Battle Bakraid
by sunburstbasser



Battle Bakraid is a vertical shmup which may have a story involving blowing stuff up. There is no narrative to indicate this, but I do know the premise!

The powerful capitalist nation of Randa holds a demonstration every year of it's newest aircraft. This event is called the Bakraid and is intended to showcase the advanced capabilities of Randa's airplanes. However, shortly before the 7th Bakraid the nation is attacked by the nation of Dameb. Randa offers 9 pilots a huge sum of money to prove they have the superior plane, and the Battle Bakraid begins!

These asinine stories are why shmups should just have one sentence max. "Blast off and strike the evil Bydo Empire!" That one sentence is all you really need to know to enjoy a shmup. Unlike the story, Battle Bakraid's gameplay is thankfully quite nice.

By 1999, Raizing was one of the premier developers of arcade shmups. Battle Bakraid is a spiritual successor to Battle Garegga and Armed Police Batrider, along with some new features. The general style of Battle Garegga is still present, mixed with some of Batrider's attributes like the tickle laser and loads of secrets. It also adds a few mechanics more in line with Cave shooters.

Controls are identical to those from Garegga. Button A shoots, buttton B bombs, and button C switches between option formations. Let go of the A button, and your fighter will build energy in front of it like Batrider, colloquially called the tickle laser. When it reaches full power after about two seconds, press A to release a barrage of fully-powered shots regardless of your shot level along with a side attack. The side attack is an extra attack that is fired along with your normal shot. All fighters use the same bomb, a standard giant explosion.

Powerups are plentiful. The small shot powerups from the earlier titles are gone, though small bomb icons are still present. Shot powerups increase main shot power by one level. Side shot powerups increase your secondary attack by one level. Options add one option to your total, now up to six! Unlike Garegga, extends are dropped as large pink circles and you actually have to catch them even after earning them.

If you've read my piece on Battle Garegga, you should understand that to properly play Garegga, controlling rank is as important as shooting. Bakraid has a rank system based on Garegga's, though somewhat easier to understand and get past. The rank always starts at the same value, so no need to re-boot the game or let the attract screen run for a while to get it back down. The rank increases per frame even when nothing is happening, while collecting extends or excessive powerups pushes it higher. The primary method to reduce rank is still death, however bullet scratching also has a mild effect. The hitbox is reduced like Garegga, in this case the gray cockpit on any fighter is the hitbox. If a bullet touches any other part of the sprite, it will scratch along with a sound effect. It'll also give a few points. Several enemies fire streams of straight fire. Scratch the whole stream and it can help slow rank, though in my playing I've never managed to get more than mild effect out of this method.

When the game is initially started, you'll have a choice of 4 airplanes. Sadly, none of them are returning craft from previous Raizing games though some attacks and planes will look familiar. Let's take a look at them.

SKY DRAGON


The Sky Dragon looks a little like a beefed up Silver Sword from Garegga. Seems to be a similar idea, as it has moderate speed and firepower and neither excels nor lacks in any key area. The shot is a straight shot, the side shot is an extremely wide shot that covers the majority of the screen which does good damage when point-blanking. The powered shot is effectively identical to a fully powered side shot, but can be done without having any powerups at all.


SABER TIGER


Continuing with Garegga nods, the Saber Tiger looks a little like the Grasshopper, but with massively enlarged up engines. Another straight shot, but this one gets a flurry of homing missiles. They don't do a ton of damage but with just one power up you'll get several at a time. The powered shot drops a crap load of homing missiles fast.


LIGHTNING WOLF


The Lightning Wolf doesn't look a whole lot like any Garegga plane, maybe a cross between Grasshopper and Wild Snail. It does reference Mahou Daisakusen though. It has a typical straight shot, but the lightning side shot is nearly identical to Chitta's from Mahou. The powered shot drops four disposable options which each fire off a big bolt of electricity, and once fired they stay put. Handy if you know what's coming and need to get out of the way.


HAMMER SHARK


The Flying Baron was a seaplane, the Hammer Shark is a biplane. While it seems a little weak, the Hammer Shark is very fast and can get around bullet spreads better than some slower craft. The standard shot goes forward. The side shot is a pair of wingtip lasers. Hold A, and they'll lock in place. Tap A and move, and they will aim in a different direction. Somewhat hard to make work in practice. The powered shot creates four disposable options which rotate around the Hammer Shark and fire in a roughly 40 degree angle and pierce enemies. This is actually a lot more useful than the standard lasers.


But wait, there's more! After inserting a credit (either an actual cabinet or hitting the button in MAME), plug in the Konami code. Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, A, B, Start. You'll get three more fighters to choose from.


FLAME VIPER


The Flame Viper has an interesting forward swept wing and looks a bit like a piston engined X-29. This is a very slow aircraft, and the main shot doesn't seem very powerful either. To compensate, the side shot is a flamethrower just like Chitta's, which circles around to hit enemies and does big damage. The powered up shot drops four disposable options, two to each side. It looks a little like Lightning Wolf's setup, but these follow your movements. They fire a stream of fire that does great damage. My personal high scores have been with the Flame Viper.


STEEL BAT


The Steel Bat is all about coverage. The standard shot fires forward and to each side with no powerups at all. The side shot is a stream of round projectiles which can lock onto an enemy. Pity the craft is still rather slow. The powered shot fires several streams of the side shot in a wide spread.


SOLID RAY


The Solid Ray also has a nice spread shot, similar to the Steel Bat. The side shot is a group of straight missiles which do a lot of damage. Still a slow craft, seems to be the theme of the middle row. The powered shot fires a bunch of those straight missiles and is very deadly. Too bad the Solid Ray is so damned Ugly, it might be pretty nice otherwise.


And that's not all! Once the middle row is activated, insert a credit and press Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start and you'll unlock two more fighters!

BUSTER LIZARD


A generic rear-winged space fighter. Pretty good choice, though. Another fast airplane, able to get around spreads instead of having to navigate through them. The standard shot gets a little bit of spread when powered up. The side shot is a pair of homing lasers. Rather than curving or bending at right angles, they bend at much shallower angles multiple times. Pretty cool looking, but after the Toothpaste Laser not all that visually exciting. The powered shot fires a whole bunch of these lasers.


BLADE OWL


The Blade Owl is a better looking round airplane than the Solid Ray. That little silver thing in front is supposed to be a cutting tool of some type. This one doesn't seem quite as fast as the Buster Lizard. It has the same shot type that gets a little spread at high power. The spread shot is a wave cannon like DoDonPachi's Type C. At full power, it covers most of the screen and pierces, a deadly combination.


In addition, the button used to select your fighter will change it's type and give a palette swap, like Battle Garegga. Here, button A emphasizes the Shot, button B emphasizes the Bomb, button C emphasizes the side shot, and the Start button gives a speed boost.

Graphically, Bakraid seems to be an attempt by Raizing to make a Cave game. Many of the enemies have bright color choices instead of the dull ones used in Garegga, and bullets are all big, bright, and easy to spot. You'll know what killed you in this game. Bosses are pretty much all big airplanes, though with a lot more variation than the Raiden Fighters games. At one point, you'll fight a flying contraption with no wings, but with metal tentacle arms. Backgrounds are a bit flat, well drawn but besides ground enemies not a whole lot going on and I don't find nearly as many things to bomb as in Battle Garegga.

The music is overall very good. The primary composer for Battle Bakraid was Tatsuya Uemura. This is the only Raizing game Uemura composed for, though he had previously worked on numerous Toaplan titles. The music is generally pretty straight forward rock. He mixes guitars with synth instruments to give a little more texture. The style is unique for Raizing. The quality is not quite as high as Namiki's Garegga or Sakimoto's Souky. Each song's title is displayed when at the boss fight or the start of the level, so if you really like one or two (I like Sky Gunner) it won't be hard to find the mp3. Sound effects are typical Raizing, and most sound like they were recycled from Garegga and Batrider.

Bakraid has a pretty complex scoring system. The medal system returns from Battle Garegga unaltered. Collect all medals on screen, and the value will rise for the next ones. Miss all the medals, and the value resets to 100 points. Destroy enemies with shot/options/side shot instead of bombing or tickle laser to get more points.

The much more complex and important mechanic is enemy chaining. Destroy a large enemy, and a 90 frame counter will count down. If you don't know what frames are, they are a length of time equal to 1/60 of a second. There's more, but it isn't important now. Once you get the chain going, you'll have 120 frames. Killing seven big enemies quickly yields a x64 multiplier which works on all destroyed enemies. Every 2 million points, an extend is dropped. This system can be abused, to the point that one superplay has more than 50 deaths on a single credit. I'm personally unconvinced that Raizing really intended for players to suicide and extend chains to that extent. In addition, if you have a x64 multiplier and medals are at the 10K value, they will now be worth 100K while the multiplier is active. This system is hard to get the hang of, and I'm personally only able to do it in a few sections with any really consistency.



The first stage is the Forest stage. This short level doesn't really have any threats, and is a good place to learn the mechanics. It is possible to get a score multiplier going on the gunships and helicopter, but save your bombs for the boss. The entire stage only takes about 40 seconds.

The boss, Axbeak, is where I consider the real game to begin. Axbeak follows in traditional Raizing style, having tons of destructible pieces. In addition, the tickle laser can be used to get a few points on the wings. What the general tactic seems to be is to damage all six missile launchers, and the main body. Destroy all of the launchers in quick succession and shoot (not bomb) the body to kill it. Maximum score for this boss fight is in excess of 11 MILLION points, enough for five extends.

The next four levels will be in random order unless you activate Stage Edit via dipswitch. I recommend doing this and using a set order to get a better feel for the stages.



I set Stage 2 to be Naval. Naval is full of big enemies and isn't too hard to get an awesome chain. The level starts with some small turrets and flying enemies. The turrets drop bomb fragments, handy for extending the chain timer. After these, you'll see a few big turrets. Wait for as many to get on screen as possible and start destroying them. Kill them quickly and your chain will be looking good. Behind the cannons are a pair of big cruisers. Each one yields a few multipliers. I've gotten more than 4 million right here. The turrets on the sides here don't give multipliers, but they do drop medals. Towards the end of the stage, you'll encounter a battleship flanked by cranes. If you hold off on killing the battleship for a few moments, the top center turret will be vulnerable. Destroy it to get a full bomb. Smash all the little turrets that you can, and this isn't so hard to accomplish.

The boss is Leviathan. Leviathan starts out as a big sea fortress. The first form has a few turrets and can generate enemy fighters. This section isn't too hard to get past, and those fighters will drop medals and powerups so if you need to build up your chain a bit it can be done here. Once defeated, a big helicopter flies out of the butt of the big ship. This section is somewhat deadlier if you don't know what's coming. The primary attack consists of big circles of pink bullets with lots of gaps and occasional aimed shots, but as Leviathan moves constantly it isn't feasible to sit in one spot. It'll also shoot out destructible missiles. When it stops moving, move to the side because it'll fire a straight stream of bullets that have a bit of spread to them.



For Stage 3, I chose Railroad. Railroad is full of tanks just hanging out on the sides. Killing them can reveal both bomb fragments and medals. This stage has a few multipliers, but seems to be designed more for collecting medals and bombs. Tanks on roads, tanks on the tracks, tanks on trains, all of them dropping delicious bomb fragments. The midboss is another big tank, but isn't too hard.

The boss is called Cyclops and is a huge artillery piece, with a barrel big enough for you to fly through (sadly, you don't do this). On each side Cyclops has little flatbed cars carrying turrets, and it is possible with extreme timing to weaken and destroy these one after the other to build up a score multiplier but I've only seen one replay even attempt this.



For my next stage, I picked Desert. Desert is another solid chaining level, full of big turrets and lots of tank generators to get bombs for extending the chain. Take care when you reach the two big turrets. As soon as their barrels are on screen they shoot at you and the bullets are pretty quick. This stage is also rather short.

The boss is Bahamut. This Bahamut isn't nearly as cool as the one from numerous Final Fantasy games. It's just a big tank. This is a sort of puzzle boss. Each side will release little pods. When destroyed, each one leaves a bomb fragment. And each one acts as a score multiplier. Weaken the boss and get the timing down for these, and it's possible to get a x64 boss kill. The first time I tried it I managed to get up to x16, and it wasn't too hard to do.



For Stage 5, I chose Sea Side. Sea Side doesn't really offer anything new, just more chaining and a few spots that hold several medals each. Almost immediately, you'll be assaulted by an airplane that takes up nearly all of the screen. It has a splash turret as well as aimed bullets from multiple turrets. This thing is harder than some bosses. The giant tank has a few pieces that can build a multiplier, and the houses to the sides count towards the chain and hide medals. Stages 2 through 5 really could be played in any order, as by this point I'm not really noticing much to indicate a specific position for each one.

The boss is Barlog (Balrog?) This one is another flying contraption. The main worry at first is the two guns in front. Once these are dealt with, you'll start getting bullet spreads that have gaps between them, but if you use a slow craft you'll likely have to scrape through one or two spreads. Once this part explodes, don't sit on top of it as another piece will shoot out the back and start firing far more bullets. Bakraid never quite reaches Cave bullet proportions, but you'll need to do a lot of dodging to get through this guy on one credit.



Once those stages are out of the way, Stage 6 will always be Cloud. Cloud is a boss rush stage, with a few enemies at the start to give powerups and medals. I counted five bosses before the real one. Most of these are variations on what Bakraid has thrown before, though the one with tentacle arms is a particular asshole. Those arms will reach out and point blank you with wide spread bullets. One blue boss I encountered had respawning turrets that could be chained.



The true boss is Giga Manta. This guy might look familiar to Ray Force fans as he has the long tail like the Stage 3 boss of that game. This guy is playing for real and while the game has been bearable to this point, here it gets way harder. Giga Manta starts out with two splash turrets, aimed bullets, and aimed spreads and they all layer on top of each other. If you manage to get past that, part blows up and he spreads his wings. Remember Black Heart from Garegga? This seems to be Bakraid's answer. He constantly bounces around (a bit like Glow Squid) and fires 6-way bullets, vertical single bullets, and homing missiles. When he stops, he does the vulcan cannon that Black Heart did except here instead of sweeping it he focuses the streams together. You can survive if you sit as far back as possible right in the middle of two streams. This is a hard-ass boss, and beating it actually ends the Normal course.



But on Advanced course, the next stage is Valley, an industrial stage where it appears the enemy army is being built. You'll notice a few bridges with tanks rolling across them, out of one mountain into another. The midboss is an amusing affair. The scrolling stops, and you'll be forced to destroy a wall full of turrets. The central portion needs to be destroyed, taking out those other turrets will help a lot. Too bad all of the turrets fire long streams of aimed bullets. It is possible to have a wall of bullets on one side and be pushed continuously to the other.



The boss is Golem, a tank or excavation vehicle. Unlike some ground enemies, this guy is very tall and it is possible to run into him. His first form has a pair of arms with flame throwers on the ends, combined with fairly constant aimed bullets. Once the arms are gone, each side starts belting out fast bullet spreads to either side. These don't really pose a lot of danger, but limit your mobility. The central portion has multiple kinds of aimed shots and spreads and also has homing missiles. Beat him down a little further, and he'll start jumping on you while firing some nasty spreads.



The final stage in Advanced course is called Empire. This one looks even more like a factory than Valley. Big turrets sit atop tank spawning stations. Many old enemies return, now with more rank and more smaller supporting enemies. That huge bomber from Sea Side is back, along with the two huge ass turrets from Desert. The level is full of powerups as well, so if you die once you should have no trouble getting back in shape. Blue tanks are fairly common, and each one drops nine bomb fragments when destroyed. Small tanks and enemies also appear in large numbers. The music for this level is pretty awesome, maybe the best in the game.



The boss starts out as a huge blimp object. Every piece destroyed leaves behind a bomb fragment. At the front of the blimp is a turret and some gun pods. If you want, go ahead and bomb this to get most of it out of the way. Once this is destroyed, the game is over. I say the game is over because Vampire flys out the front of the thing and proceeds to throw out enough lead to satisfy all but the most diehard Cave and Touhou fanatics. Bullets are being shot while Vampire moves around, and the number on screen at once can be several hundred and considering how much larger a Raizing hitbox is than a Cave hitbox, this is a tough battle.

Once you've beaten Vampire, you'll be treated to an ending which shows a nice closeup of your airplane.

If this all sounds like too much, you can try Normal course which cuts back the number of bullets slightly. And with Stage Edit, you'll only play the stages you pick. It's possible to play the Forest, then go right to Cloud if you want a short game. And if you don't go for score, Bakraid can be pretty fun played only for survival.

The bland militaria is somewhat better than Raiden Fighters. I think anyone could find something to like about this game. It isn't Battle Garegga 2, but if you like the Raizing style and want to actually see the bullets give Battle Bakraid a whirl.

Overall:







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