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The "Ray Series" is a trilogy of top-down, vertically-scrolling shooters developed by Taito.
The series consists of three games, all of which have "Ray" in the title (at least in their original Japanese names). Each game has you pilot a Cool Starship that, in addition to being able to fire straight forward, also has special lock-on lasers that can target enemies below its altitude and home in on them.
RayForce (1995, pictured on right) is the first game, and is set in a future in which the many nations of Earth assemble a supercomputer called "Con-Human" to govern the Earth's natural resources. As a result of an attempt to fuse Con-Human with the mind of a cloned human, Con-Human goes apeshit and starts destroying living organisms all across the earth and transforming it into what it perceives as a newer, better version of it and its life forms. Humanity attempts to flee to space colonies, only to get hunted down by Con-Human there as well. Naturally, this being a Shoot 'em Up, it's up to one or two ships to destroy the Earth in order to put an end to Con-Human.
RayForce uses the Taito F3 hardware and eventually ports to the Sega Saturn, and Windows-based PC; A re-release of the original arcade game was also featured in Taito Legends 2 for PlayStation 2, Xbox, and Windows PC. It uses two-dimensional graphics, but because of the game mechanics, the game uses a lot of Mode 7-like graphics to simulate three dimensions. It works very, very well. A minor quirk of the game, however, lies in its naming; due to copyright problems, it has no less than four different names: RayForce for the Japanese and American arcade releases, Layer Section for the Japanese home ports and North American Windows port, Galactic Attack for the North American Sega Saturn port, and Gunlock in Europe. On January 13, 2012, an iOS version of RayForce was released for iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, fourth generation iPod Touch, and iPad.
RayStorm (1996) is the second game in the series, and is the first to use three-dimensional graphics. Set in 2219 A.D. and in a different timeline from RayForce, Earth establishes a group of space colonies known as the Star Federation. But at some point, the colonies decide to mutiny, form an alliance known as the Secilia Federation, and strike
back against Earth. The player sets off from Earth in order to defend Earth from the rebellious Secilia Federation.
RayStorm runs on the Taito FX-1B board, and as mentioned, is the first Ray game in 3D, allowing for more varieties in stage scrolling and enemies. Furthermore, unlike the first game, in which you can only fire your homing lasers at enemies below you, any on-screen enemy is fair game for your lock-on attacks. If you find yourself in trouble, you can launch a Smart Bomb that inflicts massive damage to all on-screen enemies. RayStorm was ported to the Play Station in all three major regions, Sega Saturn in Japan (under the name Layer Section II), and finally Windows PC in Japan and Europe. The ports feature extras such as an arranged version of the original soundtrack, an "Extra Mode" with new versions of the stages, and a "13-Plane Mode" in which you have thirteen lives, with every three lives (for the first twelve lives) using a different ship and the last life being a weaker prototype ship. The North American PlayStation version, handled by Working Designs, had a contest for $10,000, and a form of Easy Mode Mockery to discourage players from BS'ing through the game and calling it a day. RayStorm also got an exclusive PS2 release, via Taito Legends 2, but it's the arcade version and not the enhanced PlayStation version. An HD remake, RayStorm HD, has been released for Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network. The HD remake features the ability to play as two new ships, the R-GRAY 0 and the R-GEAR , online leaderboards, and sharable replays. This version loses the Easy Mode Mockery of it's previous ports, but also makes unlocking Achievements and Trophies a moot task in the game due to not being difficulty-specific. An iOS port of the game is currently in the works.
RayCrisis (1998) is the third game in the series, and is a prequel to RayForce. Set just before the events of RayForce, RayCrisis takes the fight away from space and Earth and instead puts you in the role of a hacker striving to shut down Con-Human by using a computer virus. This being a shmup, said virus takes the form of a ship that flies through an Extreme Graphical Representation of Con-Human's systems and attempts to destroy it from within. However, you don't completely succeed; by the end of the game, the damage has already been done, necessitating the events of RayForce.
RayCrisis runs on the Taito G-Net arcade hardware and, like its (release) predecessor, RayStorm, uses 3D graphics, and features an "Encroachment Meter" that must be kept reduced by destroying enemies. If it maxes out at 100%, you will, instead of fighting the boss of the current stage, face the final bosses early and get the worst ending of the game. RayCrisis is the only game in the series not to get a Saturn port, but it still got Play Station and Windows ports. The North American PlayStation port of the game, which was also localized by Working Designs, lacks the two-player mode of the arcade game, but includes additional modes that allow you to more freely choose your stage order akin the Thunder Force series.
A direct sequel to RayForce called R-GEAR was planned, but canceled early in favor of RayStorm.
This series feature trope examples of:
- Two and a Half D: Your ship can only move and shoot on one plane, but the enemies can attack from the background and foreground. Good thing you have your lock-on lasers!
- Some of the levels in Storm has your ship move on a non-linear plane, such as the space fleet stage on Stage 4.
- AI Is a Crapshoot: Con-Human in RayForce and RayCrisis.
- Battleship Raid: Stage 2 in RayForce, as a midboss. RayStorm has more battleships in Stages 4 and 5, with Stage 4's boss being a huge battleship. It's not approaching fast, though.
- Beam Spam: Your lock-on lasers do this. Some of your foes will use this on you, too.
- Bittersweet Ending: In RayForce, after destroying Con-Human, the ship is hit by the blast of Earth's explosion before it can escape. After the credits, the camera pans to the what remains of the heroine's RVA-818-X-LAY fighter and seeing it die out. There's also the matter of the Earth exploding in the first place.
- Chain Lightning, Lightning Gun: The R-GRAY 2's and Wave Rider 02's lock-on attack.
- Combos: The basis of Wave Rider 03's scoring system in RayCrisis.
- Difficulty Levels: Unusually, you can set the difficulty level of each individual stage in RayStorm, rather than the entire game. This stripped from HD remake though.
- Doomed by Canon: The Earth in RayCrisis.
- Downer Ending: RayStorm's Extra Mode ending seems like it's a Bittersweet Ending, with the enemy forces (and millions of inhabitants) being destroyed by having their capital colony dropped into the sun. While your badly damaged ship moves away into the distance. Then you see the text after the credits:
Earth and Secilia have vanished. Likewise, those that developed the "RAY" technology and all evidence of its existence have been wiped away. No record of R-GRAY craft was found, and no R-GRAY craft has ever returned.
- Dynamic Difficulty: Survive long enough in RayForce and the difficulty goes batshit. Notice a parallel with the story?
- In RayCrisis, you have the Encroachment Meter, described in the North American manual as "determining the amount of suckage". The lower it is, the more enemies will pop up.
- Earthshattering Kaboom: The goal and ending of RayForce, due to Con-Human fucking up Earth beyond all repair.
- RayStorm also has a similar ending, except it's for the bad guys. It's also a Bittersweet Ending considering the collateral deaths of the enemy colony's population. That is, according to the end report.
- This is due to the colony being blown out of orbit and falling into the sun.
- Not just Secilia, Earth got destroyed as well, if the text after the end credits is true.
- Easy Mode Mockery: In the console ports of RayStorm, setting the starting lives to more than 5 or setting the difficulty of any stage below 4 will force a "Training Mode" which terminates your game after Stage 4. This function was stripped in the HD version.
- Eldritch Abomination: Con-Human, and a man-made one at that.
- Engrish: The stage names in RayForce (e.g. "The Gravity of Blue Side.") Also, the background sound clip that plays at the start of the game and periodically throughout: "This is the control tower. Make a left turn. Over."
- Expy: In RayCrisis, respectively you have Wave Rider 01 and Wave Rider 02 as to RayStorm's R-GRAY 1 and R-GRAY 2 (which are also unlockable ships in home ports of RayCrisis).
- In RayStorm HD, there's also the unlockable R-GRAY 0 fighter based after RayForce's RVA-818-X-LAY fighter. It doubles a cameo since it also features sound effects from RayForce as well.
- Extreme Graphical Representation: Con-Human's systems in RayCrisis. All of the enemies are defense programs and Infinity, the True Final Boss, is Con-Human's core.
- Guest Fighter: The R-GRAY appear as a playable ship in Space Invaders Get Even, the final boss of RayStorm also makes an appearance.
- I Have Many Names: RayForce is also known as "Layer Section", "Galactic Attack" and "Gunlock", due to porting and regional issues.
- Justified Title: Working Designs added the "Series Termination" subtitle to RayCrisis, the last game in the series.
- Interestingly, the Japanese version of RayCrisis, the game bore the subtitle "-The End of RAY-".
- Lightning Can Do Anything: Such as homing in on enemies more than a mile away.
- Macross Missile Massacre: The titles already suggest this, starting with the mighty RayForce!! A number of the bosses do this too, especially after turning red.
- Meaningful Name: The R-GRAY series of fighters have "Ray" as a part of their name, which is also first part of the shoot 'em ups series' title.
- Self-Plagiarism: The Rail Shooter Zeitgeist (a.k.a. Jupiter Strike) isn't set in the same universe but the plot, art style and enemy desisn all are very similar to RayStorm and the player ship in that game use the same lock-on laser.
- Smart Bomb: Introduced in RayStorm. This was also featured in RayCrisis.
- Spider Tank: Pro-Tor in Ray Crisis, and a couple others.
- Suspicious Videogame Generosity: Right before the Final Boss of RayForce, the game gives you a lot of harmless pods for you to lock-on and destroy, all of which contain enough Power-Ups to power both characters to full multiple times. You're so gonna need them.
- Theme Naming: The bosses of RayStorm are named after enemies of the Roman Empire.
- Thirteen Is Unlucky: In home ports of RayStorm, there is an unlockable 13-Plane Mode where you must go through using a total of thirteen ships under one credit, and every three ships changes to a different ship for the first twelve ships. On the thirteenth ship however, you're given a weak prototype ship to use.
- True Final Boss: Infinity in RayCrisis. It's a... spherical... thing with pretty golden patterns on it. Accompanied by Ominous Pipe Organ.
- Turns Red: Most bosses.
- Weaponized Exhaust: Used as an attack by the third boss of RayForce.
- What Could Have Been: R-GEAR, a true sequel to RayForce originally planned until the development of RayStorm took its place.