Raiden III x MIKADO MANIAX by developer Moss and publisher NIS AmericaMicrosoft Xbox Series X review written by Nick with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Raiden III x MIKADO MANIAX is a bit of an eyeful when you see the title, but it’s also a shooter packed with content, and is my favorite entry in the long running series. That being said, it’s unlikely to convert non-fans to the shoot-‘em-up genre, while veteran blasters will feel right at home here, even if Raiden III x MIKADO MANIAX doesn’t really add much new to the genre.

At first pass, there aren’t a lot of surprises to be had here. We have a vertical scrolling that mostly pushes from the bottom up towards the top continuously. I say ‘mostly’ because the devs do a really nice job with the background environments. There’s tons of movement, and even as you’re still working your strip of vertical space as you play, there is sometimes a bit of horizontal swerve to your trajectory. In one of the later stages, they make you feel as if you are flying up and down depth-wise as well. It’s just a neat trick of the background, but it looks cool.

Generally speaking, that is one of the greatest strengths of Raiden III x MIKADO MANIAX – the visuals are often quite excellent. I could argue that at times, there’s almost too much going on – especially on higher levels of difficulty. Your weapons take up a big part of the screen, you have constantly shifting background environments and plenty of ships with return fire… it adds up. It can lead to some frustrating moments as at their core shooters like this are about learning patterns and figuring out how to best move around in them, but if you lose sight of the oncoming projectiles, it can feel just a bit unfair at times. In these instances I usually found myself relying on my screen-clearing bombs to try and get out of trouble.

While there’s not much of a story to be had here (a common theme for this genre and a few others like 1-on-1 fighting games), you are basically the last hope against an alien race looking to take over the world. Nothing earth-shatteringly new here. Additionally, the sound is a bit of a mixed bag. I don’t dislike the soundtrack necessarily. It’s appropriately pulse-pounding and generally matches the action, but it’s never particularly memorable either. The varied sound effects fare a bit better though you are performing a lot of repetitive shooting, but there’s enough myriad sounds mixed into the design that it didn’t get annoying either.

The primary aspect however, is the shooting gameplay. Without that, everything else would fall apart and by and large Raiden III x MIKADO MANIAX delivers the goods. Flying is responsive, the three different primary weapons all serve a different kind of purpose and overall it’s a title that’s fun to play through multiple times. There’s a lot going on, as I mentioned before. Not just visually, not just with the bullets flying all over the place, but in terms of the power-ups and various pick-ups you find along the way. There’s little glowing orbs of bonus points to be sucked up, and the way weapon upgrades work is both interesting and at times kind of annoying. You’ll shoot something down that drops a primary or secondary power-up, and these power-ups cycle through different stages every few seconds. Grab it at the wrong stage, and it will change your weapon type. Grab it at the right time, and it powers up your existing weapon.

The three primary types are pretty distinctive, with a gun that shoots out a wide spray of low-powered projectiles but covers the majority of the screen, allowing you to focus more on evasion than aiming. There’s a sort of wrapping, homing laser that leans into enemies in the direction you’re moving, given you good coverage – but not as much as the machine gun. Lastly you have a very focused, high-power laser that shoots straight out from the front of your ship. This makes you focus a bit more at what you’re targeting at, which can get you shot if you’re not paying close enough attention to what’s going on right around your ship – but the reward is fast damage, and they can all be effective in creating plenty of carnage.

While everything about the classic gameplay hits that nostalgic arcade vibe I expect from the genre, I have to say there’s a solid number of options in here to help add some replay value to the overall package. You have a Score Attack mode and a Boss Rush mode that attempt to mix things up a bit. There’s a lot of ability to tweak your difficulty, from bullet-less ‘practice’ mode where you can learn the levels and enemy patters more safely to some seriously intense higher difficulties where the bullet spray is fast and plentiful. There’s some co-op in there as well as a really strange Double Play. It’s an interesting enough idea, but I just could not wrap my head around it and the control scheme, as you are piloting two ships at the same time. Just something about trying to guide two ships at the same time through that with two different sets of controls on the same controller? It was a bit odd for me.

All in all, Raiden III x MIKADO MANIAX is a very good offering for shmup fans. The presentation is solid, the gameplay is sharp and enjoyable and there’s a lot of ways to customize your gameplay experience. This version has added some levels to the original, giving you plenty of options to try out, and the core experience is just solidly done. It’s not the best in the genre, necessarily – but fans of the genre will enjoy what Raiden III x MIKADO MANIAX has to offer.

Score: 7 / 10



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