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R-Types (PlayStation) artwork

R-Types (PlayStation) review


"One hit. That's all it takes. Maybe if less was thrown your way. Less of everything: alien abominations, attack mechs, membrane walls, mechanical monstrosities. Then maybe you'd have a fighting chance. A reviewer once played the second last level of R-Type and used the phrase: independently controlled eyeballs. Those are essential, and Zen-like concentration and inhuman patience are the other requirements to attain anything resembling success. "



A GAME FOR THE AGED


A Hard Road Ahead

One hit. That's all it takes. Maybe if less was thrown your way. Less of everything: alien abominations, attack mechs, membrane walls, mechanical monstrosities. Then maybe you'd have a fighting chance. A reviewer once played the second last level of R-Type and used the phrase: independently controlled eyeballs. Those are essential, and Zen-like concentration and inhuman patience are the other requirements to attain anything resembling success.

What's All The Fuss About?

1988. R-Type is released and becomes an arcade phenomenon. R-Type II follows a few years later, and it is simply more of the same, with fewer levels and a much higher difficulty level. There probably isn't a more famous side-scrolling shooter series in existence, and as much as the franchise is popular, it is also infamous for its establishment of the 'memorization shooter' (more on that later).

Console owners pined for the chance to be killed multiple times in the comfort of their own homes. They wanted the one hit wonder to grace their television sets in the same way it graced their arcade screens at their local donut shops. They would get their wish, when the diabolical shooter appeared on the Sega Master System, followed with Gameboy and Turbografx-16 versions. Sega's incarnation was excellent for an 8-bit shooter, (it might be the best) and included an extra level, hidden midway through the game. The handheld port suffered from a few unfortunate, but expected limitations, (e.g.: it was black and white and missing two levels) but was generally quite impressive. The Turbografx version was almost perfect, and some still consider it to be, but that means they have not been to their local donut shop recently, or that they have not played R-Types.

The Original Bad Boy

Having an arcade perfect home version of R-Type is the reason you purchase this compilation. Anything else is very secondary. It looks, sounds and plays just like it did in that donut shop. You pilot the R-9 spacecraft on your one man mission of madness to annihilate the evil Bydo invaders.

Everything that made this game great has made the trip to CD intact. The oddly named rat-headed first level boss, Doppelganger, presents both of his heads in smashing 32-bit fashion. Adept Force Device manipulation is still the order of the day. Unexceptional, but highly memorable otherworldly-sounding tunes frame the detailed alien backdrop and community. Shoot down certain power-up carrying enemies to reap the reflective, crawling or ring lasers. Earn the Force Device (an indestructible shield/laser enhancer) and attach it to the rear of your ship. It will cover your backside (or your front, should you choose to situate it there) as you navigate that narrow passage, enemies trailing you menacingly. Collect both Bit devices (small indestructible orbs) to protect the top and bottom of your ship and further augment your firepower.

With your ship fully equipped, your confidence will grow, but it will never approach cockiness like it will while playing most shooters. R-Type is simply too hard, and consistently so. It is fair though; despite the considerable amount of pattern and placement memorization that is necessary, good reflexes can often provide you an alternative safe passage through a grim situation. Unfortunately, the classic's follow up is not this reasonable.

A Tough Act To Follow

R-Type II is unforgiving. Almost every really challenging section can only be passed in one way, and that way is usually the hard way. No more lightning fast adjustments on the fly. If you fail to adhere to the required pattern, you can pretty much patiently await the inevitable fireworks.

On the positive side, the visuals are even sharper the second time around, though I don't care for the more subdued colour palette. The music was not stellar in the first game, but again, the actual tunes were quite memorable and enjoyable. In R-Type II, only the first and last levels are sonic standouts.

R-Type II falls firmly into the 'more of the same' category. More immense, intricately patterned bosses, and weird organic levels. But more is not better in this case; certain things like difficulty and the 'gloomy to not-so-gloomy' level ratio were perfect in the original. Upping the ante in the sequel simply upset that fine balance.

Detractors of the series will use this game to champion their argument; it requires far too much memorization, and the execution of the memorized bits is insanely difficult. R-Type II is not unfair, but it's as close as it could be.

It's still fun though, as a form of gaming masochism (if you want to show how hard you are at shooters, load up this game and show away). Also, the control in II is spot on, (as well it should be!) just like the original, only better.

The Immaculate Collection

Many fans of the series complain that R-Types is not a true collection because it only includes two games. Personally, I too would have liked to see the incredible R-Type III and the esoteric R-Type Leo incorporated into the compilation, but I don't dismiss this release solely based on that oversight on Irem's part.

The two games that are present are perfect, and then some. You can select multiple difficulty levels (it won't help you any though) and once you've reached a certain level in either game and save, you can return there the next time you power the system up (this will help you, lots). The rumble feature and the CGI rendered intro are both nice additions as well.

The final perk is a rather juicy one for die-hard R-Type fanatics. Irem has included a library of sorts, listing the timeline of events occurring in the two games, and a pictorial of the enemies featured in both. As I say, this is something that will be much appreciated by the serious followers of the series, but will likely be overlooked by casual game players, even if they are 2-D shooter fans.

Attention, 'New Schoolers'!

And speaking of casual game players, I will warn you now that this game may not be for you. It is a genre game, if I've ever come across one. Why? Because there isn't much in the way of next generation flash and dash, and it's hard as hell. With these two observations in mind, I came to the realization that most of the gaming world would be at a loss if they received this game as a gift. You simply must be a 2-D shooter fan to recognize the value that is R-Types (it's the lack of universal appeal/accessibility that warrants the score of 7 rather than an 8). If you fall into this category, rest assured that between the two games, you will lose many hours of sleep; both due to playing, and due to the nightmares that playing will incur.

Rating: 7/10

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Staff review by Marc Golding (January 14, 2004)

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