First R-type is a horizontal shoot’em up developed by Irem in 1987 on arcades and shortly after on PC Engine, TurboGrafx and Sega Master System. Throughout the years original R-type was released on a wide variety of systems, including most recent version “R-type Dimensions” on Xbox Live Arcade.
In the game we are piloting the R-9a Arrowhead in order to “blast off and strike the evil Bydo Empire”. And that’s all about the plot! What else do you need to destroy enemies anyway? We will be destroying enemies with a help of the force. No, not the one from Star Wars. The Force, that is operational with our R-9 fighter, is a sphere attached to our ship. It can be attached to the front or back of your ship depending on which direction you want it to fire. It can also fly freely and provide additional bullets. This also provides you a great cover from most of the bullets and enemies. The force is our base for later upgrades. Red DNA laser, blue mirror laser and yellow flames (my own names, don’t blame me for wrong naming). Aside from that, we can equip our fighter with shielding bits, homing missiles and speed it up (which becomes a trap later). It creates a very unique playstyle which became iconic for R-type. Force manipulation and collecting a correct power up is a key to build a tactic in order to beat the level. Sadly, the game hasn’t got any special scoring system, making sometimes unfair situations, where dying can actually bring you more points.
Stages themselves are well made. Each one is characteristic and bring different feeling. We encounter mechanical bases, battleships, as well as organic dens of the Bydo empire. I really like the design of stage fifth. It has great atmosphere. Along with the music it created a “you’ve gone too far, now die” feeling. When I’m talking about stages it is hard not to mention about their difficulty. We can casually go through first three stages as they have fairly reasonable difficulty. When you will enter stage fourth you can notice a sudden difficulty spike. Better watch your back, because that’s where enemies start to appear from behind. Further levels aren’t any better. I never made it to the last level on the arcade version. I’ve played it only thanks to the infinity mode in R-type Dimensions and all I can say is… It’s almost impossible. The onslaught, player encounters during last boss, feels inappropriate to the hit box of the R-9… which is the whole ship. In order to complete the game you have to memorize every stage, especially stage sixth, the labyrinth-like one. You will have a lot of time to do this. After death you won’t continue from where you died, but you will start from the checkpoint with nothing! Good luck there.
The music doesn’t try to fit into the game most of the time. Sometimes its dark, sometimes it is childish. Nothing really memorable except fourth stage’s theme… and stage sixth, which is actually annoying! You have just went through the nasty den and now you are going through some kind of magazine. Ok, have a happy, cheerful music for this sadistic place full of traps.
Sprites of the enemies and environment are great. The boss of the third stage and whole stage fifth are really well made and definitely were fascinating back then and they still look great today. I’m quite disappointed at our Arrowhead, because it looks like it lack some casing, unlike in the sequel! Also I still can make jokes about second boss being a huge pile of vaginas but it’s just a design, not a quality. Unfortunately, the game suffers from some flickering, which is much worse on a Master System version. In my opinion they did well with graphics. I love the animation of the force when you go back and forth. I know it’s a detail but it’s nice.
R-type Dimensions for X360 has high detail 3D graphics, which looks amazing. Now your R-9 doesn’t lack any casing. It looks more like a toy (unlike in R-type 2 again). The graphics in R-type Dimensions can be changed to oldshcool 2D at any time, which is a great touch.
R-Type is a game with a great and unique gameplay thanks to the force sphere. Should I recommend it to everyone? Well… First three stages are definitely for everyone and great for every beginner. Every single one further may be too hard and discourage some people. It is too hard even for me! If you want to start with R-type, try R-type 2 first.
The fifth stage’s graphics stands out the most