3 Difficulty levels
Ship speed by icons
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Developed by Irem
Published by Irem in 1991
Originally released as two separate HuCards in Japan (stages 1-4 in one and stages 5-8 in the other), Irem's most classic shooter got a while later a complete release for the PC Engine CD add-on entitled R-Type Complete CD. It's a great game in its own rights, and deserves a place in history as one of the best home conversions of the original arcade blaster. I'm just not fond of the "Complete" in the title, since very basic features in any quality shmup - and a dead serious one in the case of R-Type - are sorely missing from the package. More on that later.
Unless you are a complete neophyte to the world of video games, I assume you already know or at least have an idea of what's the deal here. R-Type defined standards for the horizontal shooting genre, and was probably one of the most cloned games in the shmup industry. Everything in it revolves around the Force, a glowing globe that can be attached to the sides of the R-9 spaceship after you get the first power-up, evolving in shape, size and power as you collect more of them. It's invincible, protects the ship from small bullets, inflicts damage to enemies and can be launched away for special attacks. It's also able to fire 3 kinds of weapons: a straight staggering double wave (red), a triad of bouncing lasers (blue) and a side-crawling "snake" shot (yellow). There are orbs that can be docked above and below the ship to provide some help against approaching enemies, and the lame default speed can be upgraded with the appropriate icon. When the fire button is held, a powerful beam is charged and shot upon its release.
Entering the enemy's womb
My previous experience with R-Type was only with the Master System port (not considering some sparse plays on R-Type Final for the PS2). R-Type Complete CD showcases a remixed soundtrack with CD quality, but other than that and some boring cut scenes with Japanese dialogue I heard it's graphically identical to the HuCard versions. It's still the same hard game, with an easy start but an overwhelmingly difficult set of final stages. If you haven't found your wall in checkpoint based shmups, I definitely recommend you this one. You won't want to die while playing the 7th or 8th stages, trust me. If death gets you, you'd better hit SELECT + START and get back to the beginning, as nothing will help you through the impossible conditions of the game - not even unlimited continues. What's the result of that? Simply put, this is a shmup that demands a 1 life clear. I'm not saying that lost lives mean a lost run... Unless we're talking about the second half of the game, that's for sure!
Yes, it's that difficult. So what's the reason for such a cult following on a game that's so old? Detractors tend to mention its slow pace, a true fact that can't be argued. I myself have nothing against slow pacing, provided you're treated with great design and cool music. And that's thankfully the case here. I consider R-Type to be a very charming game, with level designs that embrace a great sense of vastness and variety. The first level is as classic as it is cool to play, a perfect example of how to make a stage that totally lures you into the game and keeps you going all the way through the rest of a very hard journey. It's nothing less of awesome.
Now I see what goes on in between the levels!
(courtesy of YouTube user C'zka Utatane)
(courtesy of YouTube user C'zka Utatane)
There are just a couple of things missing here, and it's a shame that these things detract a lot from what this particular port could actually accomplish. First of all, R-Type Complete CD does not loop. Now come on! Even the Master System version loops! Why, oh why does it have to stop on a THE END screen with no extra loop like the original? What was the problem in having it? To make matters worse, there's no buffering of high scores anywhere in the game. A major sin in any shmup, and a serious deadly one in a game of this stature.
If you don't mind scoring/looping, R-Type Complete CD will certainly satisfy you. I haven't put my hands in the R-Types compilation for the Playstation yet, but I heard that's the right choice if you're a score-driven player.
The photo below shows my score moments before defeating the final boss on NORMAL, on a no-miss run. The detail to the left is the last screen you see before the game gets back to the title screen.