RayCrisis - Taito

RayCrisis - PlayStation

Reviewed by Felix the Cat

Vertical scrolling shmups seem to hold the reputation of being incredibly manic blastathons, filling the screen with shrapnel, bullets and lasers (both the enemies and your own), as well as huge swarms of fast, small and maneuverable enemies. Looking back at the list of shmups which come to memory, I see games like Raiden, Donpachi, Dodonpachi, ESP Ra.De, Feveron, Batsugun and Kingdom Grandprix lining the Hall of Fame. Another shmup series, although not completely manic like most of Raizing or Cave's output, deserves to be in the Hall of Fame - Taito's Layer Section.

Although undergoing many names in the series' lifetime, Layer Section (also known as RayForce and Galactic Attack) and it's sequel Layer Section 2 (aka RayStorm) has received critical acclaim for being the true vertical shmup, both manic and controlled, and very fun to play. RayCrisis continues on that tradition of controlled craziness with great flair and style.

Like many shmups, RayCrisis has a background story. Apparently, RayCrisis is a PREQUEL, preceding even RayForce, and begins with a hacker delving into the Con-Human Supercomputer using a neural network, to try and stop the Con-Human from killing and cloning humans. Essentially, you play the part of a computer virus, and the enemies you encounter are the computer 'antibodies'. Taito have done really well in keeping the 'virus infiltration' theme throughout the game, with all the small details like the loading screens and the 'generation' of the 'huge antibody' bosses.

The game is probably the best looking blaster on the PlayStation, besides maybe R-Type Delta and Einhander. The graphics are very crisp and clean, and there is very little slowdown, even when the screen is flooded with lasers, bullets, enemies and explosions. The effects generated by the PSX look like they should be in a sci-fi movie, and you can tell Taito really bashed the hell out of the PlayStation to achieve these effects. The enemies are very neatly done, and the bosses are HUGE! The perspective common to the 3D Layer Section games really adds to the sense of depth, and this graphical effect hasn't been seen in a vertical shooter since Axelay (to my memory, and that comment ignores RayStorm).

Sound-wise, music is typical Taito, with lasers, bullet-firing sounds and expolsions all common to the Layer Section brand. Turn up your volume when you play, and you can even hear the little female robotic voice announcing 'EXTENDED LOCK ON SYSTEM' or 'INCREASED POWER' whenever you pick up a powerup. The music too, is top quality, with Taito in-house delivering a soundtrack which actually changes depending on the order you select your levels in. Which brings me on to the gameplay...

The game is fantastic to play! Where do I start...?

The ships are all great to control, not being too slow or too fast, but just the right speed (in my book) to avoid the masses of firepower pouring your way. The lock-on system is back and unlike Layer Section or RayStorm, you have more control over the lock-on cursor - in RayStorm for example, the lock-on cursor stays a fixed distance from your ship at all times, whereas in RayCrisis, if you reach the base of the screen, you can drag the cursor closer to your ship, in case you miss an enemy scooting under you. Although this function is only available with the Wave Rider ships and not the R-Grays (yes! they're back!), it helps if you're going for the maximum kills and you just happen to fly over an enemy...

The levels are varied, changing from a desert scene to a night city scene to an underwater scene. You can select which order you want to tackle the middle three levels in, and the levels actually change depending on the order you select your levels. For example, if you selected the Consideration level (the underwater stage) first, you just meet swarms of enemies at the beginning before you swing round the water pillar in the centre of the level, but if you select the level as your second or third level, you might run into mounted turrets, mecha and carriers at the beginning of the level, as well as your swarms of enemies. Skillful selecting of the levels leads to good scores!

You can play this game to a variety of paces too. A new feature in this game is the Encroachment meter, which measures in a percentage. The main feature of the game is to keep the Encroachment as low as you possibly can to get the best score and ranking, and to do that, you have to kill everything in sight, as quickly as you can. Obviously, keeping the meter as low as possible is good, but what happens if you reach 100% before you get to a boss? You meet the last boss prematurely, and you get the BAD ENDING! And if that isn't incentive to stay alive on higher levels, I don't know what is...

The game has some longevity too, with an art gallery a-la Einhander, where you can view some lovely specially prepared artwork, and the R-Grays as secret ships. There are even cheats, one of which is Speed Boosting of your smartbomb weapon...

RayCrisis is a fantastic shooter, definitely recommended, and one which will keep you coming back to it!

Check out your motley crew of ships here!

Self One
[BOSS] Dishuman
[BOSS] Infinity

Ending here! In super 1MB animatovision!


shmups!   © 1997 - 2007  Malcolm Laurie