bring over a lot of shooters to the U.S. that might not come over otherwise. What is it about the genre that motivates the company to domestic these titles, even though the genre isn’t among the most popular with most gamers?
CA: The shooter genre is unique in that it is simple to get into, but hard to master. I know it’s cliché, but if you look at any other title, nothing evokes the emotions of joy/frustration quite as adroitly as a shooter. We want to showcase an era of gaming where things weren’t so complicated and the experience can be enjoyed for minutes or hours at a time, with a level fit for any gamer.
DHGF: What can gamers expect next from the future of the Raiden series and UFO? Are there any messages you would like to pass along to Raiden or shooting fans or perhaps even those that overlook the genre?
CA: The future release of Raiden IV heralds a turning point for the genre and we plan on innovating on that foundation, bringing fresh and exciting content for this genre. We are currently hard at work on bringing these concepts to fruition and will continue to deliver additional information as it becomes available.
I want to say “Thank You”Â to the dedicated shooter fans that have helped us to bring shooters to the North American market and giving us the incentive to release these titles. These vocal and ardent fans have been extremely loyal and we will continue to find ways to bring titles that will please them. Many times, their suggestions help push us in the right direction and we hope for their continued feedback.
As for those that may overlook the genre, I would say take the time to try one of these titles and see how exciting and visceral the experience can be if taken for what it is. These titles require as much skill, hand-eye coordination as any first person shooter, and can be extremely enjoyable in bouts or in bursts. Just check out some of the amazing fan footage that is out there with people beating the entire game with one credit. If that isn’t amazing, I don’t know what is!
Currently, Raiden IV is set to be released in September and will be released in two special variants. Players will be able to pick up a limited edition that includes a 27-song original soundtrack. There will also be a Gamestop exclusive limited edition, which adds in a digital PDF artbook that was originally packaged as a pre-order incentive when the title original launched in Japan. If you’re hungry for more Raiden IV, make sure you also check out our Raiden IV image galleries.