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Ray’z Arcade Chronology (PS4) Review with Stream

Ray’z Arcade Chronology contains a trilogy of Taito shooters from the mid-90s: Raystorm, RayCrisis, and RayForce, The porting wizards at M2 have put their stamp of quality on this compilation as all three games retain their original magic while adding modern features for 2023 players.

When I first started my stream, embedded in this article, I was immediately impressed by the presentation and UI. Even though the gameplay only takes a fraction of the screen’s real estate, the borders have been filled with information beneficial to the player. Even something as simple as having access to all the game’s Achievements from one cohesive menu streamlines the player’s experience. It is a well-designed package, one that deserves credit for intuitively linking all three games together as well as their newly implemented features.

Speaking of new features, players can adjust as little or as much as they like.  With numerous display options, including scanlines and aspect ratio changes, dedicated players will welcome the ability to play on older gear. Online leaderboards for each game are also included and competition is high. Save states are also available but strangely, there is no ability to rewind.  Most of the Achievements allow for save state cheating too, so not having a rewind makes perfectionist play a little more tedious.  Coming from a series that is designed to steal your quarters by killing you every few seconds, it can be tasking if you wanted to milk a perfect run.

The first game, RayForce, was released in 1994 and features quality 2D pixel art. Besides the typical machine gun fire, it features a lock-on attack uses to destroy enemies in the background or specific parts of bosses, essentially allowing the player to fight on two simultaneous planes. Personally, I think the coolest part is how the end of one stage seamlessly transitions directly into the next stage without a tally screen. It is a smooth experience that doesn’t seem like much on paper but yields impressive results. It took me almost exactly 30 minutes to complete the campaign, which is the perfect amount of time for a shooter. Granted, I would have spent $10+ in quarters if this was an actual arcade machine but that is the good thing about digital releases – you can input as many digital quarters as you like.

RayStorm is the second game in the series released in 1998 and uses polygons over 2D environments which creates some eye catching shmup battles. The camera also sweeps to dynamic effect and also features a couple playable ships. In short, it is a quality follow up the original and features a higher difficulty factor.

The final entry is RayCrisis and is actually a prequel to the original release. This entry puts a bigger focus on narrative, which is unique for a shooter, but still puts gameplay first. While it borrows the lock-on mechanic and visual appeal of the sequel, it is unique because stages are randomized. There is more incentive to take down multiple baddies simultaneously using additional attacks too.  However, perhaps the biggest addition is rewarding the player by killing as many enemies as possible, trying not to let a single one pass to maximize scores. My biggest complaint is this is the most ambitious title in the trio as the screen is often littered with explosions, background effects, and all sorts of distractions that it can be difficult to keep track of it all. 

Bundling all three of these games is a big deal and Taito and M2 should be given thanks for making these forgotten titles easily accessible. As cool as these games are, I can’t help but feel that the fan service was a little low despite including online leaderboards, picture options, and other gameplay tweaks. Instead, it is a missed opportunity to not include ephemeral things like cabinet art or developer interviews, things that other recent compilation have include (see Atari 50, for example). While the games are easy enough to pick up and play, not having any sort of “how to” to instruct the player how to increase score or use all the abilities of the ship also seems like an odd omission. But make no mistake, these are fun games and having them all in one package is a treat for shooter fans, especially those yearning for a trip down memory lane from the 90s.

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By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief

Twitter: @ZackGaz

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