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 Post subject: RayStorm (PlayStation)
PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2006 12:51 am 

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Joined: 21 Mar 2006
Posts: 81
Location: CA, USA
Developer/Publisher: Taito
Review originally published on Anime PlayStation in 1997

I must start this review by stating that I wasn't sure what to expect with this game. I wasn't expecting much, while at the same time, I couldn't risk disappointment. Judging by the screenshots, I noticed some intricate polygonal landscapes, highly-detailed enemies, and lots of sprites on the screen. I told myself, "This game looks like it'll be running @ 30fps max, if even that fast." Ray Tracers, another game by Taito, had a fairly poor 3D engine, with horribly dithered textures, poor SFX/music, and a framerate that jumped between 20fps and 30fps. Since I am a big fan of Taito shooters, like the Darius series and Layer Section on the Saturn, I was really hoping that they wouldn't let me down with RayStorm.

And to my delight, they didn't. Upon starting this game, I was already pleased to see that it offered Arcade Mode, Extra Mode, and an extensive Options section, which includes an alternate Arranged soundtrack if you play in Extra Mode, as well as options that open up after you complete the game. All of this told me that I was already in store for a game that offered more than simply being an arcade port.

RayStorm's intro is quite nice. Completely done in realtime, it sets the tone for the entire game. This game has no FMV. All of the game's cutscenes are also in 3D and make perfect transitions into the actual gameplay. And that is what shocked me. The intro, the cut scenes, and the actual gameplay all run at a gorgeous 60fps, with moderate slowdown when the screen is crowded with lots of enemy ships, lasers, missiles, and other projectiles. Graphically, I have never seen anything quite like this in a shooter, nor have I ever experienced a shooter that was presented in such a clean fashion. Screenshots simply cannot do this game justice -- you really need to play it to experience what it is all about.

In terms of the music, there are two soundtracks, as mentioned above. Composed by Taito's sound team Zuntata, the original is similar to the soundtrack in Layer Section, a soundtrack that was criticized by certain gaming magazines in the US, but which I found to be rather enjoyable. Their efforts in RayStorm are superior, and the recording is phenomenally clean, with crisp highs and deep lows. The audio is streamed, so you can't play it in a CD player, which is unfortunate. I'm assuming they did this to give people a reason to buy their 2 RayStorm music CDs. The other is a remixed soundtrack. I prefer this soundtrack over the original, but both have excellent sonic qualities and originality, and anyone who finishes the game in Extra Mode using the Tanz soundtrack will be pleasantly surprised by the end song! The sound effects are also excellent, with the inevitable explosions that will rattle your walls -- when you hit that Bomb button for the first time with your volume turned up, you'll understand what I'm talking about.

In the gameplay/control department, I think it plays true to its Layer Section roots, although I think the ship moves a little too slow at times, making dodging enemy fire excessively difficult in the later levels. Your ship also has a tendency to "drift" a little in the opposite direction if you let go of the d-pad. This sometimes leads your fighter right into enemy fire, which can get annoying after it happens a few times. This also happened to some degree in Layer Section, an annoyance that I wish they had removed for this installment. Otherwise, it plays wonderfully with the good `ol lock-on lasers (and new lightning bolts!) that made the original stand out a few years ago.

Options are pretty standard, although extra options open up to the player after the game is completed. You can also set difficulty levels individually for each level, which is something quite different from the norm.

I've had this game for several weeks now, having beat it about 8 or 9 times, yet it still brings me back time and time again to experience its incredible execution and sheer exhiliration. Extra Mode throws more enemies at you, new options, includes newly enhanced special effects that weren't found in the arcade game, and of course, the new remixed soundtrack and ending. This is definitely one of the best games I've played lately, and is absolutely perfect for the shooter fanatic. It's going to be interesting to see if Namco's 3D Xevious or Konami's 3D Gradius games can top this.

To the anime fan: if you like anime such as Macross Plus or Shin Seiki Evangelion, you will see more than a passing resemblance between them and some of the elements in this game. Definitely a highly inspired shooter that is guaranteed to please.

Graphics: 9.5
+ Some of the cleanest 3D textures I've ever seen.
+ Lots of special effects, great use of PS hardware.
+ 60fps, inspired graphic design, and good use of color.
+ Well-designed variable-form mecha.
- 2D sprite explosions on bosses are unforgivably blocky
- Slows down in the more intense sections of the game, especially noticeable in 2-player mode.

Music/Sound: 10
+ Both soundtracks are beautifully composed.
+ Ambient, projectile, and explosive sound effects are very clean.

Control: 8
+ Control is true to its predecessor's (Layer Section) roots.
- Ship is too slow at times in addition to slight "drift" problem.

Playability: 8
+ Extra Mode ensures that this game won't be shelved after Arcade mode is complete.
+ Extra options also help to give this game a longer life and incentive for replayability.
+ It will take several replays to see all the details that were put into some of this game's levels.
- A couple of the levels are relatively short.

Overall: 9

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