Next up for review is another arcade ‘shoot ’em up’, don’t worry I will move on to other game types soon, it just happens to be that some of my favourite old arcade games belong to this genre.
Anyway, what’s not to like about ‘R-Type‘, its fantastic!
There that was a short review…
…only kidding – what makes ‘R-Type‘ a classic video game? It has varied levels, varied weapons and that ‘just one more go’ addictive quality. Notoriously hard, it keeps you coming back again and again, as you ‘inch’ forward through each level. Much of its excellent replay value was due to the fact that you can learn the best routes though each level by trial and (a lot) of error. The game just never lets you go.
‘R-Type‘ was side scrolling shooter produced by Irem in 1987 (distributed by Nintendo). You control the ‘R-9’space fighter (the first eight were apparently prototypes) and defend the human race against an invading alien species known simply as the ‘Bydo’, in the 22nd Century. You have to travel through 8 levels until you finally defeat the Bydo. Most levels end with bosses, some taking up most of the screen (as above). The level 3 boss is several screens wide and constitutes most of the gameplay for that stage.
There are many types of enemies to fight off – space ships, mecha and all manner of biological monstrosities. Initially all you have to defend yourself with is a rapidly firing ‘wave cannon’, but you can hold the fire button down and ‘charge’ the cannon to produce a much bigger, more destructive blast. Very quickly you pick up power ups which will increase the speed of the ‘R-9’, give you side shooting missiles and most importantly your ‘force’. This ‘force’ has nothing to do with Star Wars but is instead an indestructible orange orb.
The ‘force’ adds so much to the gameplay because of what you can do with it.. ..it can be attached to the front or rear of the ‘R-9’ and act as a shield and give far greater fire power, depending on the last power up. It can also be shot off to shoot, independently, in hard-to-reach places.
Power ups will give you either a rebounding laser cannon, a helical laser beam or a series of fire balls which hug the edge of the playfield. All of these are needed to proceed through the game as the changing levels are made easier with the use of the correct weapon. Missiles are fired from smaller forces which float above and below the ‘R-9’ and can also be used as shields. Sound complicated? It is, sort of.. ..but it is very easy to use in practice and is combined with simply fantastic control mechanics.
‘R-Type‘ was critically acclaimed, but often noted for its difficulty.. .. I hate to think how many 10p coins I put in the thing in the 80’s!
There were several OK-ish ports to the 8-bit home computers, but the Sinclair ZX Spectrum version produced by Electric Dreams in 1998 deserves a special mention. How the programmers managed to achieve what they did is almost beyond belief.. ..it is not only a good version of the game, it is easily one of the best shooters on the ZX Spectrum, period. The 16-bit computers also received favourable ports, with the Commodore Amiga version in particular being very close to the arcade original.
The PC Engine and Sony PlayStation ports are notable for being close to arcade perfect. Clones are available via Xbox Live Arcade and Nintendo’s Virtual Console. An largely accurate, but difficult to control port has been released on iOS and Android.
Perfect emulation is available via MAME, if you own the ROMs.
There are numerous sequels to this fantastic game, across a wide range of platforms, and we will be taking a look at some of them in future reviews.
Insight – ‘R-Type’ pranks
Irem has used the ‘R-Type’ universe for some of their well know April Fool’s Day pranks. In 2000 they ran phony adverts for ‘traditional Japanese sweets’, containing the force; there were three flavours available based on ‘R-Type Delta‘ variants. In 2003 they had a website where you could apparently buy different versions of the ‘R-9’. In 2004 they did a ‘Irem Burger’ prank, where they displayed various ‘Bydo Burgers’ some with ‘R-Type‘ related game discs. In 2005 Irem ‘launched’ a phoney console, the ‘EXIDNA‘ – one of the launch titles was ‘R-Type Final 2’, which could be used with their triple-wide “Bydo Monitor” peripheral. The jokers!
Oh yes! Find a copy and play it.. ..fantastic!