Shoot ’em up fans recently received a treat via the Ray’z Arcade Chronology. While the name might be confusing, this collection of retro titles includes three intriguing vertical shooters that have stood the test of time in 1994’s RayForce, 1996’s RayStorm, and 1998’s RayCrisis. While none are exactly a classic within the genre, they’re fun and breezy shooters with a solid amount of replay value, and the latter two titles have received nice HD facelifts in this new installment.
RayForce is the only one of the three games to be in 2D, and the sprite work still looks lovely. However, what makes it and its successors unique is the lock-on system that feels similar to Rez. By putting enemies within your lock-on system, players are able launch several destructive laser beams at once. This is all done while also shooting traditional bullets, making for a very active shooter where the player is always shooting, acquiring new targets, and attempting to stay out of the way of enemy attacks as well.
What’s most exciting about the package is the HD upgrades that RayStorm and RayCrisis have received. While these remasters are just cleaned up versions — don’t expect the games to look PlayStation 5 quality — the 3D models look clean and really let the art direction shine. The original versions are also included, so if you want to compare or prefer the nostalgia, they’re easily played within Ray’z Arcade Chronology.
As with most shoot ’em ups, the games truly shine during the boss encounters. There are some great enemy designs, and players get to go up against some giant foes across all three games. The boss fights even shine in RayCrisis, which is the weakest of the package. The final game in the trilogy, which is a prequel, doesn’t have much more to offer in terms of fresh gameplay, as it starts to feel like a retread. However, it’s still worth checking out due to its expanded size and scope — with multiple endings for players to discover.
While it’s not a must-own shoot ’em up collection, any shmup fan will have a good time with Ray’z Arcade Chronology. RayForce and RayStorm are easy recommendations, and the laser lock-on feature helps the games find a unique identity and stick out in a crowded genre. While RayCrisis was a disappointment in 1998, it still has plenty of historical value and rounds out the trilogy nicely. It’s always great to see game history lovingly preserved, and this is no exception.