Rayforce - Taito - 1993

(aka Layer Section & Galactic Attack)

Various Systems (arcade/saturn) - Taito - 1993

Reviewed by Randorama

There are some games that never get old, or boring. It's a subjective thing, of course. Sometimes you can still play a crappy game after literally a decade it was published just because you liked it 10 years ago and you still love it, regardless of its objective quality. In this case, I'm talking of one of the best shmups around, and perhaps one of the 2 or 3 games that I'll still play, every once in a while, until I'll grow old and bitter (ehm...). This game is called "Rayforce" or "Layer Section" depending on which version you get (I know, there was a lame US port whose name was Galactic Attack, but its two original names are the aforementioned ones).


This is basically the story of "Operation Meteor Strike". How did it begin? The human governments, in a distant future, decide to create a giant computer whose purpose is to administer the planet. A sort of giant A.I. system mantaining the balance of the ecosystem. This computer,at some point, becomes fully aware and it goes nuts, starting to clone at random human beings, killing people at random, and destroying the ecosystem it's supposed to preserve, probably because it realizes humankind watches too much tv (uhm, ok, it's not very clear why it does it, i'm referring to the intro of "Raycrisis", prequel to this game but third and final chapter of the series).

Now, after killing 99.8% of humankind, the remaining fellows flee beyond the moon, in outer space, to organize the final strike on the bad "Con-human" (uh? What does it mean? "Contrary-human"? like, pro (in favour of) vs con (contrary to)?Who knows...). This final strike will resolve the conflict between humankind and We don't know - yet!


The game is one of the first Taito F3's games, a board which can perform a lot of nice graphical effects like scaling: in fact, this effect in particular is abused in the game (hence the name "layer section").

The practical aspect of this design is that you will see a lot of nice scenes, like the beginning of the third stage, when you dive through the outer strata of atmosphere, or the whole stage 6, when you cross all the internal layers of the planet that divide the first inner city (stage 5) from the second one (stage 7).The "layered" graphics also mean that you have enemies scrolling below you that can be destroyed by your super-cool homing lasers (a classicTaito feature).

The settings are also excellent: most of the time you will observe the finely drawn backgrounds, like the floating islands in stage 3... and then destroy the structures holding them, but be careful not to get hit whilst gaping at the said isles falling down.

Most of the graphics are indeed gorgeous, and the F3 board does indeed a nice job in giving you a "3D" sensation: for example, during the fourth boss battle, moving left and right on the screen will make you see more or less of the sides of the canyon you're flying on. The backgrounds and their design are very original: there's a battle in a moon underground cavern (stage 2), then you enter the atmosphere and you have these floating islands in stage 3, then you can see the big mechas popping up from holes in the earth during stage 4... at the end of the game, you see a crack in the earth and you dive into it, to fight a big "mecha-spider" while you're above the inner city.

This inner city (stage 5) is what remains of the original "Con-human" project: a vast underground civilization to shelter enslaved humans. At the end of this stage, you fight a giant Mecha, Odin, the guardian of the corridor that will lead you to the intermediate zone between the TWO inner cities. Once you enter the second inner city (where the important human beings, scientists mainly, were enslaved), you are basically in the planet's core.

I don't know how you are supposed to have cities there, perhaps the nazis (or the gobligan empire from Mahou series) were right and Earth is indeed hollow... Main thing is, your final battle takes place at the centre of the planet, with the main baddie itself: Con-Human.

If the backgrounds weren't good enough, you can also appreciate the splendid work on enemies' design: while most of the mecha/ship design is based on classic anime and manga (or other classic games with mechas), every enemy has a lot of details and shows a particular attention put in their designing phase: For example, you can actually observe the fine work done in the design of the legs of the fourth boss (a sort of spider-mecha, hanging on the canyon I was speaking of), or the nice animation of the fifth boss (called "Odin"), which tries to literally slap you in one of its attacks.

The two inner cities have also lots of details, in the first part of stage 5 you actually fly over skyscrapers, then over to various layers of fast-scrolling highways, in the artificial lit undeground complex (parts of this city can be seen when mechas pop up during stage 4 from "fissures"). Since we're speaking of mechas, we can easily say that the game predates, in design, various Aleste games, and many other sources, as can be easily seen in the pics. As i told you before, you even get the big mecha boss as the end of fifth stage, as the guardian of the inner core. This game also sports a nice variety of typical taito bullets: in case you didn't live on Mars or in another dimension, Taito is known for their fetish with homing lasers (the ones who will stop for a while and then ram at you, and weird bullet forms...In fact, we have the oval-shaped bullets too, the small flashing orange ones, big lasers, double scaling lasers from tanks, and other nice attacks, whose originality always made me smile (except when they hit me, !"£!@").

Speaking of colour, the game is very well coloured, even if it tends to dark, or pastel-like, tinges, especially in the subterranean stages (but that it's to be expected, after all), which actually are a good apportation to the game's dark atmosphere. Now,two words on the port:The Saturn version is a bit more pixelated than the original one, i checked a video taken from the original board and my Saturn copy (it's something you can note ONLY if you put side by side the two versions and you're not playing, and you can mind it only if you buy games for "eye-candyness").


The game exploits the hardware it runs on at full power - you will see lots of scaling sprites, excellent designed enemies, and excellent backgrounds. Its settings conjure up a dark and brooding atmosphere, and also implement the hardware abilities and the plot in a flawless way.


This game has, in my opinion, the best BGM composed by Tamayo Kawamoto. Tamayo Kawamoto is a good-looking lady that started working on Capcom and made classics like Black Tiger(1987) and Ghouls'n Ghosts (1988). Both games featured dark fantasy settings, and Ms. (Mrs.?) Kawamoto's compositions were perfect for both.

In 1988 she left Capcom and went to Taito, to found Zuntata sound team. From what i know, her first solo work is indeed Rayforce, and i have to say that it's also her best one. The BGM is mostly what i would call "progressive techno", even if people who know more on the genre may have better and more precise definitions. Basically it's a sort of dancey/ambient soundtrack with a quite brooding and dark feel, which blends in a perfect way with the dark atmosphere of the game.

I think it's also the first shmup featuring a dance/ambient BGM, something that's a standard in these days. As i told you,the BGM is truly great, but one caveat to be done is this: The Saturn port has remixed songs, and the original BGM wasn't ported.

I think this is a very dumb move - i mean, wtf, it's ok, you wanted to offer something new, but let me choose,ok?! And don't tell me you hadn't enough space on the f!"£ing CD! Bah, Taito are freaks...Still, the remix songs are more or less better than the arcade version, quality is a bit superior, but mainly the songs have just received minor "tweaks", aside the second stage one (whose name is simply "2G"), which has some 30 extra seconds at the beginning.

A couple of memorable songs are "Into darkness" (stage 5) and "Quartz" (second part of stage 7), the former for its very dark mood, the latter for its slow and quite sad refrain. The aforementioned "2G" has also a trancey mood, like "Cracking!",the fourth stage theme. Boss themes are also great,especially the second one, "Atrocity " (stages 5,6), not to mention "agressiveness" (stage 1,2,3,4) and "the fates", the final orchestral theme (and its second part, "Doomsday").

The best example of the exquisiteness of the soundtrack is the first song, "Penetration", which at once defines its progressive/trance nature and provides the stage with a nice and fast "futuristic" theme, perfect for the pure, "hard" sci-fi setting. It's actually nice to listen them back after 10 years, because they sound a bit retro, with their mid-90s flavour... But you can't really resist "On Standby", perhaps the best "attract mode" song ever, with its simple and hypnotic loop,almost like a minimalist piece. One final note: while i never figured it out fully, it seems there's at least one remix album of the soundtrack, featuring even reggae remixes of the various songs!


The BGM is Tamayo Kawamoto's masterpiece, and it conjures up perfectly the dark,brooding atmosphere of your fight against impossible odds, entering the viscerae of Earth. It also sets the standard for the shmups genre - meaning it's the first dance/ambient BGM ever, and one of the finest. The Saturn version has slightly different songs though, but Taito omitted to put both versions on the port, I wonder why...


The game is basically Xevious on steroids. Said that, the (check URL) ST covers this aspect in detail. You only have two weapons: forward shot and lock-on lasers. Your main shot can be powered-up in two ways: red pods (you need three of them to increase your shot level) and yellow pods (one pod, one level). It only hits enemies on your plane, and is pretty powerful from level 4 on.

Your second attack is the lock-on laser system. This attack takes advantage of the pseudo-3d enviroment and works in this way: you have a grid in front of your ship that lets you lock-on lasers on enemies below you. Once you pass this grid on those enemies, they will be locked-on until they will go completely out of the screen. You start with five lasers at your disposal, and can get up to eight thanks to the "L" item. Lasers are basically more powerful than the normal shot, but since they can be only used on enemies below the main plane, you can't rely on it in every occasion.

Lasers are also the key to big scores: if you can lock-on multiple targets, you will receive a multiplier on basic points value:

first laser: x1
second laser : x2
third laser: x4
fourth laser: x8
fifth laser: x16
sixth laser: x32
seventh laser: x128
eighth laser: x256

As you can see, the true key for big scores is getting 7 or 8 lock-ons at once (not easy to do, of course!). For example, if you can destroy an enemy (of course, partial hits won't count,you get the multiplier only if you destroy the enemy with that laser) that's worth 800 points with your eighth lock-on, you get 800x256=248k points!

Another important feature is the rank system: basically, the more time you survive,the harder the game gets. Also, once you extend, you get another increase of rank, and this means that Saturn players are penalized: the original arcade version gives you two extra lives at 1M and 2M, Saturn version at 500k and 1M (thus giving you the extra increase in ranking earlier in the game).

Please consider that rank in this game is FIERCE, it maxes out pretty early (by third boss if you never die) and the game basically turns into a "manic" shmup.

Some notes on enemies: except for stage 1 and 5, every stage has a mid-boss (uhm, only the sixth mid-boss effectively appears at roughly half of the level...), and all boss battles are done in the Taito way: most of them are quite long, especially if you want to place the score-rewarding blow, and most attacks are based more on safe spots and tricks than pure dodging skills... After all, your ship's collision area is pretty big, a square that leaves out wings and cannons, more or less.You will also need to learn some patterns of aerial enemies at some point, especially when the difficulty will be quite high, because most of them, at this point, not only shoot a lot, but will also like to ram at you: Ican't think of a game where you have more chances to get killed by collisions.

Finally, one note on 2 player mode: you only have four lasers per player (starting at 3),so you're limited in score and "offensive freedom": a way to to basically "invite" players to cooperative shmupping?


The game's mechanics are a modern form of classic like Xevious, and they feature a forward shot and a lock-on laser that will destroy enemies on planes below you and reward with exponential scores if you do multiple lock-ons at once. The game has a rank system based on survival, extra lives in stock and number of lasers used, that will force you to deal with quite difficult enemies at some point (if you play well).


I think I will probably avoid giving votes higher than a "9++" to most shmups, regarding the longevity aspect.

This mainly because most of shmups feature a pretty unique gaming system, which is a bit of an handicap if you want to play them again after a while. Also, this game has a pretty simple port, lacking a few extras that could have made it better, like score attack/boss attack modes. Even if these are very minor issues, you may try a few runs before getting used again to its system, once you haven't played it for a while.

This is also a small handicap: you can actually enjoy a quick run, every once in a while, if you don't mind the score.The strength of this game is its uniqueness: it's simple and quite complex at the same time, and even if you just mind "eye-candyness" (and most people surely do: let's be honest, would you play a game with a great gameplay system, and just decent gfx? I've done it, but i'm probably an exception to the rule), you can't simply resist its layer-based design...

The game, by the way, is also quite a challenge to complete on one credit. Rank makes the game quite more difficult, the better you play: after all, it's the purpose of this system. Let's not forget,too, that the hit area is big, compared to modern standards, and this will require some time to get used to. You also don't get any extra ships or other options: as Isaid, the game is pretty simple, and heavilly score-oriented.The absence of a smart bomb feature also forces you to get confident with levels: most of the time you can find yourself dodging tons of bullets from below and in front you because you didn't destroy at the proper time enemies, and most of the time this will mean death.Bosses are also quite though, especially if you aim at score: even the first one has a lot of attacks, and they all have a lot of stamina.

As i said, being this a Taito game, you can expect long and difficult ( but quite rewarding,once you learn to do them) boss-fights: shame they didn't make a boss attack mode, it would have been funny to fight at will bastards like Odin. One final summary on the Saturn port:it's a pretty simple conversion. You get a remixed BGM instead of the old one,slightly more pixelated graphics,a tate mode, and a easier default difficulty (please put it at "Hard 2"!).


The game is a good challenge, especially if played for score, and has a good replay value, even if the casual play done every once in a while may need some "tuning",due to its pretty unique system.The Saturn version is a bit easier, but difficulty can be increased.Sadly, you don't get any extra modes, so it's basically the simple game and that's all.Still, after all these years,an excellent and innovative game.


Rayforce is a splendid game that features gorgeous graphics, an excellent BGM and an awesome game system. It's simple and complex at the same time, since it's easy to learn and difficult to master.The game is usually pretty cheap to buy, and thus is absolutely a must-own in the collection of any serious shmupper.One of Taito (and shmups genre) finest games ever, that's for sure ;)

Pinstripe Laser Boss >>

As you fight this boss, lots of lovely psychedelic background effects zoom in and out. But these effects make your eyes wander from the bullets - and BLAM!!


<< Pineapple Layer Cake

Here we see some prime layer attacking action. Get 8 lock-on's at once for big scores... at least it is quite easy to do in this level!!

Level 2 midboss >>

It's about here you wish you had some bombs you know. Very tough little guy, him.


<< Thar She Blows!

Bang! You're dead. I have no problem whatsoever with the bigness of the explosions in Rayforce.

Wheeee! >>

See! Watch that layer do its whizzy stuff, and the earth swim into view. Astounding.


<< More Layering

Remember this was a game before polygons really took hold. So watching these layers spin and wheel about was astounding at the time (and still is)

Space Fleet >>

After killing the above boss, we come out the rift again and find ourselves above a huge battle.


<< Moley Boss

As we enter a planet/moon/asteroid above the earth, some amazing visual effects are evident. Like that internal plane of the planet thingy with the columns...

Level two boss >>

Lovely boss, him. He has lots of different types of attacks, and merges in and out of two states - a realistic state and a virtual one. Oh, just play it and you will see!


<< Your Spacefleet needs you!

Unfortunately it looks like we're not doing very well. These spaceships are the baddies I think. a little bit up the screen are a few goodies, which get blown away no matter what I do.

Spider midboss >>

Level three now and this guy is actually very dangerous. Well, his lasers are. Killing the lasery bits only has them growing back, so Shoot The Core!


<< Virtual State

See.... the virtual state when you can damage the core much easier.

Drop the Islands! >>

If you can do it right, you can lop off parts of the background, which fall away down to the ground far below.


<< Layer attack them!

No matter how hard I try, layer attacking all five ships which zoom from below is hard to do consistently. Only got three here. Tchah!

And this.... >>

... is a spread laser one. I have only shown three levels here, as its very exciting when you get finally down to the earth and below into its bowels and I didn't want to spoil it. So you'll just have to discover for yourself!!


<< Level Three boss

Oh dear, rather tricky now! He has many attacks, this is a spiky bomb one. He also blasts two large golden things from the ports you can see in the middle, which kill you instantly.

Thanks Rando - another great review, and one which has prompted me to dig out the pcb and play it some more. With the sound turned up. The conversion of this game was rather fine - I especially enjoyed playing it on Saturn as it was the first game I bought for it, under the name Galactic Attack.

There is really no excuse not to have this game as it is definitely one of the very bestest shmups around, agreed :) - malc


shmups!   © 1997 - 2007  Malcolm Laurie