Raiden Fighters 2
by sunburstbasser

Raiden Fighters 2 is a vertical scrolling shooter which may have a story involving blowing stuff up. Let the game run in attract mode and you'll get a story told in Engrish.

Seibu Kaihatsu's Raiden and Raiden II were among the most influential vertical shmups of the early 90s. The inventive weapons like the famous toothpaste laser and numerous secrets gave them a depth which most early 90s shooters didn't have. The Raiden Fighters games still have lots of secrets but tend to be a lot faster paced and have frankly absurd scoring systems. Enemy bullet count has gotten higher, though in Raiden Fighters 2 it isn't danmaku level.

Controls are pretty basic. Tap button A to fire, button B to use the bomb. Throughout the level, enemies will drop M and L icons. M upgrades your missile weapons, L upgrades the laser weapons. If you are using missiles and grab the L icon, you will be switched to lasers and vice versa. Note that not all planes actually have both missiles and lasers. Your main shot will also upgrade, usually adding a little spread. S icons give you Slaves, this games version of options. B icons add a bomb.

Most of the fighters have charge shots as well. Most of these simply fire a ton of the current weapon, they aren't like R-Type's charge shot.

Now, if you are playing on MAME or a PCB, the first time you fire up the game it'll need to write to NVRAM. Go get a sandwich. After the counter reaches zero, reboot. To enable all the fighters you need to do some really stupid shit. These are the steps as per Twiddle from the forums:

1) Go to the test menu.
3) Set Chute 1 to 9COINS/9CREDITS and set Chute 2 to 9COINS/9CREDITS
4) Set Free Play to ON
6) Enter "I/O TEST"
7) Hold Service and Test buttons, and press P2 Start repeatedly to jack up "DAYS OF OPERATION" to 70 (or 140 for some RF2 boards.)
8) Exit "I/O TEST".
9) Reset Chute 1, Chute 2, and Free Play settings as you wish.
10) Exit "GAME SETTINGS" and exit test menu.
Reboot the game.

Compare this to Battle Garegga. In Battle Garegga, you insert a coin, input the Konami code, and press start. It's a good thing Raiden Fighters 2 is actually a pretty good game, because unlocking the best planes is stupid and you would never know it just by fiddling around. This is what the different fighters look like and their weapons:


The balanced fighter with a standard forward shot. Does not have any major strengths or weaknesses. The missiles are standard dumb missiles that fire forward. The lasers are skinny versions of Taito's homing lasers from Rayforce.


The Beast Wing has a spread shot as standard. It covers a good portion of the screen, but the plane is very slow. The missile flies out at an angle, then turns towards an enemy. It wasn't very effective for me. The laser is a flame thrower that was much more useful.


Chaser 2000 has a weak, rapid-fire straight shot. The plane is fast, but has weak weapons. The missile is a dumb missile that gets launched WAY out to the sides of the plane before firing forward. The laser is a cool yellow beam that hits enemies then bends itself at an angle to hit more enemies. It isn't quite a homing laser, but it comes close.


The Death header is another balanced fighter. The standard shot fires just straight forward. The missiles get launched off to the side, spin around then seek out enemies. Fun to watch. The laser is a pink lightning beam from each wing that sweeps from the sides up. When it hits an enemy, it latches on for solid damage.


The Eraser is focused on power, with a slow speed. It has a standard forward shot, though the two bullets are offset slightly which is unusual. The missile just flies forwards, and when it hits an enemy it creates a very large explosion that can take out other nearby enemies. The laser is a white beam that fires straight ahead.


The Flying Ray is a moderately fast plane. The standard shot just goes forward. The missiles fly out to the sides, then ignite with sweet smoke trails and try to home in on enemies. They curve fairly slow though. The laser fires powerful red beams at an angle.


The Griffin is another slower plane. It uses an offset straight ahead shot. The missile is an odd one, as it throws out aerial mines that detonate on contact and do good damage but are hard to hit with. The laser attack fires out a few capsules which point at enemies and fire a single laser blast each before falling away.


The Hell Diver is a very fast, powerful ship. The missile looks like the Griffin missile, but does not home in. It does bank and follow a pre-set pattern. The laser is a set of giant boomerangs.


The Raiden is back! In this case, it is the variant from Raiden II. Very slow, but the straight shot fires a long stream of bullets. It has a missile attack but you'll never use it because the Raiden has the Toothpaste Laser, still one of the most awesome attacks in all of video gaming after nearly 20 years. The toothpaste laser is a purple laser that locks on to a single target, then starts looping around it based on your own movements. It is possible to lock on to a boss and move to the side. Instead of following a straight line, it can go past the boss, loop around from behind, and hit it from the opposite side you are shooting from. I've also drawn figure 8s with it. The Raiden is slow, but the toothpaste laser is so fun that you should give it a try anyway.


Seibu's most popular shmups are the Raiden games, but they made a spinoff called Viper Phase 1 that was actually set in space. The Judge Spear was the player ship in that game. The Judge Spear is the fastest plane in the game, and combines it with good damage. The missile fires a fast straight bomb that leaves a green explosion for a few seconds. The laser upgrades your standard shot and does not cancel the missiles. If you can work with the high speed, the Judge Spear can simply get out of the way of many bullet spreads.


It's player 2! The 2P coloration of the Raiden is now a selectable fighter. It moves considerably quicker. The standard shot is taken straight from Raiden, with a single bullet per button tap. The missile is now a spread of dumb missiles that cover a good portion of the screen. The laser icon upgrades the bullet to a spread bullet, and does not nullify the missiles. The bomb is a bunch of small missiles instead of a huge explosion like other planes.


Player 2 strikes back! This is the 2P version of the Judge Spear. Not as fast and more controllable. The missile launches a volley of missiles straight ahead. The laser upgrades the forward shot and gives it a little spread. It does not nullify the missiles.


Since Seibu Kaihatsu had already given their other shmup vessels cameos, why not the company mascot? The Miclus is a little blue pig demon. It has extremely high power. Both the laser and missile simply upgrade the fireballs it throws. Unlike the other planes, the Miclus gets faeries for slaves. Kinky. And for the bomb, it shoots fire across the screen that can be swung around a bit and does huge damage.


A palette-swap version of the Aegis IV. While the stats are not shown, it seems to be the same as the Aegis IV. It even has the same attacks and upgrades. The laser is slightly more powerful.

Along with these, there is ANOTHER hidden ship called the Dark Sword. It is a black version of the Judge Spear. The directions online are hazy, but I held the A button, moved to the ? icon at the selection screen, and pressed B to get it. It has a more powerful version of the Blue Javelin's missiles and moves even faster than Judge Spear, and I think might actually move as fast as Uo Poko from Dangun Feveron.

Unlike Cave, I don't feel that Seibu Kaihatsu has created a balanced selection here. Some of the choices are just too slow for a game with fast enemies and bullets. So which should you choose? A casual player might go for the Aegis IV, or the Hell Diver. If you want to go for the highest score possible?

None of them.

Seibu put yet another secret in. After inserting a coin, hold down the B button. Move to the ship you want, and press A to select it. You'll now play as a Slave with the attributes of that ship. All slaves get the same upgrades, going up to a 5-way spread shot. No missiles, no lasers. They move at the same speed as the fighter you selected. In the case of the Miclus, you'll actually play as the fairy. I've had my best luck using the fairy.

Graphically, I'm actually a little disappointed with Raiden Fighters 2. Enemies are very well done, with lots of rotation and a tiny bit of scaling. Backgrounds really only look special in two stages, Sky and the final stage. I see some animation in the backgrounds, but nothing really jumps out. This isn't really a knock against the game, but maybe after playing so much Cave for a week the grey military theme just looks a little dull.

The sound manages to be both excellent and bland. The music doesn't really have any motifs that I found really catchy. The sound effects are excellent, though, with lots of great explosions. Note that in MAME the sound drivers aren't working yet and you'll get nothing but digital static which is a lot harsher than analog static.

Scoring is medal based, a bit like Cyvern or Battle Garegga, but with more complications. If you have no slaves, medals will be worth 10-90 points, going up by 10 after all on screen are collected. If you have one slave, medals are worth 100-900 points. If you have two slaves, medals are worth 1000-9000 points. Once you've reached the highest value for all of the medal families, you'll start seeing big yellow medals worth 10,000 each. To get the best scores, you'll need to get nine of those on screen at once. Do it, and they explode. The value for these medals now rises just like the first three sets, up to 100,000 points. If you find a Miclus and shoot it, it'll spit out 9 medals in the current family. Sit on top of it, and you've maxed out one family.

And that isn't everything yet! Kill larger enemies as quickly as possible and you'll get a QUICKSHOT bonus. And destroy multiple parts of a boss close together to get a DESTROYED AT A TIME bonus. These can quickly add up to several hundred thousand points very quickly. You can also occasionally find a fairy. Collect her for 100,000 points.

Raiden Fighters 2 has seven stages. The third, sixth and last are fixed. Stages 1 and 2 are the Swamp and Airport in either order. Stages 4 and 5 are the Sky and Beach in either order. Joystick commands can fix the order, simply hold in one of the cardinal directions when you press START.

The airport is not much of an airport any longer. The wreckage of airplanes lies on the runway, and tanks smash fighter planes on the ground. It is possible to trigger Aegis IIc helper planes at the beginning, but it seems pretty random and they generally don't last long. Right at the beginning, head to the left and hover right in front of the warehouse. If you hover in the correct spot, you'll get a Miclus to appear. This is the only one I've pinned down. Enemy airplanes come in squadrons, followed by a big bomber that fires a couple fast spreads at you. These twin spreads are a staple in Raiden Fighters 2, so get used to them early. When you see a medium-sized yellow plane, smash it for a 30,000 point QUICKSHOT. After a couple of these yellow planes, you'll see a trio of tanks pointing towards the top of the screen. As the screen scrolls, it reveals that they are fighting against a single super tank. Drop a bomb on the big tank, and you'll get a DEFENDED THE TANK message and a bonus.

Raiden Fighters 2 has really easy bosses, overall. The flying contraption in this stage has a few turrets, but none of the patterns are too difficult to avoid. If you use the Miclus/Fairy, the bomb attack is powerful enough to one-shot EVERY boss except the final boss. If you actually decide to fight him, he has a couple spread attacks with lots of wiggle room and an aimed straight shot that is deadlier. It is possible to die here, but it'll be through ignorance rather than difficulty in my opinion, even if you fight him in the second stage.

The Swamp stage has an unusual background. The clouds above you are reflected on the water below. Unfortunately, to me it looks like the clouds are beneath the ground. This level has two really notable sections. The first is the group of blue airplanes. They are the ones with big, bulbous noses. Shoot them all down fast enough to get QUICKSHOTS, and you'll trigger a fairy. Right after these guys is a white bomber that fires a crap load of bullets everywhere. It has some straight bullets, but the deadly ones are the spiral of death. It flings yellow bullets all over the screen at high speed, while smaller enemies fire their own bullets. The pattern isn't dense like a Cave spread, but using either the slowest or fastest planes will make precise dodging more difficult.

The hovertank boss has a few turrets to help the main one in the center. These start out firing in X patterns to trap you, but a bomb from any fighter on top of the boss will nullify these. Once the turrets are gone, the sides will fire straight streams of bullets while the central turret fires spreads. Each salvo from the turret leaves a slight gap before the next, which should provide ample room to get by. If you are gutsy, you can sit behind the guns and the bullets won't hit you but you'll be unable to move if the side streams switch angle.

The first boss is a train. The level starts out with the usual turrets and flying enemies, then the scrolling speeds way the hell up as you chase an enormous train. On each side are additional train tracks. Destroy the trains on these to get medals. The boss train is so large it requires two sets of two parallel tracks. The entire stage is the fight to get to the front of the train, making this a Giant Battleship fight. The train has a few different types of cars. Flat ones usually hold tanks. Turrets are mounted all along the train, both large and small. The train also has a few missile bays, which seem to serve to protect the turrets when closed. The front of the train fires some very thick bullet spreads and aimed bullets. The spreads still have gaps in them, use a faster ship and try to lead the aimed shots away from those gaps. When destroyed, you'll get a tally of the medals collected and a destruction bonus. If you destroyed all the parts of the train, it'll be 100%.

The beach assault has one feature that really throws me off, which I'll get to momentarily. The start of the stage is over water, with frigates beneath you acting as large tanks. The stage begins sliding to the right. Not scrolling, sliding. It is still possible to scroll to the left, but when you stop moving it keeps sliding to the right. It feels a little odd and catches me off guard. On the beach proper are a group of tanks that fire spreads all over. If you can get past this portion, the boss is right ahead.

The sand tank has two front legs lined with turrets. These are the deadly parts as they will shoot aimed bullets. They have little health, though, and a bomb will take them all out. You are given lots of bombs in this game, so go ahead and use them. Once those are gone, the boss resorts to unaimed patterns. They look quite vicious, lots of fast bullets, but not a single one is aimed and unlike Cave's bullet mazes once you find a safe spot a little vertical movement will keep you safe. The two turrets on the shoulders of the sand tank fire 5-way shots, while the middle fires straight ahead. If you selected a fighter with a spread shot you can sit just off to the side and move to avoid the shoulder fire and kill off the boss.

The Sky stage is made up of lots of enormous bombers, with engines as big as your ship. Destroy the engines for medals, and when all of the engines that you can reach are destroyed the bomber will crash and fling a bunch of medals at you. Between bombers, look at the background and see the nice mountain designs. This was the first stage that really struck me just for the background graphics. You can even see enemy airplanes down there. Just before the boss is a mid sized plane that fires spread bullets all around. If you get past him, the boss won't pose much threat.

The boss's silhouette can be seen beneath the clouds, and it smoothly scales up to fight you. It has some very fast aimed bullets, and a few spreads mixed in. It is also very weak, taking mere seconds to destroy from a fully powered Judge Spear.

The sixth stage is another boss stage. This one is a huge desert tank, several screens wide and tall. The stage starts on one corner, and circles around before coming back to the middle. Anytime you move away from the boss, you'll have to face a couple long, thin tanks. These leave a couple medals each, just kill them fast so they don't start cramming your space. The central weak point has several spread attacks. The deadliest one is a thick spread that fires to the left, then to the right. You'll need a fast ship to get between the spreads. The other really deadly attack is a salvo of single bullets which leave just enough room between them to get by safely.

The final stage is the other one with the really cool backgrounds, made up of tons of stonework. It scrolls by fast, but you can still see the detail. During the first phase you'll face a large number of enemy bombers. When the scrolling slows down, you'll come upon a parking lot of some sort full of tanks. The tanks fire aimed bullets at you at regular intervals. The gap between shots is wide enough to sneak through. If two tanks are next to each other, the gap will be narrower but fast fighters can still make it through. One large bomber will release pods that fire a ton of bullets when destroyed, bomb that bomber quickly to get it out of your way. As an aside, if you continue on this stage you'll start at the beginning but the rank will be reduced big time.

The final boss is a huge satellite dish in the ground. First, destroy the turrets behind it. From there, the boss has a few different attacks. It can fire a group of small, spread shots. Each group consists of several smaller arcs, with a gap between each arc. Zig zag and aim for those gaps. New turrets will start opening on the sides and behind the boss, some of them only vulnerable when open. The ones behind it are the worst, sending long streams of bullets while the boss whips bullets around. Drop a couple bombs and he'll go down, but this fight is much harder than the previous ones.

Once you win, you'll get a congratulatory screen with some more Engrish for your enjoyment. It effectively tells you to wait for the sequel.

I didn't write as much detail about the stages because, frankly, most of them are pretty repetitive. Fighters, bombers, tanks, turrets. I didn't see much variety in enemy types. Yet the gameplay managed to be really enjoyable regardless. It took a while for me to get into it, but once I did Raiden Fighters 2 was a very fun if flawed game.

One final note: This game has a pretty severe rank system, which seems to be based on how long you survive. If you credit feed, the rank drops so far that instead of being a hard game, it's actually pretty easy to bluff your way through unfamiliar portions.

If you want to play this game, it is playable on MAME but the Raiden Fighters Aces collection on Xbox 360 is the better choice. It features actual sound and includes the entire Raiden Fighters series.


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