by sunburstbasser

Soukyugurentai is a vertical shmup which has a little bit of plot involving blowing stuff up. You'll get just a hint of it before each stage in Japanese.

The push to create a sense of three dimensional depth on a flat screen in video games can be traced back at least as far as Xevious. Xevious had two weapons, one each for ground and airborne enemies. Later on, rail shooters like Space Harrier and numerous racing games added sprite scaling to give the illusion of objects rushing out. Ray Force combined the gameplay of Xevious with Sega's advanced scaling and did an excellent job of creating a 3D world using 2D elements.

Raizing's Soukyugurentai (or Souky, or Terra Diver in US arcades) takes the style of Ray Force and goes even further in creating a 3D world using 2D elements. Enemy vehicles can fly underneath a bridge below you, zoom up and attack while more enemies descend from above. To further reinforce the illusion of depth, the fixed cursor used from as far back as Xevious is replaced with an extremely cool targeting web that extends above and below your ship. Depending on which ship you select, it can also extend in front, to the sides, and behind simultaneously.

Controlling the game is pretty easy. The A button shoots, and the B button bombs. Hold down the A button and after your bullets are fired, your fighter will send out the targeting web. Release A, and any enemy locked on will be attacked. Pressing B on it's own will drop one big bomb. Press it with the web active and no lock-ons, and it'll shoots a bunch of little explosions. Press B with a lock, and those little explosions will be dropped right on your target which is an excellent way to soften up bosses. The C button switches your web. Each fighter has two types.

Raizing developed three distinct fighters and a pilot for each. All have different guns and webs, but the same bomb. The hitbox is fairly small, roughly the fuselage.


The Toryu's guns are the standard wide shot. The El-Dou web projects a hemisphere in front of the fighter and shoots homing lasers. The Pinpoint directs a cone in front and fires fireballs that do awesome damage. The Toryu can have up to 6 lock ons.


The Shiden gets homing missiles as it powers up. It's webs have the largest range. The All Range projects a sphere, with the Shiden at the center. At it's largest, it covers almost all the screen. It fires a cool looking but weak laser blast. The Bou-Ryu is a hemisphere with homing lasers. It seems to have a larger vertical area than the Toryu's hemisphere, but does less damage. The Shiden can have up to 7 lock ons.


The Houga's guns can be swept to the left or right when powered up, based on the ship's movement. The Mu-Sou projects a cone in front that acts exactly like the Toryu's Pinpoint, but with lasers. The Random projects a cone that can be swung around, pointing in the opposite direction of the ship's movement. The Random unleashes fireballs. The maximum locks for the Houga is 8.

No picture. This character and fighter are for the Playstation release only. I don't have access to that version so I'll just focus on those other three.

Note that the Houga has the highest score potential because of it's high lock on limit, but is extremely tricky to use to the full potential. The Shiden's weapons seem weaker than the other two. While it has fewer lock ons at once, I've gotten my best scores with the Toryu.

Raizing absolutely went to town with the 2D capabilities of the Saturn for Souky. While not a particularly powerful 3D machine, the Saturn was made to manipulate sprites and 2D backgrounds. Take a look at the backgrounds of the first level. Buildings are not static boxes, instead the pop up out of the background and you can actually see the sides as if you were looking down from an airplane over a city. Using sprite scaling, enemies can dive down from above or pop up from below, and with the sprite rotation of the Saturn hardware enemies can follow smooth curves and paths. A few blue enemies in the second stage seem to swim across the screen. And if the boss is too big to fit on screen, it just zooms out so you can see everything. Souky has far more depth in the graphics than Brave Blade has using polygons.

Hitoshi Sakimoto provides the music for Souky, and does a great job. The percussion effects are very deep, the bass drums sound excellent. When the bass drum starts in stage one, you can hear the click to it that a metal drummer would use. The melody is provided by piano and various synth sounds. Some of the sounds are electronic sounds rather than synthesized strings or horns. Level two has some very cool swells in both the level and boss fights. I do have one small criticism, and that is that the music doesn't really have the intensity that the game itself does, and just listening to the music you might not realize just how much stuff is actually going on. Explosions and other sounds have a "boom" to them, rather than the crisp crack of Raizing's other shmup from 1996, Battle Garegga.

Scoring is straightforward. Lock on to more enemies, get more points. Each enemy has a base point value, which is what you'll get for killing it with your guns. Lock on to one or two enemies, and it'll be half that value. At three enemies, it'll be equal. Four enemies doubles the score, and each enemy locked on after that adds one to the multiplier. The multiplier applies to ALL enemies killed, not just the last one targeted. Bombs will give 1/4 the score, but better to use a bomb than to eat a bullet. If you manage to collect a bunch of bombs, they start giving points instead of adding to your stock.

It wouldn't be a Raizing game without some form of rank, but in Souky it's very easy to control rank. The more powerful your main gun is, the higher the rank gets. Since your web can hit enemies in front of you and is needed for scoring anyway, simply ignore all the powerups. Grabbing bombs does nothing to rank. If you shoot down every enemy in a level, you'll get a rank increase as well but even letting one go will prevent that.

The first level is a fight over a city. Even at this early stage, the Saturn's powers are on full display. The first enemies come up from behind you, and are mostly there for bait. Beneath you, you can see hover tanks flying through the city, ducking behind buildings before climbing to attack you. Towards the end of the stage you'll confront a pair of carriers that spit out hover tanks. You can milk these guys for good points. It is fairly easy to get to the boss fight with more than 1.5 million points.

Each boss is introduced with a little green box in the corner and a list of all the weapons they have. In this case, it's a stealth bomber. Raizing really love their stealth bombers, didn't they? It swoops down and annihilates the airliners underneath you, before the fight begins. The first step is to take out the six cannons. It then unfolds it's wings and starts spraying bullets. This pattern is a combination of aimed bullets and unaimed spreads, so try moving from one side of the boss and around to the other to keep the gaps wide. When it stops, five missile launchers on each wing open up. Using the Toryu, you can take out one wing before it finishes firing. Look out for the machine gun, which fires a straight burst of bullets. They aren't hard to dodge but they come fast. This boss isn't too hard and is a great place to learn your web system or farm bombs.

Stage 2 starts out with your fighter being launched out of some kind of tube, either at extreme altitude or low Earth orbit. This stage is full of enemies that swirl about and move in strange, organic patterns. Early on, you'll encounter a big green gun ship. It can be used to get a bunch of points, as it has lots of lock ons and smaller enemies will be flying around as well. This stage still isn't too hard until the last stretch. This last part is a flight down a huge flying ship, with gun turrets on each side, mechs, and flying enemies all at once. This is where the game really starts to pick up in difficulty, but it is still fully playable.
,br/> The boss this time appears to be the offspring of an attack satellite and a can of soup. Lots of gun ports on this one, and a cylindrical body. The two spinning turrets on either side are your first priority. If the portion you lock on to moves, you lose the target but you can kill them with guns if needed. Once they both go down, the central body will send out some rotating gun pods, but the pattern is easy to see and dodge. For extra points, shoot the wire wings on either side with your guns. This boss can pump out some dense bullet patterns, but it's still fairly slow and as you take it down the number of bullets decreases. This shouldn't give you much trouble.

Stage 3 is where Souky really starts to heat up. Your fighter is dropped out of a much larger plane over thick gray clouds. Enemies swoop in from all sides. They are more aggressive here now, all of them tend to shoot at you. Of particular note are the gunships, big green and yellow planes with shoulder pods. They aren't particularly deadly, but they look cool and are worth pretty good points if you blow up a couple at once. A few big bombers show up too, with very wide bullet spreads and no less than five targets each. The second portion of the stage takes place over open plains, with small trucks visible beneath you. You actually get to swoop down and destroy those trucks. I find it quite delightful watching them flip over, imagining the drivers screaming in flaming agony.

The boss for this stage is a huge tank. Instead of one big turret, this tank has a nice array of weaponry mounted on it's turret. The most distinct are the twin dragon heads that act as flame throwers. The homing missiles are very fast, so get out of the way as you won't have time to destroy them if you sit still.

Stage 4 is a space stage. In particular, the asteroids stage. Playing on a Saturn, you can see all the little rocks beneath you. Playing on MAME, this stage is rendered in inverted colors or something and looks really fouled up. The asteroids can be locked on, and add to your multiplier. Take note that they can also take away from destroying enemies. This stage has some robots with tank heads that take quite a bit of punishment, and you don't want to waste your shots on asteroids especially if you are being heavily attacked. Running into asteroids doesn't kill you, and if an enemy touches one they take slight damage. This is one of the only shmups I know that has enemy/environment interaction.

The boss is a big robot. So big, the whole section zooms out so you can get a better look. Along with bullet spreads, his shoulder cannons can fire flurries of missiles, fireballs, and blue death beams that are very pretty. I have never actually beaten this guy, he always times out before I can kill him.

Stage 5 is a stage over a sea base, and has perhaps the game's best soundtrack. The enemy that gave me the most trouble here was the little green walker. You'll see a couple of them. They fire a little green orb that slowly follows your movement. I thought I had dodged them, and they turned around and still got me. Sneaky. Numerous enemies are below the water, but you can still hit them. The level scrolls diagonally for a short time, which throws me off just like it did in Raiden Fighters.

The boss is an airplane with turrets and missile batteries across it's back. It also has four engines. You can target the engines for extra points, and the exhaust won't hurt you. The shoulder turrets it has fire streams of bullets almost exactly like the first boss from Battle Garegga, a circular pattern of twin bullets. When it's had enough, the back detaches and you fight an orb. The main attack it has are the star bullets, which are big shiny projectiles that have some homing capabilities. This section doesn't seem to have too much health.

The final stage is an attack on the moon, starting in deep space and going into the interior. Pink enemies that have been in every level now carry giant missiles, and those gunships from stage 3 make a return and fire a lot more bullets at a time now. Even popcorn enemies now fire quite a few bullets, but it never turns into Sengeki Striker (thank god) and I was able to twitch my way through quite a few bullet storms.

This stage also has a midboss. Raizing likes to reuse bosses, but here they just reuses boss attacks. The falling bullets from the first boss, the turrets from the second, and some death rays are all being used by this boss.

When it dies, the music gets really moody and calm. The screen pops up with the boss information and as you wait for it to arrive, you realize you've actually been flying over it. Welcome to Raizing's take on the Giant Battleship.

The design looks roughly like the cancelled XB-70 bomber. You start off attacking the central fuselage, where multiple gun turrets guard a pod that shoots a long stream of bullets at you constantly. I had my best luck going around it rather than trying to weave between salvos. The second and third sections of the fight are against the engines on either side. Each one has a bank of huge missile launchers on the wing above it. As you move between sections, popcorn enemies keep attacking. I had to use a credit about halfway through and managed to rack up over a million points very quickly due to the number of targets.

The final section is the cockpit. The cockpit has more of those stars from the Stage 5 orb, as well as some thick bullet spreads. When the central portion takes enough damage, it opens up and starts using new attacks.

Once you beat it, you fly through black space content that you've defeated the enemy.

And then the battered stealth bomber from Stage 1 shows up. Just like Bashinet, it wants revenge. This one has some new tricks since last time. Most notable among these is that it has your web attack. It can lock on to you and fire away. Luckily, the locks are fixed in place and if you keep moving the lasers won't hit you.

The actual ending shows a nicely rendered view of your selected fighter, and has a bunch of text.

If you want to play this game, you have a few options. It can be played on MAME with graphical errors (like in this review), try .128 for best performance. The Saturn got two versions, with the Otokuyo being preferred thanks to bug fixes and a playable Battle Garegga demo. This one also allows you to shoot guns while using the web. The Playstation version loses some graphical polish, but adds a fourth ship and cutscenes. Both were released only in Japan, but are fairly affordable even today. You shouldn't have to pay more than $50 for a copy for either system. I highly recommend trying this game out. In my opinion, this is Raizing's second best game after Garegga, and one of the 5 or 6 best shmups I've played.


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