Squeenix, why isn’t RayStorm HD available outside Japan on PS3?

RayStorm HD

I don’t quite understand why RayStorm HD isn’t available outside Japan on PS3. So I went and grabbed a pre-paid card and bought a copy through the Japanese store. Probably cost a lot more than it should when you consider the markup assigned to obtaining a Japanese PSN card, but I reckon it was worth it. Plus, I was able to get the Playstation port of Thunderforce V – I’ve played that to death on my Saturn and was always curious what the port was like, so it was a convenient arrangement.

Anywho, Square Enix’s idiosyncrasies aside, how’s the remake? Very nice indeed (as Yakumo over at Retro Core would say!). I haven’t put a stack of hours into it at this stage, just fitting in the occasional session when not hammering through Afterburner Climax or other gear on the PS3. The HD visuals look clean, uncluttered and the 16:9 playfield works really well – this last bit was my biggest concern going into it as breaking out the boundaries of a horizontal shooter already squeezed to a 4:3 aspect ration (rather than tate, or 3:4 ratio) to an even broader ratio may have messed up the balance RayStorm managed to achieve from back in the day.

While the decision to forego any crazy/fancy new effects may turn off the new breed who haven’t spent much time with the original FX-1B version or the Playstation “port” (though the FX-1B shares its hardware design with that of the Playstation, not unlike Namco’s System 11/12 or Capcom’s ZN-1/ZN-2 platforms, hence why I’ve put the word ‘port’ into quotations), I think it’s a very tasteful update to a solid game… though I still prefer the original Layer Section to its sequels (i.e. RayStorm, etc). So instead of having all sorts of filters, high polygon counts, motion blurring and so forth, we’re presented with slightly updated models and textures that reflect the exact same aesthetic as the original, only without jagged polygones or blurry textures. This is especially noteworthy with the low-poly waterfalls in level 3 🙂

And that’s pretty much it – there’s an arranged mode and some unlockables to keep things interesting, but probably the best feature introduced to take advantage of the current hardware platform are the leaderboards that not only post your high score (mine will be down the bottom if they register at all! 😉 ), but also allow you to save and upload your replays. This is excellent, since it allows rubbish shmup fans (like myself) to see how it really should be done 😉 Aside from this, it’s still RayStorm, so if you didn’t like it before, you probably won’t now unless your tastes in gaming have altered accordingly.

The only question left is – why the worldwide snub for PS3 gamers? Hopefully this’ll be rectified in time. The PS3 needs more Japanese shooters on it – I’d love some Otomedius on our machine, as well as the R-Type remake that came out a while ago, then there’s the Naomi ports (like Ikaruga and Triggerheart Exelica), and so on.

Still, we do have the Söldner-X games which are pretty awesome, but I wouldn’t mind sharing with XBLA if PSN can get a couple of those exclusives in return 😀

Afterburner Climax – Game of the Year 2010


See that blurry picture taken with my camera phone? That’s me purchasing Afterburner Climax on the the 23rd of April. Unfortunately, I’ve been too busy playing it to get around to posting my thoughts on it. Because it truly is that awesome.

But is this just hyperbolic dribble from a Sega fanboy, making the bold statement that this game should qualify as for GotY? Probably. But there’s a method to my madness.

You see, for me there’s a special place in my heart for the classic Sega approach to making a score-attack title. The original two Afterburner games are a double-dose of amazement foe example, and I’ve put more hours than I can count into OutRun. Then you can look at some of spiritual (or actual) sequels to these games that I’ve sunk even more time and money to continue with the classic fix they brought – Galaxy Force, Panzer Dragoon, Gunblade; Outrunners, Power Drift, Daytona, Sega Rally, OutRun 2/2006/Live Arcade (you could even throw Initial D in there as well). Amazing lineup of games that have quantified the definitive arcade experience over the years, and in this sense Afterburner Climax is a completely nonsensical throwback to pickup-and-play mechanics, score attack, increasingly steeper difficulty (arguably unforgiving at times), blue, blue skies and more than a casual nod at Sega’s arcade lineage.

What’s particularly commendable is that the game managed to survive the transition to a home format – I first came across the Afterburner Climax DX cab in… 2008 when checking out one of the few remaining arcades still around the place. The experience was absolutely amazing – having cut my teeth on the Afterburner hydraulic cab back in the day, it was a perfect re-imagining of the original concept but on a modern platform with more current technology.


Despite the lack of the fancy-pants cabinet, it’s still a blast to play – hyper-fast, an orgy of destruction and plenty of hat-tipping to the original games, especially the option to swap between the original YM2151 X Board hardware audio and the new soundtrack put together for Climax. There are plenty of unlockables that can alter the difficulty of the in-game experience too, which is handy if you’re rubbish at the game like yours truly and adds extra incentive for playing through the game over and over again.

And even though it’s not difficult to fire through the game in 10 minutes, I constantly find myself coming back to it every time I put the PS3 on. There’s something immediately refreshing about the no-bullshit attitude the game has – this is an arcade experience, and if you don’t like it, bugger off. No stupid tutorials to explain complicated controls, no unnecessary backstory to slow things down (there is a backstory mind, but it never gets in the way of blowing stuff up), barely any frame-drops or tearing, just pure, high-quality Japanese arcade performance gaming.

Welcome back Sega – what took you so long?

Joygasm – Afterburner Climax coming to PSN/XBLA?

The wonderous people over at Kotaku have reported that Afterburner Climax looks like its coming to next-gen download services.

Why is this retro-worthy? Because it’s one of those rare cases where Sega got it right and made an arcade game that simultaneously looked stunning, was a joy to play, and echoed the beautiful and glorious blue skies from the days of yore.

And while the home version won’t have the amazing hydraulic arcade cab (obviously), the game is still a ball.

Man, if I had $20k, I’d totally buy one of those Afterburner Climax cabs. I’d have nowhere to store it so it’d have to sit in the driveway, but for that one day before it got ruined by the weather/neighbourhood kids/ninjas/etc, it would be a slice of pure awesomeness 😀