~ SUPER RAIDEN ~
Seibu Kaihatsu / Hudson Soft
Raiden veterans will find themselves in familiar territory when they begin playing Super. Actually, just about everything--from the bullet-heavy gameplay to the unimpressive visuals--will seem to be the same.
For this release, however, the game was blessed with a red book soundtrack (which was hardly a given--just ask owners of Altered Beast CD). The instrumentation is excellent, quite reminiscent of Hellfire-S'. Unfortunately, the compositions themselves are far from special with the exceptions of the Stage 2 theme (which is fantastic) and parts of the Level 10 number.
And yes, I did say "Level 10." While the original Raiden is an eight-board affair, Super tacks on two additional stages, a flooded Area 9 and a hard-as-hell final strip.
The concern here isn't with the new stages themselves; in fact, the last level will be appreciated by shoot 'em up experts for its high level of difficulty. The real issue is that Raiden already felt long as it was. Even the best of shooters start to push their luck when they extend beyond a reasonable six or seven stages, and Raiden was never exactly the strongest vertical around to begin with. It takes skill to make it to Level 10 in this game--and it takes incredible fortitude to begin the long journey anew after failing on that level. If you do survive the gauntlet, you'll be rewarded with a new bit of ending... but don't expect much from it.
Super Raiden will be a nice pickup for folks who are already Raiden fans and who'd like to experience the challenge of the new stages and the novelty of playing the game with red book music. For those who haven't yet purchased a PCE Raiden and insist on doing so, my advice is to go with this one, as it's more rewarding and boasts higher-quality audio. And here's one more bit of advice: if you make it to the last boss and you think you've got him beaten, well... you haven't.
So don't let your guard down.