Actually, to call Lightning
Fighters a 'Raiden-clone' is a bit of a
dissservice to Konami, seeing as it came out the same
year (1990). Vertical shootemups
were still all the rage in the arcades at this point,
and manufacturers were striving to grab arcade
punters with more showy visuals and punchier
gameplay. One innovation was the introduction of the
'bigger' super-bomb (or 'smart-bomb') effect, a
suitably eye-catching pyrotechnical super-punch that
made the player feel good about pressing that 'B'
button and toasting everything on screen. Toaplans' Flying
Shark and Raiden itself
were good examples of this. Lightning Fighters had a
nice line in 'super-bombs' too.
Here's the best feature of the
game - the
spectacular for its time Dragon Laser!
Fighters compares very favourably to Raiden. I like
the graphics - the backgrounds, enemies and bosses
all have a similar futuristic look (jet aircraft,
tanks, alien space-craft) only a tad more cartoony
and vibrant compared to Raiden's more sombre visual
style. Your ship is nicely drawn and characterised
(can a spaceship have character?) and the second
players' ship is of a slighly different appearance to
minimise inter-player confusion. It's a long game -
nine levels I think - all leading up to the finding
the alien mothership mentioned earlier and defeating
a final boss at the bottom of his volcano lair.
thing about the game is the weaponry though. Standard
issue firepower is a cannon which can be upgraded by
picking up icons which flick between two types like
Raiden - 'S' icons power up your
cannon to a spread shot while 'V'
icons give you a progressively more powerful
auto-firing Vulcan gun. Best of all are the
super-bomb weapons - the blue Particle Beam
which swathes the whole screen in a vicious looking
laser blast (perfect for bosses) - and my favourite -
the Dragon Laser. This is basically
a huge fiery dragon, which appears to have escaped
from Konami's Gradius games - that
zips and swirls around the screen taking out all
comers, complete with an eerie wailing sound effect.
Very very cool. (This reminds me - I really ought to
do a feature on Terra Cresta - the
ship-to-fiery pheonix transformation was one of my
all-time favourite arcade moments).
The first stage boss - makes a
entrance by zooming down from above to
attack your ship. And this game was a full
eight years before Soukyugurentai too..
As I said
earlier though, unfortunately Lightning Fighters
never received a home conversion which was a shame -
possibly as it used a lot of hardware-intensive
sprite-scaling effects much like Konami's helicopter
shooter Ajax. Although it's not
exactly the cult-classic that Raiden has become, and
probably isn't really quite as good a game
in retrospect, it's a very enjoyable blast, and those
cool super-weapons add immensely to the appeal of an
otherwise fairly formulaic vertical blaster. Give it
a whirl in MAME if you like the
sound of it - as an alternative to Raiden it's not
I like this insect-like 'walker'
You can take out its appendages one by one
until it is immobolized completely.
Above - A 'reet nasty boss'un
charges all over the place and killer beams
whizzing across the screen to fry you. And I
only nipped out for a pack of ciggies..