Retro Review: Galactic Attack/RayForce (Saturn)
If you're looking for a great vertical shooter with that signature brutal arcade difficulty, Galactic Attack is one not to pass on.
Just hearing the name of this classic game manufacturer brings back tons of memories in my mind. From their early efforts, such as Bubble Bobble and Rastan, to the newer stuff like Darius Gaiden and Puzzle Bobble/Bust-A-Move, Taito’s presence has long been felt in the game industry, but perhaps their biggest impact was in the arcades.
For me, I have a couple favorites, mostly Night Striker, Cameltry and the Chase H.Q. series. Fortunately, most of these games DID get home ports, but for the most part, they were Japan exclusive, limiting the ability for many Westerners get them.
Luckily though, a handful of these games were ported to the Saturn and found their way to the U.S. thanks to Acclaim. They had the brilliant idea of publishing four Taito games here, in the form of Darius Gaiden, Bust-A-Move 2, Bubble Bobble featuring Rainbow Islands, and my personal favorite, Galactic Attack.
Receiving an international release to Saturn owners all around the world in 1995, Galactic Attack is a port of Taito’s 1993 arcade classic, RayForce.
In the arcades, this is a game that definitely deserved your well-earned quarters. From a stellar Zuntata soundtrack to graphics that were advanced by 1993 standards, it was an amazingly put together package. Built on the Taito F3 hardware, RayForce didn’t get many ports besides the Saturn and Windows, and the iOS port years later. It did get ported to the PS2 and Xbox years later, but more or less they were just emulations.
So, how does Galactic Attack hold up to the original arcade powerhouse? In short, pretty much perfectly, but let me tell you why.
The story is pretty much nonexistent here, minus a bit written in the manual. Acclaim tried to write a huge narrative to hype up the game, but it’s pretty simple.
Your planet has been taken over by machines who have built an artificial planet to destroy yours, and it’s your job to pilot your sweet X-Lay interstellar fighter, fly through all seven stages, destroy them all and take your planet back in what the government calls “Project Rayforce.” Standard stuff for the SHMUP genre, right? Altogether, I don’t think this is the official storyline according to Taito, but bonus points to Acclaim to adding more story than what would be provided normally.
Gameplay in Galactic Attack/RayForce seems like your standard SHMUP fare, but that changes once you figure out the systems in the game minus normally shooting.
For one, the power-ups work a little differently. RayForce/Galactic Attack has three different types of pickups, Red, Yellow Shot and Laser pickups. Three reds bump your normal gun up a level, and a single yellow bumps your shot level by one, as well, so you have a choice between spacing out your increase in levels or just bulking up really quickly. When continuing, you’re given three Yellow Shot pickups and a Laser to make sure you’re not completely boned at the start of a new credit.
One of RayForce/Galactic Attack’s claims to fame was it’s “Lock-On” system. There are tons of enemies on the ground, as well as enemies that you can take out at a lower altitude before they come up in your normal gun’s range. This is where Lock-On and the Laser pickups come in, with you being able to lock onto eight enemies and ground targets at max level, and then hitting your laser button to take them all out at once, causing mass destruction and a huge point bonus.
There is also co-op play, but that shortens each player’s Laser limit to four instead of eight, which I assume is to keep the game at a steady framerate.
In the control department, Galactic Attack has it down 100 percent, with it feeling just like the arcade. Every control works just like it should, and there is no delay between button presses and actions on-screen. The only thing that one may complain about is Galactic Attack’s brutal difficulty, which requires you to keep replaying the game to get good. The only downside is the lack of continues, with four being your standard and eight being your max with a code.
One thing that will always stand out with this game is it’s graphics. For being an early 1995 release, Galactic Attack doesn’t fail to be a great looking shooter on the Saturn.
The sprite work is definitely something to marvel at, with big, detailed sprites, scaling and huge explosions that fill the screen with pixels.
Running at a decent 50-60 frames per second, this is great considering the Saturn’s hardware this early. The level of detail on display is done well, with certain stages giving off a 3D effect. A perfect example of this would be the third stage, where you start out in orbit and fly down to ground level of a planet, through the atmosphere, with enemies chasing you down. It’s beautiful scaling work once you see it in action.
The only gripe I really have with it is the aspect ratio. Galactic Attack decides to go with a zoomed in portion of the whole vertical screen instead of having the whole screen, and a sidebar to keep all the important info on. Included is an “Arcade Mode” in the options, which rotates the game to a 90-degree angle to preserve the original arcade game’s aspect ratio, only thing is that you have to rotate your monitor too, which may be an issue if your monitor doesn’t support vertical/horizontal swaps.
Now for one of the key aspects here, the sound/music. Sound design is pretty much 95 percent of the arcade hardware, with certain sounds coming out muffled at times. All in all, the sounds are there, including the voice clips, which are there but get eclipsed with all the other audio sometimes.
All shots fired and explosions and such are pretty clear and crisp though, which works. The music on the other hand, is pretty much perfect. Zuntata’s original RayForce soundtrack is here 100 percent and in full CD quality. I’d even say this game is worth picking up for the music alone, with great tracks like “Gravity” and “Vision,” this is one of the best Zuntata soundtracks. This is just one of the many reasons this is pretty much my favorite Taito game.
Altogether, Galactic Attack is a damn good conversion to the Saturn. Retaining the core gameplay that made RayForce such a hit in arcades, while running at a decent framerate and having amazing music, this is one SHMUP no Saturn owner should be without.
I am honestly happy that this was one of the lucky few Taito titles that Acclaim brought over to the US. Galactic Attack also provides a great co-op experience, if you can get used to the difficulty.
I consider this pretty much to be one of the best vertical SHMUP experiences on Saturn (Yes, I’m aware of all the Japanese exclusives) and a great port of an already amazing Taito arcade. It seems to be going for a decent penny these days, but Galactic Attack can be found affordably in its Japanese form, Layer Section.
If you’re looking for a great vertical shooter with that signature brutal arcade difficulty, Galactic Attack is one not to pass on.
- The complete RayForce experience, at home on the Saturn!
- A great co-op shooter to bring along a friend for
- The Lock-On aspect brings something a little different to the SHMUP table
- Worth picking up for the stellar Zuntata OST alone
- The game does fluctuate framerate at times, minor, but it happens
- The zoomed in aspect feels strange at times
- There could have been a free play option instead of limited credits
- Some sounds are muffled, but not too noticeable