Another review, another shmup to check out.
RayStorm is basically a cult classic among the shmup fans, and an inspiration for doujin circles (Kamui, Ether Vapor, Rayging Blue, etc.)
The concept of RayStorm involves the use of the lock-on laser, just like its predecessor RayForce / Gunlock did. As soon as you press start, you can choose one of two options: The R-Gray 1 which starts with 5 Lock-on slots ( with a max of 8 ) and a spread shot or the R-Gray 2 with a straight twin laser and 8 lock on slots ( with a max of 16 ). My recommendation is to pick the R-Gray 2, i'll explain you why in a moment. depending on which R-Gray you select, your lock-on capacity will be big or small, but there's power ups which increase them by one point, along with your firepower as well. When you use all the Lock-Ons on a single target (a large ship or a boss), it will release a "special charge" attack, which you could consider a second bomb, and i said second because you have the Sp. Attack which is the bomb weapon of this game, but unlike most games you can use it once, then you have to re-fill its energy by destroying enemies with your Lock-On Lasers. , and this is where the fun and the strategy begins, the "strategy" part because you will try to concentrate on use the Lock-On more than the normal shooting. The "fun" part consists on making chains with the enemies, because this game also features the bonus multiplying feature, and this is where keeping the Lock-On slots on high numbers are a priority for hi-score enthusiasts for two reasons. The first one is because of the point multiplication by making chains with how many targets are locked on. There's a part in the game where you can reach a lot of bonus points by making chains, and is in Stage 2 when the boss prepares to take off, if you lock on it it's immune to your attacks, but that's the good news, because we're aiming to reach a high score with chains, so concentrate let's say five of ten Lock-Ons to the boss, then to a destructible platform and then to a ship and BAM!!, 12,500 or more points by this simple trick. Now, the second part of the "Fun" can be found at the end of the level when your accuracy is evaluated. Locked on targets are part of the bonus, depending on how high was the percentage of enemies destroyed by Lock-Ons, that will be your bonus. For aim to high percentage i strongly recommend to use the "Manual" fire rather than the "Auto" one.
The PlayStation 2 version featured in Taito Legends 2 is an obscenity of loading times, if in G-Darius they were horrible, in RayStorm they're much worse. Why?, well if the game has to load to cut off the attract mode just to send you to the "Push 1 or 2 Player Button" screen after inserting the very first credit, that doesn't sound good, once you push the button then it has to load again to bring out the player select screen, then it goes to load to begin the level, rinse and repeat this level process 7 more times until you finish the game. I've played the PlayStation version before so i know about the loading times, in the PS version they're totally reasonable and as far as i remember they were slightly faster than those of the PlayStation 2, isn't the PS2 supposed to be better by far?, not only that, the saddest thing of the PS2 port is that the game is based on the original Arcade version.
Speaking about the PlayStation, the PS port featured another mode called Extra Mode, which included some additional details to the game, the loading screens were different, changing the usual "Now Loading" black screen for a "Military Operation" map screen which showed where the stage will take place. A feature included on the US PlayStation port by Working Designs was the difficulty control, which avoided players to "cheat" by beating the game on the easiest levels, what this feature did was to finish the game on level 3 (i guess) if the levels were below "Normal", also they used this gimmick to do a contest where the players who proved they can beat the game will enter on a sweepstake to win $10,000. That kinda reminds me what Atari did with the Swordquest games in the 80's.
On the graphic part, the game uses the three dimensional perspectives and depths perfectly well, not just for the buildings, asteroids and platforms, but also for the lock-on enemies, and the submerged targets. The best and deepest use of the perspectives is seen on Stage 4, as you can lock on the battleships on the far distance, but also the lock on laser will take a certain time to reach its target, which adds realism to the battle.
The Extra Mode version added more visual effects like a red shockwave in the explosions, a planet in Stage 5's background and the flashing effects on the Gravity Catapult at the end of stage 4 among other features.
As for the music, breaks with the oh so common dance music, as the electronic tunes are mixed with smooth paces according the stage, fitting with the "atmosphere" of the level, for example the soft and calm but still energy filled rhythm in level one, the fast paced trance in level three and the quiet mysterious keyboards on the outer space themed level 4. The PlayStation version had an alternate arrangement soundtrack known as "Tanz Mix", which can be heard when you're playing on Extra Mode. Along the levels there's radio conversations which make the stage more serious and somehow realistic.
One curious detail is that the ending theme has a french dialogue, and the Extra Mode "Tanz Mix" version of the ending theme has french lyrics, which was a breath of fresh air after hearing songs with english or japanese lyrics, it's pretty interesting to hear something different.
Curiosities: Most of the bosses names are based on references of ancient periods of human history.
- Pendragon (Stage 1 Tank) comes from the name of several traditional Kings of the Britons: Ambrosius Aurelianus, son of Constantine II of Britain (called "Pendragon" in the Vulgate Cycle). Uther, brother of Aurelius and father of King Arthur, is called Uther Pendragon because he was inspired by a dragon-shaped comet (In the Vulgate, he took the name from his brother).
- Vercingetorix (Stage 2 B-2 like Ship) was named after the chieftain of the Arverni tribe; he united the Gauls in a revolt against Roman forces during the last phase of Julius Caesar's Gallic Wars. It is also the name of the final boss of the SNES Super FX game Vortex.
- Zenobia (Stage 3 Flying Robot) name comes from the 3rd-century Queen of the Palmyrene Empire in Syria, who led a famous revolt against the Roman Empire. The second wife of King Septimius Odaenathus, Zenobia became queen of the Palmyrene Empire following Odaenathus' death in 267.
- Hannibal (Stage 4 Giant Battleship) was named like the Punic Carthaginian military commander, generally considered one of the greatest military commanders in history. His father, Hamilcar Barca, was the leading Carthaginian commander during the First Punic War, his younger brothers were Mago and Hasdrubal, and he was brother-in-law to Hasdrubal the Fair.
- Genseric or more often Gaiseric / Geiseric (Stage 5 Transformer-like robot) is named like the King of the Vandals and Alans (428–477) who established the Vandal Kingdom was one of the key players in the troubles of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century.
- Alaric (Stage 6 Transformer-wannabe robot) was named like both Alaric I and II. Alaric I was the King of the Visigoths from 395–410. Alaric is most famous for his sack of Rome in 410, which marked a decisive event in the decline of the Roman Empire, Alaric II succeeded his father Euric as king of the Visigoths in Toulouse on December 28, 484.
- Spartacus (Stage 7 "Central System Defense" Tower) name comes from the Thracian gladiator, who, along with the Gauls Crixus, Oenomaus, Castus and Gannicus, was one of the slave leaders in the Third Servile War, a major slave uprising against the Roman Republic. Little is known about Spartacus beyond the events of the war, and surviving historical accounts are sometimes contradictory and may not always be reliable. All sources agree that he was a former gladiator and an accomplished military leader.
- Yggdrasil (Stage 8 "System Core" Mechanism) was named like the immense tree from Norse mythology that is central in their cosmology, in connection to which the nine worlds exist.
Being a shmupper without playing RayStorm is like you're missing something. What i've mean with this?, Playing this game is a definitely must.
Ready to Shmuppin' again... No Guts No Glory!