Galactic Attack (Saturn) review
"Not too many games are this privileged. After all, Taito’s vertically scrolling shoot 'em up has three names. It was released in Japan’s arcades as Rayforce, ported home to Japanese Saturns as Layer Section, and finally arrived on North American Saturns as Galactic Attack (yes, we got the crummy name, as is the case more often than not). "
Layer Section in disguise!
Not too many games are this privileged. After all, Taito’s vertically scrolling shoot 'em up has three names. It was released in Japan’s arcades as Rayforce, ported home to Japanese Saturns as Layer Section, and finally arrived on North American Saturns as Galactic Attack (yes, we got the crummy name, as is the case more often than not).
The game marks the beginning of a shooter trilogy for Taito, which continues in Layer Section 2, or Raystorm, which was released both for the Saturn and the Playstation. The series then came to an end with the appropriately titled RayCrisis: Series Termination, which is only available for the Playstation. The story in Galactic Attack is nothing new, but it’s oddly compelling. A pseudo-sentient computer named “Con-Human,” is developed by humans to solve the world’s problems. Of course it goes haywire and starts altering the earth’s environment to suit its own needs, and begins building weapons. Humanity suffers great losses in Con-Human’s wake, and all their hopes ride on the prototype: “Project Rayforce.” Interestingly enough, the story in the third game precedes these happenings in the first game. Sort of like Star Wars: Episode I. But I digress.
As far as the series goes, this game lands right in the middle. It plays better than Raystorm, but not as smoothly as RayCrisis. Less importantly, it looks slightly worse than the polygonal Raystorm, (and therefore cannot hold a candle to the visually ostentatious RayCrisis) though perhaps it’s a difficult comparison because Galactic Attack is the only hand-drawn game in the trilogy. There are some juicy, memorable moments though, such as when you find yourself descending into different 'layer sections', or when you encounter the grabby fifth level guardian.
The music isn’t as good as the soundtracks featured by its big brothers either, though it is still solid shooter fare by Zuntata, Taito’s in-house shooter game composers. You’ll still be privy to what is best described as hard-driving, techno/elevator music. If you don’t believe me, take a listen and you’ll understand better.
Galactic Attack's control is spot on, something that is greatly appreciated in a game of such extreme difficulty. Its successors had a particularly vexing knock against them, (especially Raystorm) as they were insanely difficult at times, yet featured very dodgy controls. Your ship would bank when you navigated it to one side or the other, and struggle to right itself. Thankfully, this ridiculous function is inconspicuous in its absence here. Also, for those—such as myself—who felt that Raystorm's demands on your reflexes were often a bit unseemly, (something evidenced by numerous claims of gamers requiring the Free Play mode to beat it) take heart. Beating Galactic Attack without cheating is actually possible; cheap deaths from overwhelming odds are limited in comparison.
In the context of other overhead shooters, Galactic Attack is definitely above average. Crisp control, and solid music and graphics allow it to excel in the presentation department. However, the cranked up difficulty curve may put off some. The first 4 levels play perfectly, with a challenge that will prove ideal for most fans of the genre. But when level 5 comes along, it brings with it its own brand of hell. You will die in bunches and curse your ship’s seemingly inadequate equipment.
You see, a la Xevious, the Rayforce series of games outfits your spacecraft with only a generic, forward-firing laser and a lock-on laser. The latter works by way of a targeting reticle, which allows you to sight enemies a ‘layer’ beneath you, and fire on them with streaking, bending lasers. That’s all you’ve got onboard. You will earn power ups that increase the amount of simultaneous lock-ons, but no other weapons will be uncovered, not even the all-powerful smart bomb that appeared in Galactic Attack.
The four continues that Taito supplies will only prove sufficient after much practice, and for most, the demand on their patience will be too great. But if you’re into conquering the most difficult shooters, then by all means, get your Saturn warmed up for a bout with Galactic Attack.
Staff review by Marc Golding (January 14, 2004)
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