Galactic Attack (Sat) Review

Lucifer, Satan, Abaddon, Beelzebub, Nancy Grace; the Devil is known by many names. And while this classic Taito shoot-em-up falls slightly short of beating the Prince of Darkness, it certainly gives him a run for his money. Depending on platform and region, Galactic Attack has also been called Rayforce, Gunlock and Layer Section. For purposes of not confusing myself and my reader(s), from here on I’ll be referring to it as Galactic Attack, because frankly, it’s the coolest of the names. I also like that name because, in the absence of any real knowledge of the storyline, it gives me the impression that you’re playing as an alien invader trying to destroy the world. And how could you not like that?

The Sega Saturn is well known for playing host to a multitude of excellent shmups, and while most of the fanfare and huzzah is directed toward exotic (and often pricey) imports, one of the very best (but least ballyhooed) games did receive a domestic release, and can be picked up on the cheap. Taito has a fine track record when it comes to the genre, and Galactic Attack was the zenith of their craft.

The game starts you out in space. After buzzing by the moon and destroying a satellite or fifty, you enter Earth’s atmosphere, before venturing down an immense fissure to begin your descent toward the center of the planet. Presumably, in keeping with my self-made storyline, you blow the God-forsaken thing up from the core, but seeing as how I’ve never beaten the game, I can neither confirm nor deny this. The point of this paragraph is that the whole experience has a distinct sense of progression, which is a very pleasing change of pace for a genre which routinely throws you into a disconnected series of random environments.

Gameplay is a wonderful marriage of simplicity and attention to detail. You have two modes of firing; a standard forward gun and a lock-on laser. The game’s gimmick lies in the lock-on, which is sort of like an evolved version of the bombs in Xevious, allowing you to shoot stuff that’s below the range of your standard gun. A fixed cursor in front of your ship lets you to “paint” multiple enemies before unleashing the weapon, which will then simultaneously hit all the locked-on baddies. Score-minded gamers should be aware that bigger scores are awarded to daring players who paint lots of enemies rather then those (such as myself) who just spam it. Taito also saw fit to add a few cool little details; at one point you’re flying above a series of floating structures, and you can use the weapon to destroy some of the infrastructure, sending large chunks of the structure plummeting to the ground below. Pointless, but very fun.

There are a couple slight niggles that prevent me from giving GI a perfect score. One problem I have is that the flyable area is wider than the screen, causing a slight “wobble” effect. The game also (and this could just be my imagination) seems to use a so-called “dynamic difficulty” system, whereby the difficulty automatically increases when you do well, which I’ve always found to be a rather counterproductive feature, especially since the difficulty doesn’t seem to go back down when you start doing shitty. It certainly keeps things intense though, and I suppose that’s the point. Perhaps the most glaring flaw is (in the US Saturn version) the lack of a TATE mode, though I tend to be too lazy to bother turning my TV sideways anyway.

These issues aside, Galactic Attack is one of my all-time favorite games, shmup or otherwise. It’s always a challenge (I’ve been playing it for years but have never managed to beat it), the music is nice (if weird), the graphics are clean, attractive hand-drawn sprites (rather than ugly 32-bit polygons), and it has some of the most memorable and creative bosses and level designs around. Out of all my Saturn shooters, this is probably the one I pop in most often, and there’s a damn good reason for that.

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~ by Krooze L-Roy on October 19, 2008.

One Response to “Galactic Attack (Sat) Review”

  1. Just got this sucker today. I love it.

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