With great graphics, brutal gameplay & a jumpy, up-beat soundtrack, GA is a challenging game that's just as challenging

User Rating: 5.5 | Layer Section SAT
How far can game difficulty be pushed? Sometimes one must observe the game's presentation in order to find the answer because if you have an intensely hard game that has a humble or facetious presentation, then the intensity of the game's difficulty shouldn't matter. However, if you have a game that is presented in a tedious demeanor that almost purposefully makes a mockery at the player's intelligence or attempts at survival... then it goes below the belt. That's exactly what Galactic Attack/Layer Section/RayForce does: With great graphics, brutal gameplay & a jumpy, up-beat soundtrack, Galactic Attack is a challenging game that's just as challenging to love.

So here's the setting: It's 20XX era (we've all been there) and the Earth's governments decide to create a super computer that will control the Earth's environment. The super computer becomes sentient however and starts creating mechs and ships that proceed to destroy Earth's defenses and cripples Earth's atmosphere. The remaining Earthlings ascend to space where they form space colonies and use what technology they have left to create advanced space fighters that use laser technology to the next level: The RVA-818 X-Lay fighters (I think they should've just stuck with the production number). You control the hands of a foxy blonde space pilot who is launched to the Earth to do battle with the super computer's armies and squadrons of murderous machines and ultimately destroy the super computer. Despite TRYING to implement a story, there's no admitting that it's really that original; how many more super computers, self-making robot programs and other blatantly dangerous technologies are going to become sentient and kill everything in sight?

Anyways, as you guessed, you control the goofily named X-Lay and fight through gauntlet after gauntlet of mechs and fighters. The controls are pretty simple and somewhat derived from other shmups, in this case Xevious: The X-Lay has ground force attack capabilities and unlike most shmups, you must use a secondary weapon to remove any and all pesky ground forces. You have a cross-hair fitted a few meters in front of your fighter and you can earn a certain number of hits on your ground target or on multiple ground targets so long as you keep the cross-hair on the target. Unleashing your attack launches homing laser beams that quickly strike the ground force enemy down and you can upgrade the strength of your ground attack laser with floating gem upgrades. Your standard automatic weapon is also a laser gun that fires rapid plasmatic shots that can be upgraded with triangular gems according to color. As cool and innovative as this all sounds, it all ready faces a problem. I'm no scientist, but I'm pretty sure most lasers just aren't as strong as we'd like them to be. With this in mind, none of your laser weapons are as effective in combat as neat or intimidating as they appear.

No matter what, your ground lasers are hardly effective against big enemies below you and your standard plasma/laser guns just don't get a hurt on the non-popcorn enemies. With this in mind, it's also hard to figure out the logic behind this: why make a space fighter that's so insecure in its armaments? The game's story suggests that the technology of the Earthlings is pretty limited after the apocalypse and they have to use something that can be used in space and on Earth, but if your enemy is equipped with incindiary/explosive weaponry and you aren't, you have to admit you're limiting yourself too much. Seriously, you face enemies that launch rockets and bizarre electro-flare weapons; if you had a choice to equip your fighter with a weapon that could sear a hole through a metal object or destroy the entire metal object completely, which would you choose?

The ineptitude of the weapon technology is only further flawed by the fact that you can't move your cross hair, nor can you target enemies above or around you with it, and you've got a pretty crappy choice of a shoot em' up ship.

Which leads into the game play. Galactic Attack is one of the innovators to the sub-genre of shmups known as the Manic Shmup: the game difficulty, even on easy mode, is set so hard it will take the best hand-eye co-ordination to beat the game. Yet here, the difficulty lies not only in the innumerous enemy waves and firing patterns, but also in the weakly designed fighter the player must control... and the fact that there is no Easy mode to choose from. You have a choice between Normal and more than three different levels of Hard. Top that off with the fact that you are allowed four credits that both players share and you've got an entire stray planet worth of pain and frustration to work through in order to make it all the way through.

In graphics, you have a pretty impressive arrangement of sights. The background give you quite a lot of sceneries and enemies to zap and the scaling of the back grounds and well drawn foregrounds are superb for their time. The bosses and their appropriate boss fights show incredible detail in and color, particularly the second boss who beams in out of nowhere and protects its core with a 3D laser wire frame design. Seriously, for the game's time, the graphics are fantastic. And you do have some voice acting, but not a lot (or enough actually): in the first two levels you get to hear a voice from 'the control tower' who occaasionally tells you to 'make a left turn.' I don't know who this is, but it sounds an awful lot like Commander Clancy from Deep Fear.

Sound-wise the game isn't half bad: every laser blast, explosion and shifting of machinery sounds pretty effective and undoubtedly matches the action. In particular, the mechanical sounds genuinely heavy as though you can feel the weight being shifted and the sound your ship makes as it descends to Earth is very nice. As far as music goes... that's another matter. Many fans will say hands down the soundtrack is fantastic, but in retrospect, it's really hard to picture why such a positive and almost happy soundtrack was composed for a supposedly desperate and trivial setting. Seriously, it's the post-apocalypse. Humanity lives in space where even there their numbers are dwindling, the Earth is being taken over by a stereotypical yet graphically impressive dystopia of war machines and the soundtrack for this setting is presented by an aircraft carrier worth of bouncy digital genre-mixed songs that make you want to get up and dance!

What the Hell?! I can understand maybe having one hopeful song that sounds a little upbeat for a space setting near the beginning of the game as that implies the opening of a bright future from your efforts, but the entire time, you're accosted with this electronic dance/jazz music that makes you think you're playing a less heroic version of Mega Man. To be honest, there are some songs that sound nice enough to listen to every once and awhile, but that still outnumbers what few songs fit moments in the game, particularly the first four boss fights and the near final boss that actually implements heavy and dramatic tones. Everything else just consists of an annoying, positive and upbeat soundtrack that just doesn't fit, nor does it raise any real empathy for the player to experience the harshness of the game's setting. What's worse is the simple fact that the game is so hard you continually get your butt handed back to you on a silver plate, the LAST thing you want to hear is a montage of classy upbeat electronica! That's like purposefully mocking player's ability to perform basic motor skills; people with a short temper should NOT play this game.

All in all, Galactic Attack/Layer Section/RayForce is a hard game to love; if you're driven to find a game with a challenge of near-impossible proportions (or a video game masochist), then by all means dig right in, just be warned that between its mixed themes of happy dance music, sucky story, fantastic graphics and sound you may find yourself on a similar love it or hate it basis. If anything Taito could've worked a little on their 'weapon innovation' and added some extra replayability to it say by zapping random objects in the background before they disappear, hidden extra points to allow you to reach an extend faster, but it is what it is, love it or leave it (in my case, the latter).