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R-Type (TurboGrafx-16) artwork

R-Type (TurboGrafx-16) review

"Still insane after all these years!"

It can be a bit tricky to write about R-Type in a review just because words so often just can't truly explain just how hellish your trials are in Irem's legendary horizontally-scrolling shooter. No matter how verbose or eloquent I get, I'll likely fall far short of truly showing you just how much of an addictive ordeal this game is.

Look at one late-game boss fight. It's a foe that occasionally shows its face from the right side of the screen, allowing you to shoot it. An easy task, but you've apparently flown into the trash disposal chamber of some massive base and hunks of garbage are flying out of five chutes to rapidly descend to the bottom of the screen, crushing any stupid spaceship that might be in their path. Making things even more complicated -- occasionally, something will rise out of the trash pile to fire a couple shots your direction.

Read that paragraph again. It sounds nice and all, describing a hectic boss fight in which the primary danger to your survival comes more from environmental hazards than the actual adversary, but it doesn't do the battle justice. When actually participating in this fight, you'll be frantically moving around, trying to dodge a non-stop barrage of rapidly falling trash while hoping the next time the boss exposes itself to your attacks is the last time because you don't know if your reflexes can hold out much longer. You're teetering at the edge of a cliff where one teeny-tiny little miscalculation on your part is likely to send you to your demise.

Or let's just go back a bit and visit the previous stage. You'll be in another base level, this one featuring a collection of narrow corridors arranged in a simplistic maze. You'll be flying around from one corridor to the next while shooting a collection of random enemies, which would actually be pretty easy if not for the large, obstructing vessels which provide a constant nuisance. Each of them is almost the size of a corridor and they follow a pre-determined pattern around them, getting in your way and often causing your death. Unlike the trash room boss, fast reflexes will not be of much benefit. If you get caught, you're toast. Your only salvation is in repeatedly playing this level and memorizing patterns, so you know exactly where to be (and not to be) at any given time.

Once again, a passably solid description of events, but one that won't necessarily sum up the emotions you'll be feeling as you struggle through this beast of a stage. In particular, there's this one area late in the level where three corridors condense into one. Since those large vessels have been all over the place, there's a good chance you'll waste no time in darting into the new corridor, as it currently seems devoid of hazards. At which point you'll quickly realize you just signed your death warrant, as after a moment or so of safety, a new vessel will fly onto the screen and right through your ship. Looks like you should have held out a bit longer before making your move, eh?

R-Type is a game built to kill players over and over again. It takes pleasure doing so in much the same way that Freddy gleefully stalked teens through their dreams. Where safety is an illusion and a cruel fate waits for that moment when you think you might have found some sort of respite.

As far as mechanics go, this is a pretty simple shooter. You start with the typical near-impotent pea-shooting vessel that most games of this ilk hand to players. However, by holding down on the fire button, you can charge this shot to make it legitimately lethal. Still, you'll want to nab power-ups as quickly as possible, so you can mount a legit offensive without leaving yourself helpless for a moment or two. The first one released will turn into an orb-like device which you must run into to affix to the front or back of your ship, where it will provide some degree of shielding, preventing stray bullets (but not more lethal projectiles) from killing you. This orb can also be released at any time, at which point it will shoot at foes on its own while waiting to be grabbed again.

Adding power-ups to it will give you a handful of different weapons. One gives you a strong attack straight in front of the orb, while another fires bouncing lasers in multiple directions and the third emits lines of fire up and down that can run along the top and bottom of the screen. And of course, there are a few other goodies, such as speed-increasing capsules, smaller orbs which offer additional firepower and the ability to add missiles to your onslaught.

The genius of R-Type is this: no matter what you do, you'll never be perfectly equipped. Enemies come at you from all directions and angles, so no matter what side of your ship the big orb is attached to and no matter which of the three power-ups you obtained, you will have large blind spots. I found the three-way bouncing laser to be the most effective overall of those power-ups, but there were definitely times and places where one of the other two would have been more helpful in my efforts to survive. Just take a look at the third stage's battleship for as good an example as you'll need.

Said ship takes up virtually the entire stage, as you fly up to and all around it, destroying gun after gun until you finally destroy the part of it considered to be its boss. As you approach, all the attacks come directly towards you, but then you'll fly underneath it and have to worry about attacks from above, as well as dealing with how the screen is scrolling. After all, you don't want to find yourself caught under the massive structure when it dips down, as that contact will be instantly lethal. Traverse the entirety of the battleship and you'll find yourself in back of it. With a lot of guns training themselves on your ship's rear. And, of course, the trek ends with you making your way over the top of the ship, while dodging all sorts of fire coming at you from behind and below. You'll face attacks from every direction imaginable and if you can't figure out a way to avoid or disrupt them, you'll never reach the fourth level.

I could go on and on about this game, talking about some of its more massive and iconic bosses or how you'll just know things are about to get REALLY ugly in your final battle, as the approach to the last boss is a wide, completely open corridor where all you have to do is shoot down foes that emerge from the walls to fly quickly at you -- child's play compared to what has come before. But, as I said at the onset of my review, words just can't truly do justice to the experience this game provides, so why not stop reading now, pick it up and die a few dozen times? All in the name of fun, of course!

overdrive's avatar
Community review by overdrive (April 13, 2016)

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

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