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RayStorm

RayStorm

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+.

Plot

RayStorm consists of eight stages taking place between August 4 and August 7, 2219 AD; the first three stages take place on Earth, the last three at the planet Secilia, and two between them in the orbits of Earth and Secilia, respectively; Whereas RayForce players must head toward Earth to destroy it, RayStorm players start at and move away from the planet. The plot of the game is exposed minimally during play, with only dates and place names given at the start of each of its first seven stages. An "Extra Mode" included with home versions of the game displays maps before the first seven stages and a closing crawl after completing the game, which further illustrate the plot; the map for the fifth stage, for example, shows that a "gravity catapult" at the Moon is used to travel from Earth orbit to Secilia orbit.

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.

Gameplay

RayStorm is a shoot 'em up. The player views their ship from a distanced perspective while gunning down enemies in the game's vertically scrolling stages. At the beginning of the game, the player must choose one of two ships; a third secret ship is available in ported versions.

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 R-Gray 1 uses a basic single laser cannon with shots that spread out. By moving the reticule over various enemies, it can lock on and fire multiple missiles. This ship is best suited for beginners.
  • The R-Gray 2 uses twin lasers, and its attack power is considered superior to the R-Gray 1, but the width and range of its fire is decreased. However, its lock on maximum is 16 targets, meaning its point accumulation is much higher.

Modes

Home versions contain two gameplay modes: the Arcade Mode which preserves the look and feel of the original arcade version, and the Extra Mode that has enhanced graphics, additional enemies, modified bosses, and tougher difficulty, as well as a different ending. Completing either mode unlocks a "stage select" option to play individual stages in the completed mode for a high score, while succeeding in both modes unlocks a "13 Players" option.

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.

Development

Staff involved in the development of RayStorm include producer and director Yukio Abe, director Tatsuo Nakamura, music composer Tamayo Kawamoto, and sound effect composer Munehiro Nakanishi, who all had the same roles developing RayForce beforehand. Kawamoto and Nakanishi composed as members of Taito "house band" Zuntata, who trace their first work under that name to June 1987. A soundtrack to the game, including both its original music and some arrangements, was released on October 11, 1996.

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.

Compilations

RayStorm was bundled with several titles:

  • Taito Memories Volume 2, a.k.a. Taito Memories Gekan, which includes 24 other Taito games
  • Taito Legends 2 for the PlayStation 2, with 38 other games
  • G-Darius+Raystorm Pack
  • Simple 1500 Series Vol. 75: The Double Shooting for the PlayStation, which also includes RayCrisis

Differences between releases

The Japanese PlayStation release of RayStorm was well received by gamers, but suffered from slowdown issues at certain points. Working Designs worked to speed up their version of the game, and it runs more smoothly than Taito's release. The company also said that the Japanese version had a compatibility issue with some programmable game controllers, and that they fixed it for their release.

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.

Stages and bosses

The names of the stages and bosses draw to a heavy degree from the history of Rome. Secilia's own intent to annihilate Earth after conquering it is redolent of the habit of Roman-era conquerors of utterly desolating the lands and cities of those foes who had dared to offer heavy resistance, as an example to others. Likewise, the forcible transfer of Earth's inhabitants to the other colonies is similar to the practice of selling the vanquished into slavery. The bosses, meanwhile, are mostly named for generals and leaders who warred against Rome.

Stages

  1. Albion, D.U., Earth
  2. Old Gaul City, Earth
  3. Palmyra Valley, Earth
  4. 3rd Fleet [of Secilia], Earth orbit
  5. Carthage Base, Secilia orbit
  6. Etruria, Secilia
  7. Juda Central System, Secilia

Bosses

  1. Pendragon
  2. Vercingetorix
  3. Zenobia
  4. Hannibal
  5. Genseric
  6. Alaric
  7. Spartacus
  8. Yggdrasil

Reception

Critical response

GameSpot's review of its Japanese release called it "easily the best shooter currently available on the PlayStation"; the website's staff praised its "[intense] lighting effects" and "marvelous explosions" that "fill the screen" and said its two soundtracks by Zuntata are "done well", but said some of the music lacks "the urgency and intensity you'd expect from a fast-paced shooter", that "the game is nowhere near as difficult as its predecessor" RayForce despite adjustable difficulty, and that the ships' main weapon does not "seem to be as much of a necessity as it was in the original [RayForce]". IGN reviewed the North American release, criticizing the game's similarities to Xevious 3D/G+ and calling it "a little short", but saying that it has "amazing graphics, excellent music, and solid gameplay".

Legacy

The arcade game RayCrisis, released by Taito two years later, has R-Gray-like "Wave Riders" for the player to use, and its home versions include R-Grays 1 and 2 as hidden ships.

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".

References

External links

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