Genre: Shmup Developer: Ving Publisher: Acclaim Players: 1-2 Released: 1995
Galactic Attack, the North American Sega Saturn version of Taito’s arcade game RayForce, is a 2D vertical spaceship shooter (commonly referred to as a “shmup”). This port was handled by Japanese company Ving and published by Acclaim in 1995. Acclaim also published another wonderful 2D Taito shooter, Darius Gaiden, for the Saturn. Both were comparatively inexpensive games when released, probably not as exciting to most people at the time compared to Daytona USA, Wipeout, or Tomb Raider. Galactic Attack provides a 90’s visual feast as well as good gameplay, well-orchestrated music and cool sounds, and a fast frame rate. Similar to 1980’s staples like Pac-Man or Galaga, it is immune to the march of time and still just as fun as the year it was made.
I slightly prefer vertical shmups over horizontal ones. I have spent so much time over the years playing them, games like River Raid, Xevious, Twin Cobra, MUSHA, Radiant Silvergun, Gigawing, and others. Similar to Namco’s Xevious, here Taito designed two separated planes of action (or layers if you prefer) for its gameplay. At your ship’s “elevation,” your forward guns can attack flying enemies; at the lower level of elevation, your missile sight selects targets and then fires locked-on missiles. You must pay attention to both because the lower enemies shoot at you, and many eventually rise to your ship’s height; you can quickly get boxed in by shots and enemies if you don’t take care of them early before they become a threat. Your guns and missiles are upgradeable but are the only weapons you get; there are no smart bombs in the game.
Galactic Attack is a bit fairer than other shmups in giving you regular power-ups. These are usually released by destroying certain red enemies and come floating down the screen as red or yellow pyramids for the main guns, or as green icons that increase your missile potential, up to a max of eight simultaneous missile locks. The power-ups don’t stay on-screen forever, so grab them if you can do it without getting blown to smithereens! In many shmups, if you have to continue, you might as well just start over because you won’t stand a chance at surviving with severely powered-down armaments. This is not true with Galactic Attack. Here, you are given several pyramids each time you continue so you have a more fun fighting chance. Your journey starts in outer space, then in orbit over the Earth, then down into the atmosphere and past the cloud layers, and finally underground to the heart of the enemy which has taken over the planet.
I’ve never played the original arcade game, so I can’t comment on differences between it (on Taito’s frequently used “F3” arcade board) and this port, but graphically, the Saturn’s advanced 32-bit 2D hardware has no problem displaying large sprites and a variety of scrolling and scaling effects for the landscapes, skies, and architectures that will be below you. One awesome feature of this version is that you can remove the HUD graphics and play with a clean screen with the tap of a trigger button! It also allows you to play horizontally, which eliminates the prominent black side-bars and uses more of the horizontally-designed TV screen, but I prefer default vertical mode. It also offers controls to support horizontal mode with vertical controls, so you can play on your monitor in “TATE Mode” (if your monitor allows itself to be placed on its side)… but I’ve never been able to try this.
The sounds of shots and explosions are cool enough, with a few awesomely unique audio cues now and then that will grab your attention. The music by Taito’s Zuntata group fits the action well. As a minor side-note, the music here is nothing like Zuntata’s weirdly operatic soundtrack from Taito’s Darius Gaiden. In fact, the soundtrack doesn’t remind me of any other game’s music.
It will only take two minutes of gameplay for you to understand what Galactic Attack has to offer. If you like the gameplay in the short first stage, you’ll probably love the whole game. I have still never beaten the game’s seven levels, but I keep getting closer. You can enter a code to get more continues, but I haven’t yet cared enough to do that. Instead I enjoy restarting at the beginning and trying to improve my playing. This game is short, which hurts its value, but its also loads of fun; it is easy to play but hard to beat, requiring practice and memorization. Because of the narrow vertical presentation, a lot of the TV screen is filled with black bars on left and right. Also, at the extreme top of the screen, some bosses’ graphics don’t actually fit on-screen (even though you can still shoot that part of a boss if you know its weak spot is there, temporarily hidden until it moves lower again). The problem with this is seen in the 2nd boss, where you are supposed to shoot left and right armaments that you physically can’t always see on-screen until he lowers back down the screen. This is only a minor issue, but I wanted to mention it.
To me, if you are going to own a SEGA Saturn, then it is well worth having Galactic Attack in your library. True, this is a no-frills port of a quarter-munching arcade game, and it is likely your enjoyment will peak quickly and you then you may grow tired of it. But 2D shmups like these are few and far between! If you enjoy the game, you’ll dig it out now & then to play it, and you’ll be reminded of this semi-obscure nice little 2D shooter from Taito.
Rating: 7 out of 10.