Ever since the ancient days of arcades, shoot ’em ups where you’d control a tiny spaceship and blast numerous incoming enemies on the screen have been the thing. A genre that emerged primarily because it was not particularly difficult to develop and even less complicated for players to easily understand, although often difficult to master, had its peak precisely in the early days of arcades. However, as a tradition, especially in native Japan, these games continued to develop and were especially interesting in the transitional years of the late 90s when 3D polygonal graphics began to replace pixelated 2D sprites.
Taito’s new retro compilation Ray’z Arcade Chronology comes with three key titles of this genre that cover the period from ’94 to ’98 – the peak era, where this old arcade concept was brought to its perfection with the help of then-new technologies.
Ray’z Arcade Chronology Review | After Zero Wing and Before Ikaruga
This compilation or “chronology” as they call it contains the original versions of the classic games from the “Ray” series: RayForce (1994), RayStorm (1996), and RayCrisis (1998) whose ports were made for the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 by the extremely capable M2. The name of this studio is well known to all retro gaming enthusiasts after some high-quality compilations and remakes of classic games they produced such as Mega Man X Legacy Collection for Capcom, and Castlevania Anniversary Collection for Konami. And, yes I can confirm again that they did an exceptional job for Taito on this project as well.
The first game, RayForce, is the only one that uses 2D sprites in the old-school style, while RayStorm and RayCrisis, in addition to the nicely polished original versions, also come with alternative HD versions with better details and filtering that greatly enhances the early polygons from the first PlayStation era.
“RayForce from ’94 stands out as the best-balanced game in the compilation, it is simply the peak of this genre”
Playing these classics is extremely fun today, much like it was back then, and despite the outdated graphics, RayForce from ’94 stands out as the best-balanced game in the compilation. It is simply the peak of this genre where each level is shoot ’em up perfection in itself. It’s especially cool that the screen can be rotated. Whether you have a monitor that can rotate or you’re dedicated enough to turn your living room TV on its side, you’ll get an amazing and one-of-a-kind arcade experience.
All three games have a new trophy/achievement system that adds to the replayability, and there are even some really crazy bonuses that I can only describe as M2 madness. In the audio settings, you will notice an option to turn on the background sound and adjust its volume. What kind of background sound is it you might ask? Well, M2 recorded the authentic sound of arcades so you can hear the “authentic background noise, and experience the game as if you were playing in Tokyo’s Akihabara Hey arcade”. I mean, this is some next-level retro madness right here!
Too bad R-Gear (bonus level from an unreleased sequel to RayForce) was not included in the version I got to test. It was available only as the Japanese Amazon pre-order bonus, but it can still be acquired through the Limited Run Games physical edition – if you are fast enough and don’t mind spending $130 for this piece of retro gaming history.
Needless to say, it’s hard not to recommend this compilation to older players who have nostalgic memories of this era – you definitely won’t find better versions of these games in earlier compilations or on emulators. For new players, maybe the price is too high (the regular digital version goes for $49.99), but if you have a chance, give it a try. Maybe you will better understand the difference between old-school skills that those games demanded and what is considered a “hard game” today.
RAY’Z ARCADE CHRONOLOGY
● Masterfully ported arcade classics
● All those gadgets!
● Quality of life features
● No R-Gear
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review. Reviewed on PlayStation 5.