RayStorm is a scrolling shooter developed by the Taito Corporation (now part of Square Enix). Originally released in Japan as an arcade game in 1996, it was later ported there to Sony's PlayStation game console in 1997, to the Sega Saturn (under the name Layer Section II) in that same year, and to Microsoft's Windows-based personal computers in 2001. In North America, it was released for the PlayStation by Working Designs in June 1997.
The game is set hundreds of years in the future. Players must pilot their "R-Gray" spacecraft through eight vertically scrolling stages and shoot down enemy ships and vehicles to prevent the forces of a rebellious federation of colonies from destroying Earth.
RayStorm is one of three "Ray" games, all featuring similar gameplay, released by Taito. RayForce was released before RayStorm, and the RayForce prequel RayCrisis was released after the others. The plot of RayStorm, which is minimally revealed in the game itself but further described by the game's instruction manual and "Extra Mode" in home releases, is not connected to the "Con-Human" storyline of the other two games.
Its PlayStation versions were generally well-received by American reviewers, but criticized for short game length, music, and similarities to other games such as Xevious 3D/G+.
The game manual for the North American RayStorm release describes the plot even further, depicting a future where space travel has existed since 2119. Humans explored space, and within 100 years Earth established a twenty-colony Star Federation extending to Orion, with each colony kept under martial law. The colonies then mutinied against the Federation: they took control of the major colony Secilia, formed the Secilia Federation and defeated Earth's forces after many battles. After Earth's surrender, all of its inhabitants had been transferred to the colonies. The Secilia Federation suppressed colonial opposition and sent out a force to destroy the planet completely. However, by then the R-Gray, a craft made with parts salvaged from 13 different Secilia ships, is completed and deployed to carry out "OPERATION RAYSTORM", a desperate attempt to defend Earth from the Federation.
After the R-Gray(s) destroy the final boss, the ships try to escape the exploding "Juda Central System" (as the seventh stage is called) through a tunnel. What occurs afterwards differs between the game modes. The original arcade ending shows several R-Grays flying away from Secilia, through a fleet of destroyed enemy ships, towards Earth. The Extra Mode ending shows the player ship(s) enveloped in the tunnel explosion, then a view of the "Juda Satellite colony" exploding, and a view of a heavily damaged R-Gray using its remaining engines to drift from the Moon towards a large debris cloud; the crawl shown as Juda explodes explains that the colony is pushed from its orbit toward the nearby gas giant Seraphim by the explosion, at least "70% of the seven billion inhabitants" of the colony die from the explosion, the "Secilian empire" is no longer a danger, and the mission is complete.
The player uses a vulcan-like laser weapon as their primary offense, and a missile weapon which can lock onto multiple targets and gain a combo multiplier, accumulating into a point total. Additionally, each ship has two special maneuvers. The Special Attack is initiated when the player fills a bar to the maximum by engaging in multiple lock-ons. When full the player can unleash a massive screen wide attack with a brief period of invincibility afterwards. The second, the Hyper Laser Assault, executes a special attack unique to each ship, and is performed by setting all available lock-on attacks on a single target and firing.
The ships have slightly differing methods of destroying enemies and attaining a big point total:
The "13 Players" option requires the player to complete the game using a total of 13 ships from 5 groups: three R-Gray 1 ships using "manual" control, in which primary and lock-on weapons are controlled separately; three R-Gray 2 ships, with manual control; three R-Gray 1 ships using "auto" control, in which primary and lock-on weapons are controlled with the same button; three "auto" R-Gray 2 ships; and one R-Gray 0 "prototype" ship. Either mode can be played with this option; completing the game under Extra Mode with this option reveals an additional epilogue.
The game was ported to the PlayStation in Japan in January 1997, and in March John Ricciardi of videogames.com, then the video gaming website of GameSpot, reported that "several companies [were] interested in porting" it for a North American release; no specific companies were named. Working Designs, which had already translated and published Popful Mail, some Lunar titles, and other Japanese games in America, previously contacted Taito to license RayForce, but publisher Acclaim had done so a few days before; when they heard about RayStorm, they quickly asked Taito if that game was available, licensed it immediately, and met with Taito to discuss converting the game for American release in April. Working Designs' version was their first release for the PlayStation and the first game released under their "SPAZ" label dedicated to shooter games; the last under that label was the next "Ray" game, RayCrisis. On the same month it was released, an "Interactive CD Sampler" containing a playable demo of the game was bundled with American PlayStation consoles.
Square Enix acquired Taito in 2005. On June 25, 2008, Square Enix made its PlayStation Network debut in Japan, releasing their new subsidiary's RayStorm and five other previously-published PlayStation titles as downloadable games for the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable (PSP) systems.
The Working Designs version has a revised difficulty and continue system as well. When it was first released, the publisher offered a chance to win US$10,000 by completing the game with all stages set to difficulty level 4 or above, and then submitting the resulting on-screen game summary to them. If players set any stage's difficulty below level 4, the game runs in a training mode where they can only play the first 4 stages; Working Designs said they forced this to prevent gamers from completing RayStorm with such levels and complaining "that the game was too easy". When the contest was over, the company released a code, with which players can unlock the game's "Free Play" option.
On April 2007, Taito released Furu Furu Park, a collection of minigames inspired by the company's arcade games, for Nintendo's Wii game console. Gaming website GameDaily said that its RayStorm minigame "requires some very strong bullet-dodging skills", but some of its other minigames are "way too easy".
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