RayForce by TAITO Corporation icon

RayForce ($11.99) by TAITO Corporation is the port of an arcade shooting classic.

I love bullet hell shoot ’em ups (shmups) as much as the next person, but I never had the opportunity to play RayForce back in the day. So once I saw that it was available on iOS, I decided to give it a try.

The game itself is a direct port of the original, not a remake. This means that the graphics remain the same as they did almost 20 years ago. While I understand that it’s a port, it would have been nice if they could have updated the graphics. There are two display options – Zoom and Original.

Zoom will make use of the entire screen, though the graphics become a bit fuzzy in the process (at least on my iPhone 4S). Original will show the game in the original pixels, though in a much smaller space on the screen. However, the Original display may be better, because you can control your ship by swiping in the empty area below the game, and not have your fingers in the way.

RayForce by TAITO Corporation screenshot

The game includes the original RayForce soundtrack and sound effects, so if you’ve played the game before, then it should be nostalgic to you.

There are two game modes – iPhone and Arcade. According to the description in the App Store, the iPhone mode is an optimized experience for the iPhone, while Arcade is a touchscreen recreation of the original game. I did not notice much difference between these two modes, besides the fact that Arcade goes through several screens before reaching the title screen, where you “insert a credit” to start a game.

The controls are pretty much the same for both modes, where you move your ship by swiping on the screen. Before starting a game, you can choose between Auto or Manual mode for shooting. Auto will automatically fire the standard weapon and lock-on laser, so that the game can be played with one hand. Manual mode will have buttons on the screen to fire the standard weapon and lock-on laser. Though you can just tap Shot once to keep it firing, you will have to keep pressing the Laser button after you’ve locked on targets to fire the laser. Personally, I preferred Auto shooting controls – it made a frustrating game less frustrating.

If you haven’t played RayForce before, you may be asking, “What lock-on laser?” Unlike other shmups I’ve played, the ship in RayForce isn’t armed with just a standard weapon and a bomb that can nuke everything on the screen. A set distance in front of the ship is a crosshair – once certain enemies (basically ones that are in the background) are caught in this crosshair, your ship will automatically fire a laser directly at them.

While the lock-on laser is fun and certainly useful, it can be a bit tricky to use. This is especially when you have to keep an eye on stray bullets around you while making sure that enemies get caught in the crosshair. It’s also much easier to use when you have the controls set to Auto rather than Manual, mind you.

RayForce by TAITO Corporation screenshot

The game also comes with Game Center integration for leaderboards and achievements. Although, it would be nice to see the leaderboards in English, because all I see in Game Center is Japanese.

Despite all of this, I still had a bit of difficulty with Taito’s controls in RayForce. Sometimes movements in the graphics felt a bit jerky, and as a result, I would die. When it comes to bullet hell shmups on iOS, I still believe that Cave does it right. Perhaps Taito should take a page out of Cave’s book of shmups, because the controls in RayForce were just too frustrating for me.

RayForce may have been a classic back then, but it certainly isn’t going to be a classic shmup for iOS in its current state. Controls need to be tweaked and graphics need updating. Also, $12 is just too much for this; you can pick up at least two of Cave’s titles (Dodonpachi Resurrection, ESPGALUDA II, and Mushihimesama BUG PANIC are great examples) for that same amount of dough, which are currently better buys.