is for.... forward to

By Konami Arcade 1990


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!

Lightning 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.

Best 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 rather nifty
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 half bad..

I like this insect-like 'walker' tank mini-boss!
You can take out its appendages one by one
until it is immobolized completely.

Above - A 'reet nasty boss'un this.. Electric
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..

Konami's one and only venture
into 'Raiden' territory is a surprsingly good vertical shmup!

Bit of a Konami shoot-em-up nut me. I have for instance damn near every version of Gradius, Parodius and Twinbee for all the consoles I own - which is a lot of games believe me. However there were quite a few quality arcade shooters from the company that never had a home conversion, such as the infamous Xexex. Another is Lightning Fighters.

The time and location are unspecified. A mysterious black alien spacecraft has crash-landed on a planet very much resembling Earth. An invasion fleet has spewed forth from the innards of the giant craft, threatening to enslave the whole planet. Cue the Lightning Fighter Duo! (Hey.. I should get a job writing B-list shooter game plots eh?) ;)

This is the 'Particle Beam' super-weapon. Not nearly
as cool as the Dragon Laser but still rather nice..

A great big warship from later in the game. Nicely designed this.. see the little runways at the bottom? Here's where it launches loads of enemy fighters at
you. Nasty. Eat Dragon you swine!!

Another spaceship boss - this one splits into smaller bosses to confuse you. As in Raiden you don't actually have to kill an end of stage boss to progress to the
next level - but if you do you get an extra 10,000
point bonus. So it's worth a try..

Here's one of the level bosses zooming into the screen on some kind of launch pad arrangement. Quite cool.

Over the alien mothership - notice the strange surface markings. Yep - definitely alien guv. And this must be
the source of all its power. Yep.. a purple beachball with funny writing on it. Definitely evil..

Running out of space on the page now so here's the last few bosses
(left) volcano boss (middle) more alien spaceship (right) final boss
- looks easy but is a right bugger to kill.. I don't like him one bit..

Ending Animation

Lightning Fighters fan Suzuki sent me a mail detailing the extra weapon attachments only available in 2-player mode.. four types of attachments called "Trigon" (seeking lazer, bombing, aerial missile, and twin fire) which make the game play a lot more similarly to Raiden II when put to use - the "Hunting Trigon" being very similar to the homing beam in that game.The angle of one ship to the other determines the direction of fire of the Trigon, except the laser missile firing trigon home in the opposing aircraft or land based vehicle by themselves. It's a shame that these options are unavailable in the one-player game, but you can try them out in two-player mode or see them in action in the attract demo of the game.

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