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If you had been in arcades in the 1990s, you would have seen these types of games.  The scrolling shoot'em ups, "shmups" to some fans. Raiden Project was one of the launch titles for the PlayStation (PSX), and was a perfect home conversion of the Raiden franchise's two early titles. It also probably introduced some gamers to the insanity of a shmup.  In the arcade, these games were made to eat quarters, so you were hit with punishing amounts of enemies with even more punishing amounts of flying ammunition.  So, more or less, you died. Often. Sometimes frustratingly. But you still went back for more. Fast forward to 2009, when Raiden Fighters Aces was brought over to the US XBox 360s for us to enjoy, and at a great price- $19.99.  What did this get you?  Raiden Fighters, Raiden Fighters 2, and Raiden Fighters Jet, with offline co-op play, online leader boards, and, well, that's about it. But do you need more?  Oh yeah, there is some seriously broken English in the scrolling text that explains the game.  "All your bases" has nothing on some of the stuff you will find in Raiden Fighters Aces, and no, it doesn't interfere at all.

There is little difference to each game, the graphics start out old with Raiden Fighters, and get progressively less old as you play through Raiden Fighters 2 to Raiden Fighters Jet.  The medals you pick up for more points change in design, the enemies get new shades of pixels, and things blow up prettier.  The control is arcade perfect, although some of the ships control fast, and some control slow.  However, nothing beats using the Raiden mk-II with its pink lightning weapon that follows targets all over the screen, destroying everything in its path.  It eventually turning into a death broom that simply destroys everything faster.  It's a very satisfying weapon, probably one of the most satisfying I've ever used in a shmup.  The sounds are pure 90s arcade- cheesy synth music, bells and whistles you'll be sure you have heard before, and the noise of almost constant gunfire and explosions.

You can jumble up the arrangement of each game you play: play in order, play out of order, or play against bosses only.  The boss only play is for pure masochists, although I do recommend playing it every now and then.  You can play normal and expert mode. Normal is regular play, while expert mode throws in "damnit moments"- when you defeat enemies, they fire bullets at your position from where they are destroyed. You have to keep moving to avoid the bullets, which often times leads you into a hail of bullets from an enemy that just popped into the screen.  The leader boards are a nice addition, it reminds me of walking past machines in arcades, seeing the Top 10, and playing to see if I can get into the Top 10.  To get the leader boards to register your score, you have to choose XBox Live in the main menu, then choose what game you want to play and how you want to play it.

Overall, it's a good value, if not a quick play through, it'll take about an hour or so from beginning of Raiden Fighters to the end of Raiden Fighters Aces.  For $20, it's a great compilation to add to your collection, and will help whet your appetite for Raiden IV, the new 3D graphics/2D gameplay Raiden coming to the 360 this summer.  The only things missing from Raiden Fighters Aces, is the sound of the skee ball games, the noise from the bank of Pac-Man machines along the wall of the arcade, and the bad Whitesnake ballads blaring from the jukebox in the corner.  We highly recommend Raiden Fighters Aces.


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