Galactic Attack (Taito, 1995, Sega Saturn)
Known as Layer Section in Japan, and Rayforce in Europe, Galactic Attack was one of the best shmups from the ninties. It’s also available on the Playstation. It was the first part of the “Ray” trilogy.
The game takes place in the future where a super computer, called Con-Human, is put in charge of managing the planet. For some reason, a cloned humans mind in linked with Con-Human and this causes it to go bonkers. After it goes haywire, it eliminates 99.8% of all humanity. The few left retreat to space and decide to send a pilot on a suicide mission to save humanity.
You start off in outer space and work your way to the center of the planet. This game has such amazing design that every part of the game flows in just the right ways. In fact, you never even have a break between levels. It gives you a moment to recoperate, then the level begins and you’re back to shooting down dozens of enemy space craft. You have only two buttons. One button shoots your standard weapon, which can be powered up by gathering either red or yellow pyramids that you collect by defeating certain enemies. The other button allows you to use your homing laser which only effects enemies below you. Galactic Attack borrows the bombing aspect of older shmups like Twinbee, an early Konami vertical shooter, but also mixes it with a bit of Panzer Dragoon. You have a reticle on screen that hovers just above your ship that targets between five and eight enemies that are below you. Killing enemies that are below you either stops you from being fired on, or can prevent you from having an enemy fly up to meet you. However, because of how you have to scoot around to target foes, sometimes you put yourself in danger. The more enemies you lock onto, the more points you are rewarded. It’s brilliantly executed.
Another interesting aspect of this game is that because it’s a vertical scroller, and TVs are typically wide screen, your field of vision is quite small. However, there is an option to play the game on its side. You are actually supposed to tip your television over on its side to play like this. They call it “tate mode”. This makes the game as close to the arcade as you can hope for. On top of that, the Saturn version is very close to the arcade original, with only a few sacrifices, so you really are getting an almost perfect arcade experience with it. The game looks so good. It’s completely sprite based, so it has a lot a charm. The graphics look fantastic, and the music fits like sme kind of weird audio glove. They use sprite scaling and rotating, but only what is necessary. Nothing feels like it’s being over done, and everything looks impressive. I’m particularly fond of destroying the giant war ship in the second level, only to fly into a war zone that you can interact with, but can’t change any outcome. Then you fight a boss, then you enter the atmosphere, flames engulfing your ship as you do. It really is a very pretty game. All of the stages and enemies look great.
If you’re a fan of the Gradius or Darius series, you should certainly check this game out. It’s amazing.