By Taito Sony Playstation/Sega Saturn 1995


STORY: In the year 2119, humans began setting up colonies throughout the galaxy, and established a
"Star Federation" to govern over all these colonies.
One hundred years later, humans had expanded so
far that this Federation found it difficult to provide security; so they began putting the colonies under martial law. This didn't quite go over well with the folks at the Secilian colony, who began to put together a rebellion. Which of course includes the mandatory experimental fighter that is supposed to single-handedly retake Earth. :)

Intro sequence and Story

PLAYERS: 2P simultaneous.

DEATH PENALTY: Dying simply reduces your
main cannon one level and removes one from your maximum lock-ons. Continuing puts you back to square one, but the game will throw out a number of power-ups (which alternates between several varied power-ups and a single Full Power-Up) to get you
back on your feet.

CHALLENGE: RayForce was difficult without being cheap; I wish I could say the same about RayStorm.
It seems to have fallen victim to the "Smart-Bomb Trap", i.e. since the designers gave us a smart-bomb
+ invincibility attack, they feel free to make the game as impossible as they want. While the flurry of bullets in and of itself usually isn't too bad during the levels themselves, the bosses are severe pains. Many of them love to fire these fast-moving lasers that you usually don't even know fired until you're dead, along with their own flurries of bullets. So, boss battles, especially later in the game, usually degenerate into Smart Bomb-Die-Continue-Smart Bomb-Die contests. Success in this game is usually not based on how good you are at the later bosses, but how good you
are at the early ones, so you have that many more Smart Bombs to use against the later ones. Ugh.

CONTROL: You've got two control options. If you choose Auto, the Lock-On Laser will automatically
fire when you lock on to something. If you choose Manual, you've got to do it yourself. Personally, I
find Auto annoying, but your mileage may vary.

EXTRAS: Sadly, there is no Vertical mode to be
found. However, WD added in several neato things. Firstly, is the "Training mode". You have the ability
to set the difficulty of each level individually, as well
as set the number of ships you have. But, if you set any level below a difficulty rating of 4, or set your ships above the default number, you go into "Training mode". That means you can only play the first four levels, and disqualified you from the $10000 contest. (Which is a moot point now, since that contest has long since concluded. Well us Europeans never even got one. Miserly Sony bunch..! Mike.) You also had the Extra Mode. In this mode, you could select between the Original soundtrack and the Neu Tanz remixes. The game itself had slight graphic differences, slight differences in enemy placements, bosses would have different attacks, and so on. While it was a bit more difficult than the Arcade Mode, power-ups are more common, so it balances out. (If you can beat the Arcade Mode, you can beat this one. In fact, I've only played the Extra Mode about three times, and beat it the third.) Finally, if you beat both the Arcade and Extra mode (while not in Training mode), you can access the secret 13 Ships Mode, where you are
given a fleet of 13 ships consisting of 3 Manual RG1's, 3 Auto RG1's, 3 Manual RG2's, 3 Auto RG2's, and
1 R-Gray 0 with which to complete the game (no continues.) The R-Gray 0 is similar to the R-Gray 1, except the cannon powers up at half the speed, and you have no HLA or Special Attack. I've read you can unlock some sort of accuracy counter option if you beat the game in this mode, but I've never had the patience to do so for myself.

Raystorm was one of the first of the new breed of 3D 'old-school' shooters to appear in the West, courtesy of Sony and Working Designs..

A quick note: This review concerns itself with then Working Designs release of RayStorm in North America. A Japanese Saturn release also exists under the title "Layer Section 2", but I do not know how that compares to the PSX version. (A review of the Saturn version is floating about somewhere on Shmups.) IMO, Victor Ireland really got shafted when it came to the RaySeries. According to the RayStorm manual, Working Designs tried to get the rights to whip out RayForce in the West, but found out the rights had just been sold to Acclaim. So, they resolved to be first in line when RayStorm came out in the arcades. And they were. So, Acclaim got RayForce, and WD got RayStorm. So who came out ahead? As much as it pains me to say it, definitely Acclaim...

GAMEPLAY: Similar to RayForce, really. You can select between two ships. (A third type becomes available after certain conditions are met.) The
R-Gray 1 is very similar to the RVA-818 X-LAY you pilot in RayForce. To reiterate, you have a vulcan cannon thingy that powers up for every three red or every one yellow power-up you acquire. You also have the Lock-On Laser (now known as the Laser-Guided Missiles) which works like this: a crosshairs is always in front of your ship, like in Xevious. Anytime this crosshairs passes over an enemy, it will "lock-on" to it. By pressing the Laser button, your ship will fire lasers that will track down every enemy you've targeted. The amount of points this gets you increases exponentially depending on how many enemies you destroyed at once. Laser power-up increase the number of lock-ons you can make at once up to a maximum of eight.

The R-Gray 2 is a little different. It's main weapon is a dual laser, which is more powerful than the RG1's cannons, but covers much less space. It's Lock-On Laser is a lightning beam that can continue to acquire new targets even after it has been fired. However, if there are many targetable objects on screen at once, the R-Gray 2's lightning beam can become "lost", and may not be available when you need it. For example,
stage 4 is a large space fleet, where you can lock-on to the zillions of battleships floating harmlessly in the background. So, after you fire your Lock-On Laser at a more immediate threat, it can be difficult to avoid targeting the background ships. The RG2's can also lock-on to as many as 16 targets at once, which allows you to rack up higher scores than with the RG1.

New to the RaySeries are the Hyper Laser Assault and the Special Attack. If you can use all of your available lock-ons on a single target, pressing the Laser button will activate the Hyper Laser Assault, which is much more powerful than the a normal lock-on attack (64x, according to the manual.) The RG1's is in the form of a large energy explosion, and the RG2 creates a black hole. Note that you can use the RG1's HLA much more quickly, since it doesn't have as many Lock-Ons. The Special Attack meter is filled up by using the Lock-On Laser, and when it is full, you can press the Special Attack button to activate it. It is basically a smart bomb type attack; it damages all on-screen enemies while granting you temporary invincibility.

GRAPHICS: A 2D game with 3D polygonized graphics. Actually, from a pure observational standpoint, I prefer RayStorm's graphics over RayForce's. However, when it comes time to play, I think RayForce's work better. It can be a little hard to tell sometimes what's going on. The fact that the Lock-On Laser has been revamped to target enemies at any altitude helps somewhat, however.

AUDIO: A few songs from the original have been remixed for this game, but still I find RayStorm to be one of Zuntata's weaker soundtracks. The Neu Tanz remixes for the Extra Mode (see below) are a mixed bag; some of the songs have been improved, some just suck even worse. (I dunno where it's used in the game, since I rarely fool with the Extra Mode, but by hacking the Neu Tanz soundfiles on the CD I found an odd track that was Ace of Base-ish with a female Japanese vocal that wasn't too bad at all. :) Sound effects are decent, complete with the control tower narrations from the original. Although they don't sound as cheesy as they did in RayForce, they are a little difficult to understand sometimes. Then again, I've never tried to fiddle with the volume controls either.

OVERALL: 6/10. Not bad, but this game falls pretty far into the Smart-Bomb Trap, and has neither Darius Gaiden's (another SBT victim) cool soundtrack or cool bosses to make up for it. On the other hand, some of WD's extras can be pretty interesting. Bottom line: go ahead and pick this up if you can find it cheap, but you can probably find something better..
RayForce comes to mind. :)

Score out of Five:

Zach Keene

Zach is the author of many FAQs including G-Darius,
Gradius 3, Einhänder,CSOTN, and the AGVS FAQ

Stage 1 Stage 2
Stage 1 Stage 2
Stage 3 Stage 4
Stage 3 Stage 4
Stage 5 Stage 6
Stage 5 Stage 6
Stage 7 Stage 8
Stage 7 Stage 8

Click on a stage for more screenshots!

Again, a very nice review by Zach, but I can't help feeling he is being a bit harsh on this game, particularly bearing in mind that Raystorm, along with prequel Rayforce are pretty unique among 2D shooters in their approach, with their excellent 'Lock-on' system, previously only seen in 3D games such as Afterburner and Panzer Dragoon, adding immensely to the enjoyment of play. Although the 3D makeover here does not ultimately really add all that much to this title over Rayforce graphics-wise, it certainly provides a couple of rather spectacular set-pieces, such as the fabulous Battlefleet assault of stage four, and the final boss-fight. However, as Zach mentions, overall the game probably does not live up to the quality of Rayforce in that it makes itself too hard to play with any degree of seriousness - scores of awkward to see projectiles and overwhelming numbers of enemies make life on later levels hellish, and some maddenly difficult bosses with ridiculously hard-to-dodge firepower add to the frustration. Hardcore shooter-freaks will probably lambast me for saying this, but wack your life-count and credits up to max and you'll have a great time blasting through the very varied and enjoyable stages in Raystorm. Try and play the game with limited lives and continues and you may well find your patience being sorely tested however. Overall these faults unfortunately consign Raystorm to the ranks of being a bit of a 'disposable shooter'. Still, it's a far better game than its nearest rival on the Playstation, Namco's rather mediocre Xevious 3D/G. Lets hope though that the third game in this potential benchmark shooter series, Raycrisis, can set the record straight for Taito! Mike

SATURN UPDATE: Having recently got the chance to play the Saturn version in its import Japanese incarnation of Layer Section 2, I have to say that it's not quite as good as the PSX one.. we are talking a noticable amount of slowdown unfortunately when things get busy (particularly on stage four's space battle.) There are some nice FMV cut-scenes between levels unlike the Sony version, but no 'Extra' mode, and some of the polygon texture work is a bit on the iffy side. Stick to the PSX version if you can, it's IMO definitely a more enjoyable experience all-round.

Do take a peek at the lovely Taito artwork for the
arcade version of Raystorm below!

Oh yes, nearly forgot! Don't forget to take a
look at
David's Raystorm Website as well!

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