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R-Type Dimensions (PlayStation 3) artwork

R-Type Dimensions (PlayStation 3) review

"If you're an R-Type fan, Dimensions provides a perfectly acceptable option for playing on a modern system, even if it only contains the two most offered games in the series."

Even if you haven't played an R-Type game, you likely know of the series by reputation. It's the always brutal, and often brilliant, 2D shoot-em-up series that was one of the first to establish the single-spacecraft-takes-on-every-biological-and-mechanical-horror-imaginable status quo of the genre. It is also one of the most often ported series out there.

Fans didn't have to wait long after the original debuted in arcades in 1987 for the home versions to start rolling in. There are versions of R-Type for the Turbografx-16, the Sega Master System, the original Game Boy, and many, many others. R-Type II received a Game Boy port as well, and elements from it were used in the SNES title Super R-Type. These first two games were compiled for the PlayStation as R-Types in early 1999, and as R-Type DX for the Game Boy Color later that year.

And now, in 2014, we are given this same duo once more as R-Type Dimensions.

It may have been too much to hope for the PlayStation original R-Type Delta to appear in this compilation, and surely there was no hope that the PS2's R-Type Final would be included. But it is frustrating that the SNES game R-Type: Third Lightning is omitted. So what we're left with in Dimensions is essentially an improved version of what we were offered in 1999. But there are a number of things that make it worth a look, despite the meager two-game selection.

For one, R-Type is an absolutely impeccable, genre-defining experience, and its sequel lives up to its legacy. Both are tests of pure memorization as much as skill (especially R-Type II) and neither have any tolerance for the player who doesn't commit large blocks of time to mastery. Maybe you've got twitch reflexes and you remember playing these games in some form years ago. You're still going to die. Unless you've been playing regularly, lately, you just don't have a prayer. You need to know the next enemy pattern, exactly, and you need to know where you're placing your ship and your Force-Pod, R-Type's trademark power-up that works as a deployable second weapon that can lay down fire on another part of the screen or attach to your ship as an invincible shield. If you don't like trial-and-error games and have no nostalgia for the arcade philosophy of design meant to have you shoving quarters in machines as quickly as possible, R-Type is not for you. And even if you do think you're up for that, be warned that these first two R-Types are particularly punishing even by that standard. They are also particularly rewarding to conquer.

However, a great aspect of this collection is the new infinite mode which allows players to continue through either game with infinite lives. No need to return to a checkpoint, you'll just keep moving forward with a fresh ship that's invincible for a few seconds as it returns. I'll admit that the cynic in me wanted to call out this feature as a betrayal designed to appeal to younger gamers. But to be honest, I hadn't touched an R-Type in the better part of a decade before I downloaded Dimensions, and infinite mode allowed me to take a leisurely stroll down memory lane. I was sightseeing the familiar levels and classic bosses that defined my experience with the series within minutes of starting it up, and I still had the challenge of classic mode waiting for me when I got back. It's a fun feature.

The really big addition to Dimensions, of course, is the new graphics. All the classic sprites have been rebuilt into 3D models, which can be turned on or off on the fly with the touch of a button. It's a novel feature, and I found myself frequently switching between modes throughout both titles in my initial playthroughs. However, the models are much less detailed than the classic sprites, and lack the crispness and edge that gels with the pace of a 2D shooter. There is also a really cool crumbling animation in the wall sprites at the end of R-Type II that is reduced to a weak dissolve effect in 3D mode. There are some optional filters that completely ruin these new graphics too, and a “Crazy” camera mode that shifts the perspective of the game to behind the ship, rendering the game unplayable. Not to be outdone, 2D mode offers an “Arcade” view that cuts out three-quarters of the screen to crush the gameplay into a rendered arcade cabinet. Overall, the graphic options are a nice idea that could have used another round of polish before release. In subsequent sessions I've kept to the classic graphics.

If you're an R-Type fan, Dimensions provides a perfectly acceptable option for playing on a modern system, even if it only contains the two most offered games in the series. If you've never touched the series before, and you're ready to brave the difficulty, Dimensions is a great place to start. It's far from ideal, but I recommend it over digging up your decade(s) old console or hopping into a time machine to go to your nearest arcade.

Germ's avatar
Staff review by Jeremy Davis (August 12, 2014)

Jeremy plays video games, sometimes.

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