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Super R-Type (SNES) artwork

Super R-Type (SNES) review

"My advice: Skip this game and just play the original one more time."

So, first impressions really do matter a lot, don't they?

When I started doing this reviewing thing, I played a lot of retro shooters to hone my craft, as I could play through fairly quickly, allowing me to regularly have material for my reviews. I remember hearing how, when it came to this genre, the Sega Genesis and TG-16 were both superior to the SNES for that era, but often struggled to understand why. It seemed that no matter the system, there were really fun games I enjoyed, as well as generic crap I endured simply because it often is far more fun to start a review knowing I'm about to spend the next hour gleefully savaging a horrid game than it is to effusively bestow praise (or worse, struggle to find the words to explain just how average that thing I just played was). Maybe one system had more great games than another, but regardless of system, I seemed to have as many good times as bad with my picks.

But if I go back to the early days of the SNES, those comments start to make a lot of sense, as Nintendo's 16-bit system did struggle out of the gate when it came to shooters. As someone who finally got around to playing Super R-Type, damn, they really did struggle! Play this game for a few hours and even a kind and open-minded soul will be quick to proclaim the SNES as an inferior machine for shooters.

A good part of the blame for this lies on the technical level. Super R-Type is one of those games that's infamous for its failings -- in this case, lots and lots of slowdown. The R-Type series has never been famous for its fast, bullet-hell action. No, these games are known for intricate level design where being able to memorize level design in order to be out of the way when random death traps take away half the screen is usually more important that having great reflexes. You need to move smoothly and with precision to find temporary safe spots, always looking for your next move to ensure you don't get pinned in by debris or find the narrow passageway you dipped into suddenly turning into a lethal dead end. To accomplish this sort of thing, I like to be as fully immersed in a game as possible, so I feel I'm part of my spaceship.

Slowdown does not help with this. I'll be moving through a level, the screen will get cluttered and the slowdown will kick in and I'll completely lose my concentration when my ship no longer is exactly where I'm expecting it to be exactly when I expect it to be there and then it gets shot down and I'm stuck moving to my next life. Which takes me to the very beginning of the level because Super R-Type apparently thinks checkpoints are for chumps. Yep, no matter where you die in a level, you'll have to start it from scratch, making it past untold dangers, all made worse by you not knowing when if the game will start randomly slowing down. Accomplish this and then you might have a prayer you can overcome the obstacle that outmatched you, even if you'll probably get killed by the very next one.

So, we have a technically-flawed game that also cruelly punishes mistakes, even if those technical flaws are the underlying reason for those mistakes. If it's any consolation, I don't know that I'd think Super R-Type was much better than average even if it was perfectly designed and ran like a dream.

Super R-Type screenshot Super R-Type screenshot

Let's pretend that this game has no slowdown. Then we have a competent shooter that could go a fair ways towards making up for how neither the NES nor SNES received a port of the original R-Type, even if it never quite reaches that game's level. As a semi-port of R-Type II, containing stuff from that arcade game, as well as original content, it tends to feel like a version of R-Type that connects most of the same dots, but without as much imagination.

The mechanics are essentially the same, although there are a few additions. Your ship starts out able to emit the usual weak bullets and, by holding down the shooting button, can charge up its shot to be far more powerful (if you're confident in your ability to survive a few seconds without firing at anything). Soon, it'll gain a pod that can be affixed to either its front or back to supply more firepower. That pod can be enhanced with various power-ups that bestow various weaponry such as narrow lasers that bounce off walls to short-range explosions and scattered fireballs. Missiles, small bullet-blasting orbs and speed power-ups also can be found frequently.

As you might expect, which power-up you're currently employing can make a huge difference in your ability to survive this game's challenges. When I played through the game, I found all of them to be useful at different points, due to how enemies are often located in inconvenient spots, often either just around corners or sneaking up on you from behind. Several times, you'll find it useful to detach your pod in order to switch it from the front of your ship to the back -- both to direct your fire in a different direction and to give you a shield from enemy fire. While, it only takes one hit to destroy your ship, that pod will at least absorb small bullets.

The thing is, when it comes to the levels themselves, I find I need to scour through my notes to remember much of anything other than a basic "there's a couple in space, a couple in bases and a couple in other places" bit of near-poetry. While I'm quite familiar with how games in a series do tend to copy elements from one title to the next, Super R-Type not only does that, but makes the new versions less interesting. The first boss of the first game, a giant alien with a long tail, sort of makes a return. However, instead of being a grotesque monstrosity, it appears to be covered in armor and far less attention-grabbing in appearance. While the first game has a level based around one giant alien vessel that you fly over and around, this game's fourth stage gives you numerous smaller and less extravagant ships. Both games feature a late-game boss that splits into three parts which fly around the screen shooting at you. But it seems only the first game is littered with weird and freaky alien beasts -- here, the average boss is the sort of standard large contraption seen in all generic shooters.

I mean, there were a few cool bits. The boss of the fifth stage was fun and tricky with how it constantly retreated backwards through a stage littered with walls that you can't see until it's passed them, forcing you to react quickly to not either splat into a barrier or careen into a bullet while avoiding an obstacle. Some of the levels are diabolically tricky to navigate. Waterfalls in the third level can push your ship into walls, while trash constantly is falling from the top of the screen throughout parts of the penultimate stage. And the end of the game is a bit more epic than the usual "escape the base before it explodes" scene seen quite often in these games.

Regardless, it's pretty tough to recommend this game to anyone other than diehard collectors. While some stuff in this game is fun, it still feels like an inferior version of the original R-Type. And even if that's still a pretty good thing, the technical issues present in this cartridge make it pretty miserable to experience. When it comes to shooters, the SNES has a lot going for it, but Super R-Type is the sort of early release that could easily convince a player to stay away from that system when looking for that sort of game.


overdrive's avatar
Community review by overdrive (February 02, 2018)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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EmP posted February 07, 2018:

I have never played Super R-Type. I have played enough R-Type II to know better. What a truly dire follow up to perhaps shooting's most important title.

Screenwork's a little weird, but good review. It's still not enough to forgive you for making me play Zunou Senkan Galg, though.

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