There was a time long ago, when "The Arcades" reigned supreme and nearly every gamer was awestruck by the mere mention of the phrase. Once you got inside an arcade, you were caught in a trance. You succumbed to the mighty "Arcade Cabinets", where games of almost unimaginable quality and beauty were housed, just waiting to pilfer gamers of all their pocket change and put fond memories in their place. Life was sweet in those times for the average game geek...until "home consoles" were made. Arcade vendors saw that games on home consoles couldn't match the splendor of their gargantuan machines, so they stood their ground...but as the years rolled by and continue to march on, technology just keeps getting too darn impressive and now most establishments just have arcade machines around as a token gesture to the past, when arcades ruled.
While arcades are more or less a dying breed in today's society, a lot of developers such as Sega still believe in the spirit of the arcades, as evidenced by a lot of the games they put on the market. One of the biggest hits at the arcades were shooting games, and Sega has helped promote these types of games for years. It's no surprise then, that Galactic Attack, the first game in the "Ray" series (followed by RayStorm and RayCrisis) would make its way to a system like the Sega Saturn. In fact, Sega consoles are largely recognized by most gamers as a good source for some of the world's best home console shooters, for most truly capture the greatness of any arcade shooter. As such, Galactic Attack (named RayForce in Japanese Arcades) is no exception.
The first thing many casual gamers see when they look at Galactic Attack is the publisher, Acclaim, and dismiss this game. Don't head for the hills just yet though, as this is one of the greatest shooters you can find for the Sega Saturn. What? Acclaim didn't botch this game up entirely? Believe it, ladies and gentlemen. While the manual has a six page story telling you the "remarkable" background history for this shooter, you should typically know to hold your breathe when someone uses "remarkable", "story", and "shooter" in the same sentence. The game basically deals with blah-blah-blah (super computer goes crazy), blah, blahblahblah (machines want to destroy precious human life that teeters near extinction)...blaaaaahhh (random scientists make highly destructrive crafts to combat the menace and send a sexy anime babe to handle the mission). No surprises there, right? As the pilot of the experimental craft, the RVA-818 X-LAY, you will lay waste to that which wishes to put humanity six feet under. You are equipped with a futuristic battle suit, deadly cannons, turbo charged "Lock-On Lasers", and nerves of steel.
While the name of the game is about as original as using a simile in a sentence and the overall originality of this game is nonexistant, this game is so great because it does what it does well. For starters, the presentation of Galactic Attack is a shining example of the Sega Saturn's 2D prowess at work. This game uses sprite-scaling and parallax scrolling to great effect, and every explosion is as crisp and rewarding as as a fresh pair of socks (Boy, do new socks feel good!). This game also takes care to avoid the bane of most great shooters existence, "The SLOWDOWN Monster", which plagues games with slower performance. This game seldom skips a beat and any slowdown that is present is trivial at best.
The soundtrack for this game is also pretty nice, though it isn't particularly memorable. Most hardcore shooter fans would probably classify the audio in this game as average, but the clarity and occasional voice segments and heated action help this game and further brings about its arcade feel. The sound of your craft zipping through the solar system, the sound of enemy crafts bursting into debris, the sounds of a hulking mechanical menace engaging you in battle, it's all good stuff. I must say kudos to Taito again and that Acclaim did good for once...and the mere thought of Acclaim doing something good actually feels more like a bad omen than a blessing. Regardless, you have to give credit where credit is due.
This brings us to the gameplay, which is almost completely antediluvian by todays standards (heck, this game was unoriginal back in 1995), but works like a charm. You have no life saving bombs, only a rapidfire cannon, lock-on lasers, and your wits. While you can collect upgrades for both weapons several times to become a force to be reckoned with, you mainly have to use pure gaming adroitness to survive. As you go through the levels, you will encounter foes who must be dealt with in two ways: By using you regular cannon, or by targeting them below with lasers. Lasers can only hit foes below you, except in certain special cases. As you can guess, this game pays its respects to every dated concept imaginable, so fans of games like Konami's "Twin Bee" series will know what to do the second they get their hands on the controller. Some enemies, primarily bosses, make you put on your thinking cap a little and have several tactics that can be used to defeat them.
Overall, there isn't much to say about this game. It looks great, it sounds great, and it's one of the few Saturn shooters you can easily get for less than $30, not to mention it's one of the only Saturn shooters worth considering if you aren't into importing Japanese games. Galactic Attack is arcade-style shooting at some of its finest, and this game is perhaps the best game out of the whole "Ray" series. So this game doesn't incorporate lousy new physics built on a foundation of originality and suppositional concepts...who cares? My belief (and I'm sorry in advance if I beat you over the head with it in my other articles ) is: IF IT AIN'T BROKE, DON'T FIX IT!
- Written by Bel Cain The Eternal -