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R-Type (Game Boy) artwork

R-Type (Game Boy) review


"There cannot be many systems that haven't hosted an R-Type game at some stage in their lives. The original started life in the arcades many moons ago, and since then we've had conversions, we've had sequels, we've had forays into 3-D (in R-Type Delta), but it always seems to be the original that is the most fondly remembered. Which, in a nice, circular fashion, brings us to R-Type for the Nintendo Game Boy. Bet you didn't see that one coming!! "



There cannot be many systems that haven't hosted an R-Type game at some stage in their lives. The original started life in the arcades many moons ago, and since then we've had conversions, we've had sequels, we've had forays into 3-D (in R-Type Delta), but it always seems to be the original that is the most fondly remembered. Which, in a nice, circular fashion, brings us to R-Type for the Nintendo Game Boy. Bet you didn't see that one coming!!

For those of you who have a bad enough memory to not remember R-Type, it is basically a side scrolling shooter. You control an R-Type shuttle (hence the otherwise potentially confusing title), created by the good guys to take on the 'Evil Bydo Empire', to quote the title screen. Although the ship is puny, and has limited firepower, it comes complete with a satellite cannon. This fires at the same time as the ship, but can be upgraded through powerups to fire better weapons, and more powerful doses of death. Although it generally sticks to the front of the ship, it can also fly freely by the ships side, stick to the back of the ship, or be launched at a target. The latter is particularly helpful in boss encounters: the satellite can be launched at the boss' weak point, and the ship itself can then try to retire to a relatively safe point (as if it could find one!) Holding down the fire button for a short period releases a much more powerful shot, which inflicts much greater damage, but has the obvious disadvantage of taking time to build up. If you are a fan of the Mega Man series, then this feature is reminiscent of the attack available from Mega Man four onwards.

The game scrolls quite quickly, meaning that if you get trapped behind an obstacle then you need to react pretty fast to avoid being crushed. In fact, everything in this game moves at a fairly swift pace - the control for the ship is is very responsive, meaning you'll be flitting around the screen like a wasp with it's sting on fire. Which is handy, as you'll need all the fast reactions you can muster to beat this game. Yep, it's a toughie alright. Right from the start the screen is full of enemies who just can't wait to introduce you to Elvis. Take just one shot and your ship explodes. Come into contact with a wall, floor, or anything else for that matter, your ship explodes. If an enemy so much as whispers in your direction, the ship explodes (DISCLAIMER: this part isn't true). If the powers that be are only going to send one measly ship out to try and destroy the Bydo Empire, you'd have thought they'd have sent something that had more than the resilience of an overcooked vegetable. But really I guess that it's a good thing that they didn't, as a great deal of R-Type's appeal stems from it's screamingly frustrating difficulty level. Quite often the screen will nearly fill up with enemy gunfire, causing you to either have the reaction times of... something that is both humourous and in possession of incredibly quick reaction time, or you become well acquainted with the Game Over screen. And that's before you reach the bosses. Almost without exception the bosses in R-Type are near to being screen-filling in size - one is even the size of the entire level! - and each has it's one vulnerable point in the one area of it's person that is hardest to reach, but face it, you don't get to be a threat to the civilised worlds by sending out minions the size of a small vacuum cleaner with signs saying 'Kick Me' stuck to their back now, do you? The difficulty level of this game is a point in it's favour for me - I'm a big fan of difficult games, but for many it serves as an argument against the game - it seems that they find the challenge too much. Young 'uns today eh?

In terms of presentation, R-Type stays faithful to it's arcade roots. The title screen is the same as in it's wardrobe-sized cousin, as far as I can remember (it's been a long time since I've seen an R-Type arcade cabinet), and the graphics and sounds are just the same as ever: the music is catchy and of a very high standard - one of the few games on the Game Boy that sees me turn the volume up, with meaty explosions and gun shots for sound effects, while the levels look similar right down to the backgrounds (but in monochrome of course). Therein lies the only real fault with this game. As with so many side-scrolling shooters for the Game Boy, the tiny green screen makes seeing the bullets floating around rather difficult - they are tiny in this game, and until I became accustomed to this game, I often mistook them for stars in the background, leading to howls of rage as my ship blew up yet again for an indiscernible reason. As I said, you'll get used to it fairly quickly, but it does make the game very confusing early on, and many people may not have the patience to get to grips with this.

At the end of the day, R-Type is a superb port of a superb arcade game. Many people that I know consider this game to be the finest side-scrolling shooter of them all, and though I favour Parodius myself, it is easy to see what could bring them to this judgement. This is a real piece of gaming history and I would recommend it to anyone (nowadays you're more likely to find a handheld version on the Game Boy Color's R-Type DX, though), and while if you hate difficult games you'll hate this, everyone else should sign up for battle now!

Rating: 9/10

tomclark's avatar
Community review by tomclark (March 07, 2004)

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