DEVELOPER: Nihon Bussan
RELEASE DATE: 02/08/91 – (JP)
Ray-Thunder‘s a pioneer, of sorts. It’s a legitimate first-person shooter for the Game Boy, a full ten months before Faceball 2000. Ray-Thunder is also slow, clunky, and awkward, a virtual manifestation of a growing pain. But hey! It’s a first-person shooter on Game Boy in 1991! The genre hadn’t taken off yet, so to see any FPS on a primitive handheld – pre-Doom, pre-Wolfenstein-3D – is fascinating.
Ray-Thunder gives itself a hearty thumbs-up!
The game starts with you choosing from one of three space crafts, each with different speed and power distributions. You and your craft are then launched into a maze where you must destroy all enemies and collect any parts. Do this, and your reward is a new maze, with more enemies to kill and more parts to collect. Complete twenty-one mazes in a row, and the game is over. You thundered all the ray.
As exciting as it gets.
Because you’re in a cramped, claustrophobic maze and this is the Game Boy, it’s difficult to tell where the enemies and parts are located. Press ‘Select’ to bring up the maze screen, and a fraction of the map will be displayed on screen. The map is everything, which makes the ‘Select’ button your only friend here in Ray-Thunder. Without it, navigating the cold, lonely mazes would be that much more tiresome.
Oh wait. This is exciting as it gets.
I can’t believe Ray-Thunder exists. It’s competent! That’s right, competent. You can play Ray-Thunder. You can beat it even. It functions. Just don’t get your hopes up. There’s no speed to speak of here. No power-ups, no additional weapons, no level variety. Yes, each of the mazes have different layouts, but you’re still looking at the same black-and-green floors, walls, and ceilings. The enemy design changes, depending on the maze; robots, fire-spewing plants, turrets, and many others all make an appearance. That said, varied enemies are as colorful as Ray-Thunder gets. Competent? Sure. A pioneer? Absolutely. Boring as hell? No question.