Released in 1987, R-Type became an instant classic when it hit the arcades across the world, thanks to its iconic weapons and innovative gameplay and the “Force”, an extra weapon you could attach to the front of your ship to lock incoming fire or shoot toward groups of enemies as a remote drone. Rather than relying on thousands of bullets, R-Type had complex levels with moving walls and sneaky attack patterns which could only be learnt by trial and error and players pumped millions of coins in to the arcade cabinets trying to get just a little further each play.
Over the years, the original game has been ported to almost every system imaginable along with a bunch of sequels both for the home and arcade. It came to a head with 2003’s R-Type Final for PlayStation 2, collecting all the best features from previous versions in one package. Now we have a sequel, but what could have been the ultimate R-Type sadly isn’t the stone cold classic is should be.
All the elements are present, from the bouncing lasers to the techno-organic beasts, and there are huge number of ships to use all of which are customisable. You can set the type of Force you have, the missiles, upgrade weapons, and there’s some nice cosmetic features which allow you to plaster the side of your ship with decals and change you pilot. The levels are much shorter than those found in R-Type Final and are inspired, rather than slavishly copied, from original game. For example the third level features a huge spaceship that manoeuvres across the screen, forcing you to hide in tight space, just as the original game did.
However, it all feels a little flat. The first boss, the iconic Dobkeratops (or as everyone else knows her, the H.R. Giger prawn) is frozen in ice and aside from the odd wave of bullets, it just sits there and waits for you to kill her. Play on the hardest difficulty levels and she is unfrozen, but it’s an odd choice to lock the most famous of enemies behind the difficulty setting. The third level, the mothership, also feels a little dull as the mechanical, thrusting beasts from previous games have been replaced with a Tron-esque collection of neon blocks that barely resemble a spaceship. The rest of the enemies are equally uninspired, the original’s nightmarish creatures replaced with rather dull spaceships and pot plants, while the final boss is just a big, empty sphere.
Like all modern shoot ’em ups, the background for the game is three dimensional and although you can only move up, down, left and right, the levels simply scroll across the screen. It makes no sense, and it’s a fault with all modern shoot ’em ups, but R-Type Final 2 does ramp things up in a later stage when missiles and bullets start flying out from the background. Which of these can damage you craft is, after many hours of playing, still a mystery to me. Enemies and bullets start swooping in from all directions, and it’s very frustrating when they manage to hit you. The game also commits the cardinal sin of shoot ’em ups in that some parts of levels will kill you if you crash into them and some do not.
The sountrack features the standard thumpy dance tracks you would expect for a shoot ’em up, and it’s accompanied at times by some nice lighting effects and throbbing organic levels. Others are less inspired. One level has no background graphics at all and is just set a purple haze, and the third level mothership sometimes fills a third of the screen with a grey, flat panel which is the side of the ship, exposing a lack of detail. The R-Museum, where you can unlock over a hundred variations of fighter, seems to have been drawn in MS Paint.
Despite all these complaints, the game retains the addictive ‘just one more go’ nature. It may be ridiculously hard on later levels, with instant deaths from enemies appearing from all angles, but I found myself pumping in virtual ten pence pieces just to get to next section of the game.