RayForce… Ok, naming this game requires its own paragraph. “RayForce” is its original name when it came out on arcades in Japan. Arcades in Europe have it called “Gunlock”. Port for Saturn in Japan is “Layer Section” but in Europe and America it was named “Galactic Attack”. Everyone but Gunlock sounds cool but I’ll stick with RayForce, since it resembles its sequels more and it is my favorite. Why did they make so many names for one game, I don’t know. There were some trademark issues probably.
In RayForce we are facing an issue in distant future, where computer called “Con-Human” supposed to improve Earth’s conditions goes insane and starts attacking people instead of protecting them. Thus 99.8% of humanity is wiped out of the planet’s surface with the rest being transported to other colonies. Eventually, victims of their own project goes offensive and decide to destroy rebelled planet. We are going to take controls over RVA-818 X-LAY fighter, which I guess is later called R-Gray0 to be a part of an R-Gray line. The ship has a regular straight shot and additionally it is equipped with homing lasers which have similar targeting system to the one known from Xevious. We have a square in front of us which locks on targets beneath us and only beneath us. To shoot down enemies on our level we have to use our standard shot. Usually we can destroy enemies before they approach us and it’s a crucial tactic. This way we can avoid a lot of additional fire aimed at us. Along with this there’s a scoring system. Locking on as many enemies as we can at once gives us multiplied points. Obtaining points is very satisfying, since the differences in scores can be significant with one more or less enemy locked on. I enjoy this scoring system a lot and quickly try to figure out how to score the most points in order to get two extents. My record was a second extent after defeating a boss in area 4. Unfortunately we don’t have any bombs here, so we have to rely only on our dodging skills.
Stages or rather areas (because this word fits here much more) are made amazing. We don’t have here breaks between them and we have a continuous flight to our target set by storyline. We will approach the planet, see our ships losing to the opposing forces, then enter planet’s atmosphere in order to get to the core. When we lose all our lifes and decide to not continue we will witness one of the best game over sequences in my opinion. Our progress of the mission will be shown and it displays a place where we ended. I really like this additional feature. Adds some extra flavor to the game.
Music in RayForce disappoints. There are mostly electronic tunes which aren’t worth much attention with a few exceptions. I enjoyed the theme of the first stage and ending. The only one that I like a lot is “Into the darkness”, which is played during fifth area. Piano sounds in this melody made a great impression on me. It gives a culmination to the theme.
Difficulty is at high level and it is very hard later in the game. It gets harder for you as long as you don’t die, making bullets faster. However, nothing will shoot at you if it’s too close to be locked on by you so there shouldn’t be any bullet in your face at point blanc range. The game requires a lot of skill, especially in later areas. Bullet patterns are random most of the time but you can figure out a solution on your own pretty fast. It gets more interesting if you decide to score as much as you can in every area. I think scoring gets tough in area six. Anyway, the game is challenging and shouldn’t be frustrating, but everything starts to be if we try to master it. It’s quite easy to die and somehow I found myself dying more often during easier parts.
RayForce is an amazing game with a lot of replayability thanks to the way your progress is presented and to the scoring system, which can make you points hungry. I highly recommend everyone to give it a shot. I play it via MAME emulator, but there is also a Saturn version to emulate or to buy for a fairly low price. It has a CD quality soundtrack unlike the arcade’s one. Moreover, I discovered that there is an iOS version, but I wonder how it works on a touch screen. I doubt it’s a good thing.