Review: Ray'z Arcade Chronology

It's Ray, man! No, not th- look, it's a shoot-'em-up, OK?

My father's name is Ray. The arcade chronology we speak of does not belong to him. But it's what I think of every time it comes up. Ray's Arcade Chronology. Here you go, dad. It's for you. But of course, it isn't. That is a digression not worth pursuing. Who it is for, of course, is anyone who enjoys their vertical shmups with a slice of Panzer Dragoon style locking onto things; and who doesn't love to lock on?

This isn't the largest retro compilation of all time, but considering it's an M2 joint you know you're getting quality emulation and a decen front-end to say the least. The included games here are RayForceRay Storm and Ray Crisis, arcade titles spanning 1994 through 1998. Bizarrely, this isn't even the only Ray series colleciton out there; another set with just the HD incarnations of Storm and Crisis exists. and the physical edition includes everything plus the prototype R-Gear ; a superb bonus that I would love to have played. Ah well! It's not as though what we've got here is in any way lacking, at least in terms of the games themselves.

It's probably worth noting at this point that there isn't much in the way of bonus content here; concept art, etc appears to have taken a hike. I'm not too bothered because it's not something I personally would look at more than once, but it's a little surprising given its omnipresence in most retro compilations. You can listen to the music, as you'd expect, but that's about it. Thankfully it's all about the main events and they are beautifully emulated; I didn't notice any hitches, glitches or switches (outside of the Switch I was playing it on, ahhhh), and the action here is as fun as ever.

If you're not familiar with the Ray series, the central gimmick is the ability to lock onto enemies before unleashing a missile storm; not unlike, say, Panzer Dragoon, but in a shmuppy milieu. You know how in the likes of Twinbee and Xevious you could drop bombs on grounded enemies? It's not dissimilar here, but instead of single bombs you're targeting swarms of enemies and destroying them all at once. It's very satisfying, and the dynamic locales and extremely cool enemy ship designs (especially the bosses) make for three very enjoyable experiences.

Fumbling for a criticism here, but the three games don't feel super different to me - that said, why should they? It's a formula that clearly works, as there isn't a duff title here. Indeed they're among the best games I've played in the genre; tough but a little fairer-seeming than most vertical shmups I've played. I'm a horizontal man, myself, but sometimes doing it standing up is okay.

The inclusion of the original games as well as their crisp new HD remasters is a nice touch, letting the player chart the history of the series from pixels to polygons. Normally I'd bemoan the change over to 3D, but low-poly is a consistently appealing look, no? Ray'z Arcade Chronology may have a daft name, but it's very difficult to fault this offering from M2. Long may they ray'n.