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Night Raid
  opened by paleface at 19:10:21 08/31/03  
  last modified by paleface at 21:45:29 02/21/05  
  paleface [sys=PS1; cat=Shooter_Vert; loc=JPN]
No it's not a pornographic movie, it's the latest shooter from Takumi, creators of Mars Matrix. I don't know how this looked in the arcade but the first thing you'll notice is that the ships are super blocky and mostly kind of bulbous, like big faceted low-poly balloons. Once you get over that, though, you'll notice the wizard shooting fx, the crazy churning 3D colorful backgrounds and, most of all, how the game runs at an incredibly smooth pace with a huge amount of activity filling the screen.
The only way you could not consider this a brilliant port is by comparing its relatively average menus with the massive amount of unlockable modes and features found in their Mars Matrix DC port: all you've got here is Arcade mode and Score Attack mode (in which you can play individual stages you've reached in Arcade mode, and the game tracks your score for just that one stage).
Gameplay again brings instant comparisons to MM as you have once again the wide-screen (non-tate) vertical movement, a single power-upgradable weapon, and the collecting of downward-drifting golden cubes from exploded enemies. Since the playfield floats above the aforementioned churning 3D backgrounds you won't have to worry about ground-based foes as you did in MM but the game makes up for this with an abundance of flying foes. Your rapidly-firing gun destroys enemies right smartly even at the default power level, and after collecting two or three orange power cubes becomes a screen-filling spray of hot laser action. You will find the first stage pretty easy with this big gun, not to mention your chain-grapple attack that sends your ship smashing into enemies for death combos (as in MM touching an enemy ship doesn't phase your ship in the slightest) and your standard uber-powerful but limited explosive bombs. In fact you might even get through the first couple of stages on your first credit and be left rather underwhelmed.
But then if you are the observant type you may notice that your score is less than one percent of the score required to register on the very bottom rung of the high score table--in fact your score is probably negative! *waits for chins to be picked up* Okay, now you want to know how such a thing could happen, how the normal laws of the shooter universe could be flouted so blatantly. Well, remember those gold cubes that came showering down after you sprayed your lasers around at the bad guys and they went boom? Remember how they fell so thick and fast that you could only get some of them, and the others just plummeted off the bottom of the screen? Did you notice, then, how when you picked up a cube a little red upward-pointing arrow appeared briefly above your ship, while a cube plummeting off the bottom of the screen left a little blue downward-pointing arrow in its wake? And did you notice the fluctuating up-red or down-blue meter on the left side of the screen? Then you may have noticed that when you picked up a cube the meter went up a little, and when a cube fell off the screen, the meter went down a little, and when left to itself, the meter gradually settled to the middle (0).
What does this signify? Well, similar to the cube-score-bonus chaining in MM, a high red meter indicates a positive score multiplier, and a low blue one indicates a negative score multiplier: kill a ship when the meter is red, or "hot," and you get a big score; kill the same ship when the meter is low, or "cold," and you get a big score loss. So to get a high score you have to be constantly picking up cubes to keep the meter high, but making sure not to let any, or at least very few, slip by you off the screen. Incredibly, this might mean that for the good of your score you may not always want to kill every opponent immediately. Oho! But you'll try this and find that even though you picked up a lot of cubes and lost few, you still didn't get a very large score, and besides which it's really tough to pick up cubes constantly with all the bullets whizzing around the screen.
What to do? Here's where the grapple thingy comes in: you want to grapple as frequently as possible (it recharges every four seconds or so). Why? Well, for one thing, similar to MM's "mosquito" ability, you're invulnerable while grappling (you can also corkscrew your ship to the side by holding to one side, then reversing direction, and you pass harmlessly under/over bullets this way, but it is hard to rely upon), but more importantly, if you twirl the directional stick like a fiend while grappling, and make sure to start the grapple attack only when there are at least three or four baddies on-screen, you'll ricochet off all of them in turn (and maybe repeatedly, if they're big tough guys), destroying them with no risk to yourself, racking up yet another score multiplying meter, and probably picking up most of the falling cubes as your ship shoots back and forth between targets. So: shoot a few foes, snap up all the cubes, then once you have a good-sized positive score meter, grapple the first guy in the next wave, twirl the stick like crazy and you should come out with a pretty good chunk of points--just don't grapple with a cold meter or you'll lose those points just as quickly.
But maybe... you want to. !! That's right, you can also play for a large negative score, and the game keeps these on a separate score table. Believe it or not, getting a good negative score is a lot tougher, because not only do you have to create and avoid tons of falling cubes, you also have to be very careful with the grapple as it tends to shove your ship right into showers of cubes. The whole negative score idea is brilliant and lets you play the same game in a completely different way.
You can do this in Score Attack mode as well, and also in Score Attack mode you can go for getting the score closest to zero, which seems to me to be the easiest one of all since all you have to do is avoid shooting anyone, at least when your meter is away from the middle: I was able to slip through stage one without firing a shot, then killed the boss with a neutral meter, and got a perfect "0" score, but I'd done this in Arcade mode rather than Score Attack mode, silly me. It's probably harder in later stages though as they start to throw a lot more bullet-shootin' guys at you.
In short: fantastically smooth movement, colorful graphics and an immensely unique and challenging scoring system make Night Raid a fascinating title for shooter fans who like to play for score.
  paleface 21:39:23 02/21/05
Download added: boss.gif (104355 bytes)
  "The bosses are all rather large, blocky and sort of hard to describe."
Did I mention that this game is insane? Oh, right. Well, it is.
· Mars Matrix (DC)

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