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Soukyugurentai - Raizing/Electronic Arts

by S. Ives (xX2TheLimitXx@worldnet.att.net)

Lowdown:

    Soukyugurentai for the Saturn is kind of a cross between Rayforce (Layer Section) and Batsugun. We get gameplay similar to LS, with the multiple ship types and the bombs from Batsugun. This game first appeared as an ST-V arcade title and is therefore a perfect Saturn conversion. The game is a vertically scrolling shooter on a horizontal screen.
When starting the game, you choose from 3 different space craft. There are 3 types: SOQ-004 the "Balance" type (red), SOQ-010 the "Speed" type (blue), and SOQ-025 the "Power" type (green). You then see your selected ship taking off over a great-looking city backdrop. Soon, you're in the first level, defending the city from an air raid- as you move toward the first boss, you blow away the enemy craft. There are 6 levels: the air raid, the scramble, the plains, the journey to the enemy's home world, the ocean base, and finally the enemy's stronghold. Six levels may be a little short but this is some intense action, especially if you choose the Arcade level. There are 8 difficulty settings like a Neo-Geo game, ranging from 1 (Sorta easy but still challenging), to 5 ("AC" the arcade level), and all the way up to 8 (which is for certified lunatics!). The bullet dodging in SG is really intense- you're going to be looking for patterns in the enemy's barrage of bullets & whatnot. Some of the enemy's weapons besides bullets include heat-seeking missiles (which can be shot down), laser blasts (look out), plasma orbs, etc.

Each ship has its own web system, which is used for locking on to enemies and then blowing the heck out of them. When you hold down the fire button rather than rapidly tapping it, your ship's NALS tracking system will activate its web which will appear around your ship. Any enemy craft unfortunate enough to be in it will be locked on. Just let go of the fire button to fry the jerks. It is important to get as many lock-ons as you can for higher scores though- more targets hit with one NALS volley means higher points, anywhere from 2x-6x the targets' normal value. However, if you wimp out and fail to get enough targets locked on- you could end up getting only half the point values. The "Balance" ship has the Ei-Dou web (a wide dome shaped one, used to pick off masses of weaker targets with laser fire) and the Pinpoint web (cone shaped, used to deliver blasts of flaming death to larger alien ships.). The "Speed" ship uses the Allrange (a round web with tracking lasers beams that stay locked on for a second or two) and the Bou-Ryu web (sort of like the red ship's Ei-Dou). The green "Power" ship has the Random web (you control the direction of its aim, this web will rotate toward the opposite direction of which you're moving) as one of its two NALS options. You switch between your ship's web types with the C button. The NALS device is in addition to your standard front-fire cannons, as well as...drumroll...BOMBS!! The bomb can be used alone (causing one big thunderball) or in conjunction with the NALS to do really put the hurt on some larger enemies. While the bomb is still going off, you can not die.

The audio is awesome, with lots of nice zapping and blasting noises. The music is a little similar to Layer Section, but has a bit of a Vangelis-type (Blade Runner) sound mixed in. Great indeed. Even the Game Over tune and the High Score tune are well orchestrated, and surely are much more than an afterthought.

This has some of the best graphics on the Saturn. The vehicles in the game have the rendered look, which works very well. Whenever your ship or an enemy craft banks, the animation is convincing. As you blast enemies, they go down really well- some smaller craft will start to smoke then blow up, others will crash into the ground, and larger ships will catch on fire and blow up well. There are some tank-like vehicles on the 3rd stage that are easy prey for your NALS weapons. LET 'EM HAVE IT- then watch them flip like jumping beans on Jolt Cola before they go up in flames. The game uses a perspective like Layer Section- You'll notice it while flying over the besieged city in the first stage. Even the Game Over screen is awesome- the screen fades to black as a cool 3-D object appears with Japanese text on one side, then slowly turns to reveal "GAME OVER".

The bosses are generally huge, mean looking metal monstrosities that sometimes take up 1/3 to 1/2 the screen size. The giant flame-thrower armed tank in stage 3 is way wicked. It spews forth major barrages of bullets and occasionally shoots some infernal blasts from the flame guns. Some of the flying bosses will scale in and also rotate as well (the 2nd stage flying fortress will spin and shake whenever you severely damage a part of it). After you destroy one of the bosses, you're told what percentage of enemies got away. Keep this percentage low by killing all the enemies you can and you will earn more bonus points.

There aren't too many negative issues here. One would be that there are just 6 stages (though they're a good length for the most part). There is some occasional slowdown, though you may be thankful for it when you see the amount of stuff coming at you! If you desire, you can also play the game with your NiGHTS Pad or Mission Stick- though a Virtua Stick will do the job just fine.

Graphics: 9

  • + Backgrounds are great.
  • + Rendered enemies are designed and animated well.
  • - Just a tad of dithering (mostly on smoke trails from enemy heat-seeking missiles), but you won't really notice.
  • + Loads of stuff on screen with hardly any slowdown.
  • + Attention to detail- example: in the first stage, you see cars in the streets fleeing from the air-raid, the moon's reflection in the water, and lights in the windows of tall buildings. On most larger enemies and the bosses, you see small chunks of debris flaking off as you're shooting them.
  • + Bosses are large and generally well-designed.
Sound/Music: 9
  • + The music is awesome.
  • + Great audio as well.
Gameplay/Control: 9
  • + There is analog joystick support if you wish to use it.
  • + The control is great in general: the ships handle well, and holding down the fire button brings out the web.
  • - Occasional slowdown (though this may actually be doing you a favor in some of the game's busier moments!)
  • + The bullet dodging is really intense.
  • + Bosses present considerable challenge. They have a lot of guns, cannons, or missile ports that can be blown away. You may use lock-on bombing to take out some of these weapons and weaken the boss, but you get a reduced point value for whatever the bomb destroys.
Lasting Power: 7
  • - 6 Levels is just a tad short (though this is a somewhat longer, more intense, and generally better game than Batsugun.)
  • + Compete for higher scores (especially when you use the lock-on weapons). There's quite a bit of replay value. At first you may be trying to get through the 6 stages, but then later you try for higher scores. Try not to rely on bombs more than you have to.
  • + There's a single-stage play feature in which you shoot for the highest score on any of the 6 stages.
  • + Loads of difficulty settings (1-8).
Overall: 8.5

Soukyugurentai is a great shooter that puts Batsugun to shame (I'd probably give Batsugun a 7.25 now- it's getting old), and is every bit as good as Layer Section if not better.

-S. Ives




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