I’m waving goodbye to my 20′s and to celebrate I’m counting down 30 games from the last 30 years. Join me while I countdown 30 great years of game memories.
It was the mid nineties and the arcade scene was still thriving world wide. New arcade games were bursting onto the scene seemingly daily as kids would basically climb over one another to sample the new hotness at their local. Arcades were hives of activity – socialising, taunting and screaming – with crowds of people from all walks of life crowded around the more popular machines. It was a time dominated by fighting games and racing games and edging toward the end of the decade some of the genres that had populated the corners of an arcade started to fall away in popularity. The scrolling shooter was one such casualty and as they waned in popularity so too did their presence in arcades.
The newer 3D capable consoles proved a safe haven for these relics though and developers started moving their efforts to developing for home audiences. For people that grew up in arcades it was a bitter-sweet moment because while it was great to stop dropping dollar coins to play games, gone was the atmosphere and palpable grittiness of the arcades that couch play could never replicate. Even if the games were still great.
One such game was Taito’s RayStorm. Originally released as an arcade game in Japan in 1996, this vertically scrolling shooter made its way to the Playstation late the following year. I received RayStorm as a christmas gift from a thoughtful grandparent who had taken the time to ask the salesperson what game to buy for a teenage boy. Upon spotting ‘90% Hyper Approval’ sticker the uninformed young man picked it up and handed it to my unassuming elder. “This has spaceships shooting stuff” he said as finalised the sale. He doesn’t know it but his nonchalance 16 years ago led to me being introduced to the person writing this today.
When I first booted the game I knew I was in for something special and I absolutely fell in love with it the moment I took control of my ship and flew from Albion to Old Gaul City destroying any enemies in my path. The electronic music accompanying the action was a suitable throwback to its forebears and the environments were stunningly beautiful contrasts to the war at hand. Watching the impeccably designed ships, the R-Grays, fly over glistening water, through crumbling cities at war and over planets was breathtaking, with the excellent transition camera work perfectly framing your ship’s movement in and out of new areas and into boss encounters. It was more than just a game, it was proof that old game ideas could be updated to fit new sensibilities. Arcades may have been dying a slow and painful death but the experiences that characterised them, and my childhood, lived on. Loading up targets and watching as lightning bolt snaked itself around the screen destroying everything in its path was not a stretch from what I’d experienced over a decade before with its ancestors but it was still as fun and exciting as it had been then. RayStorm for me wasn’t just a game it was an ethos that would frame my approach to appreciating video games for years to come.
Have a favourite game from 1997? Tell us in the comments below. Don’t forget to come back soon for the next game in our countdown. Miss a year? Catch up below.