R-Type Delta (PlayStation) review
"Yes, it’s true, I’ll admit it. R-Type Delta has the obligatory 3-D ‘let’s get it on’ type introduction, that has become the norm for the modern 2-D shooter. It is polished, but then, so are the intros for Thunderforce V and any number of other games this genre has seen in the last few years. (I think this is an element standardized by the Unknown Guild of 32-bit Shooters.) But from the moment you press start, and bring up the ship selection screen, you know that this game is something more. Something special. "
Dark beauty and deft balance
Yes, it’s true, I’ll admit it. R-Type Delta has the obligatory 3-D ‘let’s get it on’ type introduction, that has become the norm for the modern 2-D shooter. It is polished, but then, so are the intros for Thunderforce V and any number of other games this genre has seen in the last few years. (I think this is an element standardized by the Unknown Guild of 32-bit Shooters.) But from the moment you press start, and bring up the ship selection screen, you know that this game is something more. Something special.
In its murderous, diabolical level design, R-Type Delta is almost perfect. A slightly tedious, though predictably inspired third level, is the only thing that prevents it from reaching that necessarily elusive status.
The graphics are detailed alien and mechanical renderings merged in a way that only IREM can seem to pull off. Even though it's polygon based, it does not have the loose, 'unfinished' feeling that many 2-D polygon shooters have had, such as Raystorm, and even the mighty Einhander. Only RayCrisis is on par with it as Playstation offerings go. Irem also managed to inject a definite meatiness into the look of the game, something that is instantly noticeable after playing, say, G-Darius, where the feeling is that your ship is hanging by puppet strings. In Delta, they have managed a level of depth hitherto unseen in a polygonal shooter. It may not look the part of the archetypal R-Type hand drawn beauty R-Type III, but it is very close.
The sounds are very, very impressive. This is the best R-Type soundtrack ever. While this category was never considered a strong point among the previous games in the series, R-Type III's pseudo-metal soundtrack is a tour de force, and therefore in topping that, Delta has accomplished an enormous feat. The ship selection screen, fourth level and last level tracks stand out as absolutely ideal shooter game music fare. They range from hard driving rock selections, to more orchestrated tracks. There is even a tune featuring a boy's choir—or what sounds like a boy's choir. It is singularly haunting and at times convinces you that you're taking part in something more serious than a game. The sound effects are also very serious and often ominous.
Delta’s gameplay is vintage R-Type. That means: unapologetically, insanely difficult play on the Hard level, and enough to break a novice shooter jockey on Easy. You can't clear R-Type games on your first try; you have to know how to navigate your way through them like a chess match. Delta is no exception. This makes for a truly cerebral shooter experience if there ever was one.
Delta features two new ships complete with their own unique Force Devices. For the uninitiated, the Devices are indestructible orbs that the player can attach to either the front or back of their ship to act both as a shield and as a firepower enhancer of sorts. Alternatively, the Device can be detached from the ship to wreak havoc on its own. Thus the entertainment value in having more than one ship—three to be exact at first, with one secret ship to unlock—with differently designed Devices, is greatly increased. Each ship has three power ups available: blue, red and yellow. What each ship and that ship’s respective Force Device does with that power up varies however.
For example, the standard R-9 ship has a blue reflective laser, straight ahead red ring laser, and crawling yellow laser. Its Force Device can be detached to produce four way firepower. The R-13 on the other hand (my personal favorite), has a blue seeking laser, a red ray laser, and a yellow spread laser. The R-13’s Force Device produces no firepower when detached, but should you fire it into a fray, it will drain the life force of anything it comes in contact with, making it an excellent boss killer. The RX might be the ship with the most ‘finesse’, while the bonus ship will no doubt be a pleasant surprise for fans of the series.
The enemies are well rendered and animated, and the bosses are huge and hard to beat, but so are most R-Type games. Perhaps the greatest standout about Delta then, is that this newest installment is absolutely tops for replay value in the genre. Clearing the game on all three difficulty levels with all three ships will unlock a bonus ship and reveal attractive stills in the ‘art gallery’. Furthermore, should you accomplish certain objectives (such as clearing the game without continuing) you will be rewarded with these distinctions recorded in the ‘notes’ section. These incentives will have you going back to this game long after you conquer it once on Easy.
Unfortunately, this masterpiece will be approached with trepidation by those who dislike R-Type games because they feel they are pattern based shooters, preferring instead, ‘twitch’ or ‘pure’ shooters. The truth is that all shooters (and games for that matter) feature memorization at their heart. It is only troubling when the player must learn every inch of the screen in order to advance, with very little emphasis on reflexes. R-Type II is a serious offender (as well as Pulstar, not of the series but in the R-Type vein) but aside from II, I feel the series has been unfairly criticized.
Ironically enough, I just replayed the third installment of a series that has been long respected as one of the best pure shooters out there: Gradius, and found that game to require far more memory work than any R-Type game (witness the spider bosses as damning evidence).
In any event, due to its unrivaled balance, ideal, customizable difficulty, and grand presentation, R-Type Delta is a godsend for R-Type fans, and the best R-Type candidate for engaging the series’ detractors and dispelling the myth of the much maligned ‘memorization shooter’ once and for all.
Staff review by Marc Golding (January 14, 2004)
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