Tech: An R-Type Retrospective
In the vast universe of shoot-em-up video games (the ones where you pilot a ship and blow away everything on the screen), the R-Type series has always been in a class of its own. Unlike most shooters that test how well you can dodge a hail of enemy fire, the main threat in R-Type is usually the level itself - the screen scrolls leisurely, but at every turn there's some new wall or obstacle that must be circumnavigated. The series also doesn't shy away from throwing enemies at you from all directions.
You're never really outgunned in R-Type, either. By default, you have an automatic laser cannon that you can charge up for powerful shots than can rip through multiple enemies. Unlike most shmups, where it takes a while to power your ship up, your first power-up in R-Type gives you a Force - an indestructible shield that can both absorb enemy fire and damage enemies by colliding with them. This is R-Type's most unique feature, and it adds a considerable amount of strategy to the game: Do you attach it to the front of your ship or to the rear? Do you even attach it at all? Should you use the Force special weapon or simply charge up your main cannon?
It's amazing an arcade game in the late 80s could hit it out of the park like this. So here's a short look at the R-Type games:
R-Type (pictured above): The granddaddy of them all, and still a fantastic game. When people fought the gigantic warship that takes up all of Level 3, you could hear the jaws drop on the floor.
R-Type II: I only played the mangled SNES port, but the original arcade game was similar. More of the same gameplay, somewhat drab levels - everything looks brown.
R-Type III: Exclusive to the SNES. This game is one of the best, if not THE best, in the series. It introduced three different types of Force powerups, effectively tripling the gameplay. The levels are colorful, and dense with enemies. Here's a shot of level 2, the "organic" level featuring dangerous acid dropping from the ceiling.
R-Type Delta: Another candidate for best in the series. Again, you have multiple Force types, thus giving you three distinct ways to play the game. The most important contribution, however, is a super-powerful, screen-clearing attack that you charge up by ramming your Force into enemies, setting up an interesting risk/reward system.
R-Type Final: The last R-Type game. There are literally more than a dozen different Force types, including old favorites from Delta and III, along with 100 different ships to fly. Unfortunately, the game's levels are less claustrophobic than the rest of the series, and several levels are a chore to play (the slowdown-filled warship fight in Level 3, the crappy, pixelated hyperspace Level 5).