Ray’Z Arcade Chronology is a collection of three arcade vertically scrolling shoot’em ups (or shmups) that span across the 80’s arcade era to the early 32 bit 3D home consoles. You play as an elite R-Gear “Ray” spaceship with a special ability attack targets on different sky or ground layers, in order to annihilate your enemies and defeat the final boss.
This collection includes three unique games; Ray Force, Ray Storm, and Ray Crisis as well as two HD remasters of the two latter titles. All three games share a very similar gameplay style; with the schtick being that you do not mindlessly strafe across the screen to continuously lay down a barrage of fire projectiles and easily mow down your enemies with little regard to skill. Instead, these games introduce a two-layer system where enemies can exist on either sky-level or ground-level and you have to use different attacks to target enemies on different layers, with the “ground” layer being even more limited as you have a fixed aim-sights at a distance roughly two to three ship body lengths ahead of you and you have to move your reticle over the enemy in order to lock-on and target them, forcing the player to constantly go out of their comfort zone and dive into the action to target these bottom-level enemies.
The similarities in all three titles do not end with the gameplay style, all three titles also share a ridiculous level of difficulty, obviously a relic from the coin-operated arcade machine era, which doesn’t translate all too well in modern console games. So you as a player are constantly having to “insert coins” to get lives and continue playing the game which is a task that gets tedious after a while and overstays its welcome considering you will be pressing that “insert coin” button every couple of minutes, tops.
On the Lore side of things, these games have zero. I beat all three games and I still have no clue if I was fighting aliens, or possibly humans ? no clue. But it doesn’t matter much when the gameplay is honestly exhilarating !
That being said; this collection of games offers a good variety between the titles that would satisfy the shmup connoisseur. For example, Ray Force, the earliest of the three releases, has a retro 16-bit graphics style that I personally appreciate and believe ages extremely well in 2023, definitely a timeless classic. If i have one complaint about Ray Force it would be that it doesn’t play really well in handheld mode as it was designed for a vertical arcade machine monitor, so on the Nintendo Switch’s 6 inch tiny display you can barely see the action on screen. I solved that dilemma for myself by detaching the joy-cons, and using the built-in setting for rotating the screen 90 degrees so that the original game screen would fill up the entire switch display, and I would play the title in table-top mode. Ray Storm and Ray Crisis run on a standard landscape-oriented screen so they can be easily played in handheld mode no problems. And both games add the option to choose between more than one R-Gear “Ray” Spaceship each with different attacks that can vary the gameplay drastically and encourage multiple playthroughs with different ships.
Soundtrack, Graphics, and more…
Soundtrack is sweet, graphics are on par, the games are well-made albeit unbalanced sometimes, but on the Nintendo switch you have unlimited coins so that shouldn’t be too much of a problem. I would recommend tweaking the settings a bit to modernize the gameplay experience, such as turning on free play, turning on rapid-fire, and I found an option only in Ray Storm that auto-switches between your main weapons depending on which layer the enemy you’re targeting is on, which -I have to admit- could be a little game-breaking, but it was nice to include the option in case you want to have a more point-and-shoot classic shmup feel.
A Solid collection of shoot’em ups, unique in its own way. Guaranteed to scratch the itch of Nostalgia for old-school classic shooters.
Special Thanks to ININ Games for providing a review code.