*The Geek Getaway received a review copy of this game from the publisher
The Ray'z Arcade Chronology collection published by Inin features 3 arcade classics and 2 HD remasters, RayForce, RayStorm, RayStorm Neo-HD, RayCrisis and RayCrisis HD, from Taito for $49.99 on the PlayStation Store or Nintendo eShop. Physical copies of the collection can be bought from Strictly Limited Games and they come with a bonus never before released 1 level R-Gear prototype game. The collection doesn't have all the bells and whistles, like galleries, we have become accustomed to for classic gaming collections like this one but it does feature both local and online leaderboards for all 3 games.
RayForce was originally released into arcades in 1994 and features a slight twist on the typical vertical shmup formula. You see, in RayForce the player must contend with both a "top layer" that features enemies you can shoot with your main guns as well as a "bottom layer" that has enemies below the player that can only be destroyed by locking on to them and shooting them with your laser weapon. When you first start the game you are limited to being able to lock on to just 5 enemies but you can pick up green "L" power-ups that increase that number up to 8. Additionally, the more enemies you lock on to and destroy at once the higher a score multiplier goes, so locking on to as many enemies as you can before firing is the key to getting a really high score. The game also features red and yellow crystal power-ups for your main gun. 3 red crystals or 1 yellow one will power your main gun up 1 level from Level 1 up to Level 6. Dying decreases your laser lock-on limit and main gun level by 1.
RayForce is a fun shmup that features 7 stage of frantic action, however it clocks in at a measly 30 minutes from start to finish. In the arcade this problem would have been alleviated by the fact that you were limited by the amount of money in your pocket but on a home console featuring the ability to endlessly continue the game this issue is glaringly obvious. With only difficulty settings, which you can set for each stage individually, and high score chasing to entice you to play another game, RayForce doesn't have much meat on its bones.
RayStorm is the 1996 sequel to RayForce and it takes the gameplay of its predecessor and builds upon it. This game features the same dual layer gimmick as well as an identical power-up system as RayForce, but you can now choose between 2 different ships. The R-Gray 1 features the exact same main gun and laser as the ship from RayForce but the R-Gray 2 features a main gun laser that has a tighter focus then the R-Gray 1's main gun. The R-Gray 2's lock-on laser is able to power up to 16 lock-ons and is a single purple lightning bolt that goes from target to target allowing you to acquire new targets while it is still active. Both ships also have the ability to use a screen clearing bomb whenever the gauge is full.
|Neo-HD above, Arcade Original below
The addition of a second playable ship does add a reason to play this game a second time, especially if you want all the trophies for the collection as some are tied directly to the 2nd ship, but it is still just a meager 30 minute vertical shmup. The Neo-HD version adds nothing but updated graphics, so play whichever version you think looks better. RayStorm is another fun game that sadly won't have much for the non hardcore shmup fans to keep coming back to.
The third game in the "Ray" series was released in 1998 and is a prequel to RayForce. I find this fact strange as RayCrisis features 3 playable ships, 2 available from the start and 1 secret ship, and RayForce only had 1 but thats video game logic for you. The WR-01R and WR-02R play identically to the R-Gray 1 and R-Gray 2 from RayStorm but the secret WR-03 features a totally new weapon load out. The main gun of the WR-03 is a series of tiny homing missiles, 23 when at max level, and the lock-on weapon is not a laser but photon torpedoes that can lock-on to 24 targets at max. Playing as the WR-03 is a completely different experience from playing as either of the two other ships.
The gameplay in RayCrisis has a few quirks that were not in either RayForce or RayStorm. For starters, instead of 7 stages the game features 42 maps that are made from a starter stage, different combinations of 3 stages from a pool of 5, and a final boss stage. Each run from start to finish can be completed in under 20 minutes. If you use the exact same name, all 4 initials despite only 3 being displayed on the score screen, then you can choose to play a map you already defeated or a new map on sunsequent playthroughs.
The second quirk found in RayCrisis is the Hyper Laser. If all the lock-ons for the WR-01R or WR-02R, the WR-03 doesn't have a Hyper Laser, are locked-on and you fire the laser then a bigger "Hyper Laser" will fire that does additional damage as well as splash damage to nearby targets.
The third and final unique gameplay twist in RayCrisis is the Encroachment meter that fills up as enemies appear and don't get destroyed or bosses are not beaten fast enough. This meter can be lowered by defeating enemies quickly, defeating multiple locked-on enemies, or defeating enemies with the Hyper Laser. Additionally, if you defeat the stage 2, 3, and 4 bosses fast enough the encroachment will decrease significantly. If you manage to get the encroachment up to 100% then you will be immediately warped to the final boss and receive the bad ending upon beating it. Managing to get to the final stage with a low amount of Encroachment will unlock the true final boss and the true ending. Encroachment is also inversely related to the rank, in game difficulty adjustment, so the lower it goes the harder the game will become.
|The WR-03 in the arcade version
RayCrisis is the real stand out of this collection as it features a ton of content to keep you coming back. While the 42 maps are made from combinations of the same 5 stages the order in which you tackle those stages can really change the dynamic of the game dues to the relationship between the difficulty and encroachment system. The third playable ship also offers a unique way to play the game so there is an actual reason to try all the maps as the secret ship. Once again the HD version of RayCrisis is nothing more than a graphical enhancement so pick the version you like the best.
The following codes can be used in either RayCrisis or RayCrisis HD but only if free play is turned off. All three codes can be entered at the same time and need to be entered each time you wish to use them. After hitting the button that "inserts a coin" you will be prompted to "press start" it is at that time you need to enter these codes. All codes are written for the PS5 using the default control layout and should work on the Switch version.
U = up
R = right
D = Down
L = left
S = Square
X = Cross/X button
T = Triangle
Unlock the WR-03 = U R U R D U L S X (this code can be found in the RayCrisis in-game manual)
Unlock All 42 Maps = U R D L S S S X T T T T
Start At Maximum Rank = U U D D S S S X X X X X X
Final Verdict = Not Recommended
All 3 games in this collection are solid shmups with fun gameplay but the fact that you can clear all 3 in less than an hour really makes the $49.99 price tag seem quite outrageous. Fans of the genre will absolutely love these games and chase the online leaderboards but people just looking for a fun shmup to play in between AAA game sessions have plenty of cheaper options to choose. The lack of extras like enemy galleries or design documents are another reason this isn't a must own collection. Personally, if I had not received a review copy of the game I would have been interested to pick this one up but not until it went on sale for $20 or less.