PLAYER 1 review by Neotype

There are few things better than playing a sequel of your favourite shoot 'em up for the first time, as half the joy is comparing it to the original. Everything else was second priority when my importer called to say that my reserved copy of Layer Section II, Also known as RayStorm, finally arrived.

What some of you won't know is that besides the popular PlayStation conversion, it exists for the Saturn as well. Unfortunately, MediaQuest, the company who bought the rights to do a Saturn version, decided not to bother with a Western release. God bless the import stores... ;) The game, then. After a good couple of hours playing the game, I ended up feeling pleased. The switch from 2D to 3D graphics went remarkably smooth, although not without faults. I admit I was worried at first because polygonal graphics on the Saturn usually disappoint when compared to other machines. And yeah, most of the transparency effects have been replaced by mesh-patterns and there is the occasional frame-rate inconsistency, but otherwise than that they're very, very well done. For the most part, because some of the levels look somewhat "empty" and less pleasing than those of the original game. But hey, you only have to look at the city or space battle levels and everything is forgotten. The programmers also took advantage of the freedom that polygons offer, so expect camera viewpoint changes and the like as well. This only either happens in the background or at the beginning of levels, so it doesn't interfere with play, luckily.

Another problem though is that sometimes it can be hard to tell everything apart, what with textured polygons all over the place. Less vivid, more realistic colours don't really help either... but then again, what the game lacks in certain areas, it makes up for it in others - like, the bosses! Some of them are conventional larger-than-usual ships, but there's one that deserves a place in the top ten - a Macross style assault suit. Check out the way the plane transforms in a robot, then uses it's machine gun to spread bullets all over the screen! For 3D graphics, these are excellent designs...

Of course Taito is getting a name for itself for it's music, and once more Zuntata is on the case to provide beautiful music while you're trying to save the Earth. The tunes are more "dancable" than Layer Section's but they're every bit as good. Definitely put-it-in-a-regular-CD-player worthy!

Although I sort of miss the violent kabooms, the effects - and those communication voices again - are generally superb. It all sounds very Japanese, which is a good thing, believe me. New features in the game include a choice of three different ships. You can stick to the familiar but dependable R-GRAY 1, but there's also the R-GRAY 2, which has lasers instead of guns and purple lightning bolts instead of homing beams. This ship has less flexibility than the classic R-GRAY, but is capable of doing more damage. The R-GRAY 3 seems identical to R-GRAY 1, but then without the smart bomb function. That's right, smart bombs have been introduced - and it sort of works in the same way the Super Combos in Street Fighter Zero do. Every enemy you destroy fills up the energy bar a bit, and when it's full, you're all set to destroy anything that has the courage to show up on screen. Another addition is, that if you use all your lock-on lasers on the same target at once, it receives SERIOUS damage... and there's a nice fireball effect to go with it. The power-ups are the same as before, but there's a new blue one that powers up your ship to the max. It appears sometimes when you just wasted your last life, and therefore encourages you to use the continues... although that's inevitable if you want to finish the game. It's again very tough, but not quite up to the same hair-pullingly level as the first one. Good news for people who aren't too good at shoot 'em ups...

If forced to choose, I would pick Layer Section though. It play more precisely and is clearer to look at. There are no problems with the 3D perspective either - if you see a bullet coming at you, you know you have to dodge it instead of guessing whether you can fly over it or not. In short; slightly inferior yet worthy and respectable sequel to the legend that is Layer Section.

  PLAYER 2 review by Lo-Fat

This nice shooter is the sequel to the English Galactic Attack, which is Layer Section in Japan. I was surprised to see such changes in a sequel.

First of all, the game engine turned over and became polygons. Why? Especially since the first one was SOOOO good looking. I have to admit that LS2 can't compare very well. Second, the gameplay engine has also changed. I believe that it is now corrupt. Your ship moves somewhat well, but there's this horrible vanishing point on the screen and your ship, well, it's like Silpheed but worse, besides Silpheed was good anyways.

When you go all the way to one side you go back the other way a little bit. It sucks. I wish I had bought the PSX version. At times you can see the saturn's weakness when it comes to polygons. The first level boss is the best way to describe it. He moves real fast, and at the time the game's running at about 60fps, then it slows to maybe 20. Makes it real tough just to move around.

I wasn't REALLY impressed with the musical score in LS2, but that's only because the first one's was overly superb. I think I liked LS1's too much cause I played it in the CD player all night every night. The level 2 music in LS2 is good, as is the last boss music, actually a REALLY good tune, but other than that there's not much too memorable. And the sound is almost mute. You can hardly hear any of the explosions.

The older elements of LS1 like the laser beam are back, as are some new ones. You now get a super bomb, making the game about 300% easier than the first. The little laser beam that could once shoot only on lower enemies now can shoot ones on the same plane as yourself. This is better for LS2 cause it is REALLY hard to tell where polygonal solids are in comparison to your ship. You can even put the laser on auto and when it locks onto an enemy it will fire automatically. This is the reason the game is so much easier. In fact, I almost beat it the second time I played it. That's an easy game. One problem that I would like to point out is the difficulty to see a lot of the bullets that are fired at you. Some are little red thingies that look like pixels until they get half an inch away from you. But that doesn't make the game tough.

Graphics 6
When it's going at 60 fps in the first level, the gfx are 10 easily, but then you see the bland levels afterwards and that 10 goes to a 5, so I'll level it off at 6. The frame rate would make such a difference, but then they would have to improve the models as well.

Sound 8
I give it 8 because of one of the coolest songs ever, that last boss music. It's really good.

Playability 8
I guess if you take all the goodies into account like the auto-lasers and the new super bomb it makes up for the oddness of going to the end of the screen only to go back some more.

Difficulty EASY
It's easy, as I said.

Replay 6
Well, the difficulty will make you stay away after beating LS2. It may be cool to show your friend, but by all means avoid 2 player mode. You get lost easily, like in Raiden.

Overall 7
It's not a bad shooter, just kinda average. I picked it up for like $10 so it was worth it for me.

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Merci muchness, Neotype and Lo-Fat!!! Always dependable for an honest review, and not scared to knock 'em down a peg slightly sometimes either! Yes, I have to agree, I do prefer the first game, it's more focused, and easier to see what's going on. Those who rate games by graphics alone won't agree, but I think the regular Shmups clientele is above that sort of thing:)

Strangely, although the Saturn game came out a while after the Playstation Raystorm, it's not as complete a package. I've got 'em both, correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems that Raystorm has two separate sets of music to choose from, with a much nicer front-end and more options. The graphics are significantly better too, a bit smoother and with more transparencies and lighting effects. Still, I'd like to see the Playstation cope with the inordinate amount of sprites the maligned Saturn can shove around in DoDonPachi and Batsugun eh? Let's hope the series doesn't stop at 2. Malc




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