Review: Night Raid

July 2, 2003 11:34 PM PST

From the makers of the Reflect Force comes.... The Hug Launcher?

Yes, you read that correctly... "Hug Launcher". I'm not quite sure if Takumi really chose the best term for their new weapon system (it sounds like something the Care Bears would use), but at least itís a shift from the "toss-it-all-back" play mechanic that they've used up until now.

Unlike the reflect-a-thons of Takumi's past efforts, Night Raid employs a unique twist on the "sub-weapon that makes you invincible" system. The Hug Launcher must be shot at an enemy and only if it hits something do you become invincible: i.e., you can't use it as a last-ditch escape from pastel maelstrom death, you have to plan itís use deliberately. And the Hug Launcher does not have a specified time over which it is effective. By repeatedly tapping the X-Button once you've released the attack, you can begin to build a combo, so long as there are enemies on the screen (you can get even higher combos by directing the Hug Launcher with the control pad as you tap X), at this point, your ship is invulnerable, so keep your eye on where the Hug Launcher is going.

The most peculiar scoring system ever...

Night Raid has a triptych scoreboard: the first is your standard high-score (which being a Takumi shmup features no fewer than 9 digits), the second is a record negative score (same number of digits, just below zero), and the third is a mediocre score (what the game refers to as a "Near-Zero" score).

Unlike the rest of the genre (save for one or two exceptions), Night Raid's scoring depends on you constantly picking up the dropped bonus items... or letting them go. On the left side of the screen is the Score Thermometer. Each time you kill one of the game's many abstract miscreants, any number of small bonus items will fall from the location of their death. Picking these up raises the thermometer, thus giving you a positive score multiplier. Allowing these items to leave the screen will cause the thermometer to drop, which will result in a negative multiplier once it passes zero. At any given time, the thermometer will gradually ascend or decline to reach zero.

The result is something of a mixed bag. Because if you start to ignore the bonus tetrahedrons in favor of say.. living... your score-multiplier will quickly decrease. Should it drop too low, you actually start to get penalized and your score will begin to decrease as well. Now, I understand that the concept is to only kill what you can safely kill in order to collect the items, as well as utilize the Hug-Launcher (if you're going for a high score), but it becomes rather frustrating in a bullet-hell environment. But, I will give them credit for using a fairly original idea.

As with so many Takumi shmups, you can power-up your ship three times. Although the damage levels don't change that drastically. About the only major change is that you obtain spread fire once meeting your max. You also have the standard, yet infamous screen-clearing bomb, that staple of shmups everywhere. As with the Giga Wing series, the bombs are a tad superfluous. What's the point when you can actively become invulnerable as part of your standard weaponry?

Why the PSX?

Graphically, this game is exceedingly bare-bones and downright abstract. The enemies are comprised generally of basic, low-polygon models and are normally nothing more than textured geometric shapes. The backgrounds are even stranger, comprised of equally generic polyhedrons spinning and swirling in a very surrealistic manner. Granted, they get the job done and give a fairly good sense of motion, although, this is no Zero Gunner 2/Giga Wing 2/Ikaruga. In fact, it still strikes me as odd that Takumi, after releasing three Dreamcast shmups, decided to port this game to the PSX.

I suppose they kept everything low-key to allow the PSX to easily handle all of the laser-fire, seeing as this game fits easily into the bullet-hell category. One thing that does irk me though is that both of the intros (the arcade intro and a new rendered home intro) are both FMV when its obvious that the original arcade intro was real-time (and honestly, this is nothing that the PSX couldn't handle).

Another strike against the game comes in the removal of the arcade version's 2-player option. I guess having another ship on-screen was slowing things down too much so they removed it altogether.

Perplexing audio indeed...

The soundtrack is just as bizarre as the game's visuals. It comes off as a world- music/techno/hard rock mix.. which is just weird... especially as the game loves to throw these themes around with no rhyme or reason (one stage may have a tension building beat while the next will be downright depressing). As for the sound effects, well the explosions and shot noises are nothing new but the power-up and Hug Launcher release samples are. They sound like something that a DJ keeps in cue for the next rap single. Without a doubt, the game's audio certainly does parallel its off-beat imagery.

Hey! Stop moving!

One major gripe I have with this game is the play-control. Your ship has a tendency to keep moving for a centimeter or so after you've released the d-pad giving the game a very floaty feel. This is inexcusable in a bullet-hell shmup. Too often it feels like I'm wrestling with the control, and when I've got a torrent of razor thin bullets being tossed at me, the last thing I want is inaccurate control. Thankfully, there aren't any issues with the three attack buttons, so liberal use of the Hug Launcher can somewhat balance out the play-control.

Takumi's first self-published title.

While it may sound like I don't appreciate the game, let me clarify that I'm happy that Takumi decided to port the game. I just wish it had been to something other than the seriously aging PSX. Not to mention I don't understand why they chose to release the game in such small numbers. As a result, Night Raid can be something of a pain to locate, which it shouldn't. When every aspect of a game screams "budget releaseĒ, this is somewhat unacceptable, even for a self-published title.

When it comes down to it, this is a fair game, but I think the time developing this would have been better spent creating Mars Matrix 2 or Giga Wing 3.

Charles Mugg is in the fifth circle of bullet hell.












Scoring System







Release Date
July 25, 2002