R-Type Dimensions EX (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Rudy Lavaux 18.01.2019

Review for R-Type Dimensions EX on Nintendo Switch

Historically, the R-Type series and Nintendo have been in close relationship. Indeed, Nintendo originally distributed the arcade cabinets of the original themselves in North America - but that didn't prevent the infamous release of the original on the NES' competitor at the time, Sega's Master System, while the NES itself got left out. Super R-type, however, a loose adaptation of R-Type II, did release exclusively on SNES in 1991 while R-Type III: The Third Lightning from 1993 was designed from the ground up and exclusively for Nintendo's 16-bit machine. However, the franchise has since been absent from Nintendo systems for quite some time, bar Virtual Console releases that have since even been pulled from the service, as well as a forgettable port of R-Type III for GBA - R-Type Dimensions, itself originally released on the Xbox 360's Live Arcade service as a downloadable title in 2009, before getting ported to the PS3 in 2014. R-Type Dimensions EX for Nintendo Switch is simply a port of the latter for Nintendo's hybrid system, finally bringing back the series, in arcade perfect form no less, to a Nintendo system.

To understand what R-Type Dimensions EX is about, it is important to understand what R-Type is. R-Type is a game of the shmup genre, where players are tasked with piloting an armed spaceship through waves of enemies swarming them on screen and shooting bullets, dodging enemy fire, and avoiding collision with any other solid objects, while also returning fire and blasting away the evil forces of the Bydo Empire. R-Type pioneered the genre in the '80s thanks to impressive visuals for its day in the arcades, helped by an artistic direction not so subtly influenced by H.R. Giger's work on the Aliens series, a memorable soundtrack, but most importantly thanks to an innovative gameplay implementation.

Indeed, by collecting power-ups left behind by destroying certain objects, the player's R-9A Arrowhead ship can be followed by a 'Force' pod, an entirely original idea at the time. The Force pod may fly on its own separately from the R-9, shooting independently at incoming foes, or may be called back by the player to dock with the R-9, either on the front or at the back of it. Docking it on the front not only provides a front shield blocking enemy bullets coming from up ahead but also dramatically increases the R-9's fire-power. Docking it at the back also offers shielding from threats coming from the left of the screen but it also allows the player to shoot backwards as well as frontwards, taking on enemies coming from both sides at the same time.

Screenshot for R-Type Dimensions EX on Nintendo Switch

This versatility in gameplay, coupled with smooth controls and all the aforementioned technical and artistic achievements, made R-Type the critical and commercial success it was back in the day, helping it still resonate with players today. It went on to inspire tons of other shmup developers and the rest is history. R-Type offered eight stages of such action, with a reasonable difficulty curve that ramps up a lot towards the end, while R-Type II offers only six with a difficulty that sky-rockets much earlier on. R-Type Dimensions, in its original form for PS3 and Xbox 360, offered the prospect of playing both the original two arcade installments in arcade perfect ports for those systems, or to play them with revamped 3D visuals rendered in HD, as well as a remastered soundtrack. It was possible to switch between the two styles on the fly at a single press of a button, finding the original gameplay intact in both modes.

This is achieved thanks to the original game being ported instead of emulated, so that the actual gameplay of the original game, transferred to the new hardware, is still driving the action. Because the position of the ship and other elements on the screen are still calculated based on the original grid of 384 by 256 pixels, the movements of some of these elements in the HD mode can appear to be somewhat choppy, because what actually drives the action on screen is, indeed, still the original low resolution game always running in the background, so as to allow the switch between the two modes. This is most noticeable on the movements of the Force pod when it is called back by the R-9. Furthermore, the resolution itself of 384 x 256 pixels does not exactly scale well to either 720p or 1080p, which means that playing this in its original form results in some uneven pixel scaling across the screen.

Screenshot for R-Type Dimensions EX on Nintendo Switch

In handheld mode, at 720p, this manifests itself even in the scrolling with some mild shimmering effect visible on the scenery. In docked mode, at 1080p, things are much smoother but the scaling still shows some uneven pixels. Naturally, the 3D nature of the remastered mode alleviates this entirely but since the game offers a "cabinet" view mode that resizes the image to a pixel perfect aspect ratio, it's much too small to be perfectly enjoyable, especially in handheld mode - one cannot help but to wish that they did go the extra mile of fixing this for the EX release by offering a fixed scaling mode of x2, or x3 on the handheld mode's 720p display, and x4 on the docked mode's 1080p. On that note, the game offers a 4:3 mode that displays the action exactly like the original, with the HUD being relegated to its own black bar at the bottom of the screen, or a wide screen mode which stretches the actual "action" part of the screen to fill most of the 16:9 frame but leaving thin black bars on either sides of the screen, which frankly could have been filled with some artwork as it does make the whole thing feel weird. In that mode, the HUD is displayed on top of the action and its transparency can be fine-tuned to avoid it getting in the way of the action.

Another technical quirk of the original games arises as well, in that the original titles did not run at 60Hz at all, but used a much weirder refresh rate of 55Hz that, naturally, neither modern displays or today's consoles support - this was to compensate for the increased progressive scan resolution of 256p used by the game on its monitor, since those could not render more than a fixed amount of horizontal lines per second. Whether this is at the cause of it or not, R-Type Dimensions, on any platform it was released on, displays some barely noticeable choppiness in its scrolling roughly every second, which does seem to indicate some inconsistency in the refresh rate conversion. It will not be distracting to most but outside of speeding up the original game to run at 60Hz which may have made this feel unlike the original, or unfairly more difficult... there wasn't much that could have been done here and this will continue to be a challenge for any team willing to port these classics to modern machines.

Screenshot for R-Type Dimensions EX on Nintendo Switch

The bottom line is, the Switch version being an accurate port of those two previous versions on PS3 and Xbox 360, it falls victim to it all as well. Nevertheless, the modern mode, while perhaps not the most technically impressive showcase with its low-polygon models, offers the possibility to enjoy classic R-Type action in its cleanest form ever to be enjoyed on modern flat panel displays, and the remastered soundtrack is absolutely amazing and a joy to listen to, both for fans and non-fans of the series.

Those technical considerations aside, what remains is a solid way of enjoying these classics in this day and age and undoubtedly, due to its portability on Switch, the most accessible way to play those in this modern era. It offers an infinite mode, which basically respawns players on the spot upon dying, and removes game overs in favour of a "lives used" counter. This is to allow newcomers to learn the game before trying the classic mode where players are, classically, sent back to a check point upon dying and stripped off their collected weaponry, while being given only a little amount of lives per "credit."

Both games, being arcade titles at core, and designed to take away player's credits while being interesting and addictive enough that players will be willing to keep putting coins in the machine, are challenging to say the least so those completely new to this are likely to prefer the infinite mode to get started. Sadly, after losing too many lives against certain bosses, those will keep spawning enemies that home in on your R-9 as soon as it re-spawns, leaving you only the duration of your invincibility frames before you die again on the spot, something the developers probably didn't envision and it will lead to a lot of frustration. Naturally that doesn't happen in classic mode, since dying sends back to a check point but it does seem to indicate that the game's logic was not programmed with re-spawning in mind to begin with, but that the option only came into the mix later.

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Both modes, infinite and classic, have their own online leaderboards. These arcade games would have little replay value if not offering tons and tons of bragging rights to those who manage to complete them, ideally under the most strict and arduous circumstances. It is also worth noting that R-Type Dimensions introduces for the first time a two-player co-op mode, a feature often present in shmups in the arcades but, originally at least, not in those two titles. Lastly, an achievement system is present to incite players to spend more time with both titles for the sake of completion.

At the end of the day, this compilation is easiest to recommend for those who want a clean looking version of the two classics, accessible an easy to fire up for a quick fix of shmup action both at home and on the go, especially since the Switch offers the ease of access to even its two player mode with an effective implementation of split Joy-Con two-player, though for the most competitive, playing with a D-Pad will be preferred to playing with an analogue joystick since the game only registers eight-ways and not a full-360 range of movements. The technical limitations are regrettable, but not all of them were avoidable. Those that were, however, could still be addressed in a patch, but don't hold your breath, since they have been part of the package since its 2009 release, and are still "alive" to this day.

Screenshot for R-Type Dimensions EX on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Fans of the original who want the most accurate and perfect experience that looks and feels perfectly like it, will find that some shortcomings, stemming primarily from how this was designed with the technical limitations of monitors of its day in mind, prevent this from being the most accurate way to play R-Type. Those who can overlook minor differences will still find a compilation of two of the greatest representatives of the genre that still play, look, and feel incredibly close to their original releases, while offering ease of accessibility to those two classics for those who never played them, and who don't want to spend tons of money on an original cabinet. Some cruelly missing display modes, and a clear oversight in the infinite mode's design do hold back this compilation to a certain degree on all platforms that it was released on, but, naturally, the Switch will be the only one that can be undocked and taken on the go, giving it a slight edge.

Developer

Southend Interactive

Publisher

Tozai Games

Genre

2D Platformer

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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