As a Sega Saturn enthusiast, Layer Section is something I’d known about for a while. Even as someone who isn’t a huge fan of the genre, the game has a reputation for being both influential and impressive. Many even say that it’s one of the best shmups that the console has to offer – and the Saturn is famous for having a lot of great titles in that genre.
Me though? I’ve never played it. It has been tempting, but the genre made is at the back of my priority list. Now that we have a Switch release, however, it is shooting up to the front. Considering my ‘picky’ taste with shmups, will it be something I’ll enjoy, or is the game a waste of money?
Let’s find out.
Right off the bat, I think it’s wise to address something here for those who are not in the know. This game is essentially the home console version of RayForce, which released back in the arcades in 1994. Due to trademarking issues, it was renamed for the home port as Layer Section in Japan, and Galactic Attack in the west. As such, despite the name and how the game is presented, this is not a collection of two titles; the individually selectable Layer Section and Galactic Attack are in fact the exact same game. Aside from the title screen, I was unable to find any other differences. It is a little misleading, as I expect most people will probably assume there are two titles in the collection when there is in fact just one single game two times.
There isn’t much of a plot to Layer Section either – at least, not one that is presented either in game or in the manual. It’s set in the future and appears to be a fight against sentient AI that seems intent on wiping out humanity, but little more beyond that. That being said, as an arcade shooter, there’s very little you actually need to give you an excuse to shoot stuff.
LAYERS UPON LAYERS
Layer Section (which I’ll be referring to the game as henceforth) was quite revolutionary for the time. Shooters were quite popular, sure, but this took things to another level – literally! In addition to your primary attack, your ship has access to homing laser that can be used to target and hit enemies on a lower plane to yourself. There’s a red reticle in front of your ship, which you need to use to lock on to targets at a very specific range. It’s very easy to lock on and is pretty satisfying as you unleash a barrel of lasers upon your foes. Bear in mind that they can shoot up towards you too, so you need to stay vigilant.
Aside from the two planes of combat, the rest of the game plays out as you’d expect for a vertical shooter. Enemies come at you thick and fast, and occasionally you’ll be granted various upgrades that can power up your ship. As default, dying will result in you losing all your power ups, but that can be altered if you wish (more on that later). There’s a nice variety of enemy ships and bosses with relatively fun attack patterns for you to avoid. There’s very rarely any bullet hell, but things can get pretty hectic at times. Enemy design is also pretty good too with both enemy crafts and scenery being quite impressive to look at. Whilst the visuals haven’t been altered for this remaster, the original graphics still look pretty good and I’m glad they retained it.
The main additions to this package are twofold: first of all, there’s the enhanced soundtrack and online leaderboards, which are nice inclusions for veterans of the genre; the main thing for me, however, is the inclusion of accessibility options. You can increase the number of continues, enhance the rapid fire function, and even disable the loss of power ups upon death! If that wasn’t enough, the game even has a button that slows the action down to help you avoid attacks. Whilst the default button isn’t ideal, I found that remapping it to the left trigger allowed me to activate it easily in a pinch. I used it during the boss fights to help spot their attacks and dodge them accordingly. Purists may turn their nose up at this option, but it’s a great learning tool for novices and made me enjoy the game more. It’s far more satisfying to beat a boss with the gameplay speed reduced than to beat it simply by brute force. There’s also the ability to rewind, but I found it a superfluous. It’s there for those that prefer it though. There are other options too for you to play about with, but these additions seem very clearly aimed at people who aren’t as confident with the genre.
Layer Section & Galactic Attack S-Tribute is a classic shooter fantastically presented. With remastered music and a variety of accessibility options, it’s something that all skill levels can enjoy. The title may be a little bit misleading, and a tad on the expensive side, but fans of the genre should lap this one right up!