Monday 17 July 2023

Ray’z Arcade Chronology Review (Switch)

These retro collections are getting out of hand. As much as we are absolutely delighted that the Switch has become an Ark in console form for the great games of yester year, I’m not sure we need quite so many versions of each release. The Ray’z series has three different versions available for gamers to buy which is two too many. You can get just the HD versions of Raystorm and RayCrisis, a limited physical version which has the prototype R-Gear on it or this version which contains the original version of Rayforce and the original and HD remasters of Raystorm and RayCrisis.

Still, it is very nice to see the series making its way to modern machines as the games are certainly great fun to blast through. What we have here is five versions of three games ported wonderfully by M2 and presented beautifully. Raystorm and Raycrisis in particular utilise the layout of the Switch screen to the fullest so there’s no feeling of needing to tip everything around into a TATE mode as although the games scroll vertically, they are meant to be played wide screen. Indeed, the remasters are of a quality that the original version become pretty much redundant as anything other than a curio.

The main shoot’em up gimmick of the games is that they operate on two levels. You can blast away at flying enemies but also have a lock on laser which can pick up multiple targets on lower levels. When you release the lock on button your lasers will home in and hot anything you have tagged. This creates some interesting boss set pieces as well as they are normally attackable across both the higher and lower plane.

Unlike the later two game which utilise polygons, Rayforce is from the pixel art camp. The environments and enemies look awesome and the fact the levels work in a constant segway from one to the next create a feeling of constant adrenaline that doesn’t really let the player have any room to breathe. It helps to keep things intense and is a clever design decision. The other games don’t segway in the same way but all are filled with impressive set pieces and huge bosses.

In terms of fire power, you are a bit limited compared to many shooters but these games are more about learning to use what you have. Rayforce only gives you the standard lower level laser lock on and your main gun. This can be upgraded a bit but there’s no smart bombs to save you so you will have to get used to dodging bullets quickly in order to progress. Raystorm and RayCrisis give you a bit more to play with as you can pick from different craft and a super attack is brought in but on the whole, you will be taking on the enemies with the same weapons your craft started with throughout.

The third game is the series, Raycrisis does break the mould a bit when it comes to shooters as it’s first three levels come at you in a randomised order. It’s also the biggest of the games with 42 maps in total and a number of a different endings. Repeated plays allows the player to start sequencing the levels. It’s also the most manic of the three games. As a result things become almost too busy at times and it can be tricky to take everything in. Chances are though you’ll be having too much fun to really care.

Overall, this is another excellently put together compilation of classic games than more than deserves to be experienced by the vast audience that the Switch has. If you are into retro gaming, shoot’em ups or just trying to build a library of classic titles this is a must buy. It’s three excellent games exactly as you remember them, and possibly a little bit better in the cases of the HD remasters.

Overall 8/10

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