R-Type (Arcade) Review

By Gabriel Jones 08.07.2017

Review for R-Type on Arcade

In the 26th century, the most brilliant minds developed a weapon known as Bydo. Its sole purpose was to ensure mankind's dominance over the universe. Naturally, the biological abomination turned against its masters, and untold lives were lost. Without a means to eradicate Bydo, the survivors chose to seal it away in a wormhole. It…seemed like a good idea at the time. Who knew that what was once just a weapon could evolve into an empire, and that it would travel back to the past to ensure its creator's demise? The year is 2163, and humanity's last hope rests on the R-9, a ship designed specifically to combat a threat that they'll eventually be responsible for.

Thirty years ago, R-Type took arcades by storm. Rather than ride the coat-tails of popular titles such as Gradius, Irem chose to take a decidedly different angle. It all starts with the R-9. This super-advanced ship relies on a force pod. When attached to the ship, this spherical wonder can fire bounding lasers, ground-igniting flames, or rings of destructive energy. If need be, the force pod can be launched to harry otherwise unreachable forces, or to cover the R-9's rear. In any case, the shielding will deflect most enemy bullets. The charge shot is also pretty spectacular, as it can make short work of almost any foe, even bosses.

Screenshot for R-Type on Arcade

More often than not, mastery of the force pod is the only chance the player has of surviving. This shmup requires a more thoughtful approach. Each of the eight stages is methodical and claustrophobic. As one can expect of the genre, all it takes is one bullet or the slightest collision, to shatter the R-9 into so much debris. Also, this game is a checkpoint-based shooter. Every death sends the player backwards. Either they exhibit a flawless handling of the ship and its available weaponry, or they suffer in an endless cycle, one that exhausts all of their patience.

Each of the eight stages is notable for presenting challenges never before seen in a shmup. The third stage pits the R-9 against a massive battleship. In order to succeed, the player must take this behemoth down piece by piece. Their reward is the even more brutal stage four. They'll have to contend with a flurry of ships, all capable of building walls. Though these walls are destructible, they can trap the unwary. The subsequent boss is a trifecta of detachable ships. They specialize in randomized movement patterns, and laser cannons.

Screenshot for R-Type on Arcade

Upon reaching stage 5, R-Type takes the proverbial gloves off, revealing venom-soaked claws. In a hallway of horrors, the R-9 is crushed by frequent serpentine beasts, whose segments fly like projectiles when the heads are destroyed. Stage 6 takes place in what looks to be the corrupted innards of a computer. The most troublesome foe in this cacophony of circuits and wires is the dop. Dops are Bydo-possessed storage containers that smash everything in their path. I'll admit, I spent thirty or so lives just on the latter half of stage 6. The following stage is a bit more manageable, aside from having quite possibly the worst checkpoint in gaming history. If the player happens to lose a life at the stage 7 boss, they might as well just start over from the beginning. Given the limited resources and absurd number of enemies, escaping the death traps of the seventh stage requires a herculean effort. It's all but impossible for the average human.

By the time the eighth and final stage rolls around, the player has already been beat up, ground down, utterly destroyed, and rebuilt from scratch. This game presents a level of difficulty that even hardened bullet hell veterans can't prepare for. Undoubtedly, surviving a 2D shoot 'em up can require a bit of memorization, and that comes from trial & error play. This one happens to be much more demanding, and delights itself in crushing the spirits of anyone who doesn't know when to walk away. It's better to take pleasure in the minor victories, such as completing a single stage, or even solving a confounding situation. Much like a puzzle, every scenario has a solution. Somebody who is exceptionally frustrated or angry doesn't have much of a chance of figuring it out.

Screenshot for R-Type on Arcade

All that said, there are some aspects of R-Type that are just plain unfair. The previously-mentioned stage 7 checkpoint is absurd. It basically requires a stroke of luck just to escape that nightmare. The R-9's hitbox is also a bit too large. A surprisingly high number of deaths will be attributed to light brushes against the tubing on the dop's backside. The latter half of the game is filled with narrow crevices and agonizingly accurate bullets. For many players, flying into a supposedly safe location only to get lit up by a bullet will cause hearts to sink and tempers to rise.

It takes a masochist to put up with this game's shenanigans. Still, the hard work isn't fruitless. Learning the ins and outs of the force pod makes for a refreshing change of pace. Each step forward feels earned; players don't just stumble into the right place at the right time. To put it bluntly, anybody who conquers this shmup didn't do so on a fluke. Each stage is filled with a variety of bizarre enemies, whose patterns and behaviours are very much unlike anything else out there.

Screenshot for R-Type on Arcade

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Although some elements have aged worse than others, R-Type still holds up quite well. It emphasizes careful play, the ability to predict enemy patterns, and the patience to memorize the most difficult scenarios. Players who stick with it will discover a rich and fascinating shmup, bursting with clever ideas and fresh challenges. However, it's also a headache and a half. Every stage is a nightmare in itself, never mind the scant possibility of a one-credit clear. Then there's the sequel, which might as well be subtitled R-Type II: The Lost Levels. That's a story for another day.

Developer

Irem

Publisher

Irem

Genre

Shooter

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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