The Ray’Z Aracade Chronology includes all three games of the Taito classic arcade “Ray Trilogy”; RayForce and the sequels RayStorm and RayCrisis which have challenged gamers since 1996. I was not that familiar with the series to be honest, so I was excited at the chance to try out the games as I was raised on SHUMPS such as Raiden, Gates of Thunder and Ikaruka and am always looking for a cool “gimmick” in these types of games.
The gimmick for this series is that there are two planes of enemies that you need to destroy, the standard level which you address with your primary weapons but there is also a lower level with ships that you cannot shoot straight on but rather you need to lock-on to them and use your laser to destroy them. You can lock on to a limited number of targets before firing the laser and the more you lock on to the higher your combo score will be. Kind of reminds me of Xevious at times but the enemies in the lower section often will move up into the main section of the game if you do not destroy them in time. It is a neat if sometimes confusing system that has a feel all of its own.
Rayforce is the game that started the series off and was released into arcades back in 1994 and was followed up by a port to the SEGA Saturn the following year. This collection features the original arcade version and it was my favorite of the three, it still looks great and handles perfectly. They added in some specific achievements for each game to help re-playability and there are plenty of options to tweak including the all important TATE mode to allow you to play the game in a vertical format which makes is much easier to see the ships and bullets. It may be a little of the slow side but I enjoyed the variety of enemies and the multi-layer shooting seemed manageable for the most part.
With the first game becomes successful in Japan a sequel followed in 1996 when RayStorm was released in arcades as well as receiving ports to the Saturn, Playstation, and 360. This sequel ditched the classic sprites from the first game and went full polygon graphics and well as added in new additional ships with various different weapon load outs. This collection features the original arcade title as well as a Neo-HD visual upgrade which I very much appreciated.
I am not a huge fan of the early polygon graphics from the mid-90’s and playing the original was not a pleasant experience for me or my eyes as I had trouble picking up some of the smaller enemies in the sequels detailed backgrounds, particularly in the first level with an impressive fly over of a major city. The Neo-HD upgrade made all the difference for me and I spent most of my time playing this version of the game and really enjoyed what Taito was attempting with this title. I still had some small issues with the two-planes of enemies but for the most part I had a blast playing. The online ranking system adds a lot to this, I would often fall just short of improving my rank and it just begged out for another virtual coin drop. Of the three games I felt this was the peak of the series, particularly with the newer upgraded version.
RayCrisis was the last game to be released in the series, dropping in 1998 and by that time the polygon graphics were pushing the limits to what they could do graphically. Playing in the original was tough and with the enemy ships I struggled to tell the planes of depth apart. The backgrounds were more detailed than ever and the screen is constantly moving, spinning and changing perspective. The HD upgrade makes in bearable but it feels like Taito over-reached with this one and it seemed like gamers of the era agreed as this ended the series while receiving middling reviews at the time.
Being a huge shooting fan I was happy to discover this series in an excellent compilation that gave much needed visual upgrades to the dated polygon graphics of the last two games in the series. I also appreciated the extras like online leaderboards, digital instruction manuals for each game and screen orientation options allowing play in TATE mode for those who have the right setup or controller. In addition to the digital version available on the eShop, there is a physical edition from Limited Run Games which includes a Collector’s Edition for $130 and features the game, collector’s box, manual, reproductions of the arcade flyers, stickers, concert audio of the soundtrack and more. Certainly worth checking out for those who really love the series.
Ray’z Arcade Chronology
Taitio – Nintendo Switch – $49.99