|Rayxanber II||PC Engine|
|Review by Larry Anderson||Data West||Shooter|
|Graphics: 7||Sound: 6||Gameplay: 3||Overall: 4|
When I think of impossible games, I usually think of games that make me beat my head against the desk after I turn it off (some of the titles reviewed in this issue definitely qualify, others don't deserve the page space needed to review them!).... While Rayxanber II doesn't evoke quite that level of emotion, it did put me dangerously close to throwing my beloved PC-Engine across the room in frustration. This game was Data West's first PC-Engine effort; a follow-up to a relatively unknown shooter (Rayxanber) on the MSX platform from some years before.
After a brief introductory screen, you're thrown right into the action... your small, somewhat slow moving craft against a fleet of larger, faster moving enemies who can come at you from pretty much any direction. The enemies are your standard deep-space fare; ranging from ships that split into five separate pieces to half-height robots with arms that extend in your general direction to crush you. If you manager to get through the first assault of ships (which took me several tries), you reach the first level boss, which is very reminiscent of the second level boss from R-Type. Defeating this boss was extremely easy, in sharp contrast to the action leading up to that scene. I would love to comment on the remainder of the game, but I couldn't get past the second level! As you could guess, the difficulty goes up astronomically from here.
There are a few (very few!) points in the game's favor, however. You can get some power-ups by shooting small supply ships that drift onscreen occasionally; the blue variety will give you additional lasers that cover a decent portion of the play area, and the red power-up will give you a slow-travelling fireball that can inflict a fair amount of damage on the larger opponents. When the power-ups appear , there is a rotating bar to indicate which direction that the new weapon will fire (right for straight ahead, left for behind your ship, and up/down for above & below) Depending on the level, choice of direction is important, as there could be ships appearing from behind, above, below, etc. I would suggest staying away from the red power-ups, as most of the enemies move too quickly to make this weapon effective. By pressing the I button and moving the d-pad, you can obtain a quick burst of super-thrust that could possibly get you out of a sticky situation. There is a temperature gauge at the bottom of the screen that fills as you use the thrusters; too much thrust and you need to let things cool down before using them again.
In all other departments, this game is on-par with most other PC-Engine titles of the time... The style reminds me somewhat of games like Aero Blasters and Dead Moon (side scrolling shooters). It completely takes advantage of the advanced graphics capabilities of the PC-Engine (there are several layers of parallax scrolling), but the amount of window dressing used tends to be more of a distraction than anything else. Scenery objects passing in front of your ship tend to obscure your view at key moments, usually right before you need to avoid the bullet headed right for you... The soundtrack is full CD-Audio, and is somewhat catchy but not by any means a blockbuster.
As if one game wasn't enough, Data West was kind enough to produce a sequel to this title (Rayxanber III, Super CD-ROM); while not as hard, I can't think of anyone who would take a chance on it after spending any time with this first installment.
All in all, Rayxanber II is another great example of a game that looks really pretty, sounds kinda cool, but just isn't any fun to play. Even as the dedicated shooter fanatic that I am, I couldn't recommend this title to anyone unless a) you just had to have every PC-Engine shooter ever produced, or b) you have a tendency towards self-inflicted pain.
If you fall into category b), then this game definitely has your name on it. Enjoy!
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