Thursday, June 21, 2018

R-Type Delta (Playstation)

Checkpoints ON
3 Difficulty levels
7 Stages
Ship speed selectable
- - - - - - -
Developed by Irem
Published by Agetec in 1999

Brave pilots would never run from their duties when it comes down to the neverending war against the evil Bydo empire, especially with the possibility of boarding the cockpit of four different spaceships in a brand-new adventure. This scenario became a reality by the end of the 90s when Irem surprised their fanbase with R-Type Delta, a new game built from scratch for the Playstation and an entry that soon proved to be the peak of this beloved series - a status that stands to this day since R-Type Final failed to amass the same kind of recognition years later.

To keep it simple, R-Type Delta is one of the definitive highlights of the 32-bit era and a mandatory item in any Playstation game collection. It's noteworthy for being fully rendered with polygons, in a programming job that puts Sony hardware to great use with exquisite textures, effects, layers and colors. It pushes the franchise further while paying an extraordinary homage to its origins, all of that to the sound of an amazing soundtrack that carries a great cinematic punch. Cinematic, by the way, is a good way to describe the game as a whole. That's easily noticed if you let the opening sequence of every credit follow its course as you see your chosen name in the stats for the first mission (there are three unique save slots for different pilots, so up to three people can enjoy the game with individual performance trackings).

Emerging gloriously from the ashes of the 3D trend that plagued that generation, R-Type Delta is not only beautiful to look at but also delightful to play. It brings the arcade experience to the console format while striking the perfect balance between tough and fun. Two very important changes are the flying speed selection, which is now done at the press of a button, and the fact that you cannot die by touching walls anymore. How's that for an improvement? If you played previous chapters you'll know how much pressure that takes away from our shoulders. R-Type Delta also doesn't loop and doesn't give you any extra lives, clocking at seven stages in a progressively darker, almost nightmarish setting.

Trying to come to grips with a gigantic attack

Following the trend initiated in R-Type III, in this installment players have a selection of different ships at their disposal. The choice of ship determines most of the strategies you need to overcome the odds, even though they all come across the same items throughout the journey and these are molded after the classic gameplay from the original R-Type. Shoot and destroy carriers to collect colored items and power up your ship: the first one creates a force pod that can be docked either on the front or the back of the ship, the second one activates the power of the chosen color and the third one maxes it out. Indestructible, this "force" can be used for defense and offence, as well as be detached/thrown away and summoned back afterwards. While detached, it acts as an extension to the ship's basic firepower. The only other items you come across are M for missiles (maxed out after two pick-ups) and bits that hover above and below the ship for additional firepower.

The shot button can be charged for a powerful blast, but if you charge it long enough so that the gauge fills up a second time an even more powerful attack will be triggered when you let go of the button. New to R-Type Delta is the Δ-weapon, which is indicated by the "dose" meter and fills up as you use the force to destroy enemies. Once it reaches 100% you can deploy it as the ultimate screen-covering blast against the Bydo. All ships have unique animations for all these attack alternatives, which is quite neat and makes playing with each one of them a very distinct experience. As for gameplay inputs, they can be fully mapped in the options menu (my setup was R1 for autofire, □ for shot, × for force manipulation, L1/L2 to adjust speed and Δ to unleash the Δ-weapon).

Here's a brief description of all ships from R-Type Delta:
  • R9 a II (force: standard type) - the classic R-Type canon with all classic weapons: wave cannon (red), 3-way bouncing lasers (blue) and crawling laser (yellow); standard guided missiles; regular beam for charge blast; Δ-weapon is an all-encompassing laser strike; a detached force shoots a 5-way spread pattern.
  • RX "Albatross" (force: tentacle type) - weapons consist of straight laser (red), latching lasers (blue) and energy whip (yellow); air-to-ground missiles; impact charge blasts;  Δ-weapon is a powerful strike that distorts reality; the force now has two filaments that affect the behavior of the main shot and act as an extension to its defensive capabilities, aiming and shooting automatically at the nearest enemy when detached.
  • R13 "Cerberus" (force: anchor type) - weapons consist of straight laser (red), bending lasers (blue) and sweeping laser (yellow); power missile with slight bending ability; lightning charge blast; Δ-weapon is a series of laser bar discharges that tears everything apart; the force now behaves like a claw, linked to the ship at all times by a chain that also damages everything in its path when detached (it can also latch onto more powerful enemies if you manage to launch it correctly).
  • Pow Armor (force: bydo type) - this is the power-up carrier, unlocked as soon as you clear the game in any difficulty, continues allowed; weapons consist of a heartbeat-shaped laser (red), 6-way bouncing lasers (blue) and bouncing crawling laser (yellow); soft missiles with homing ability when maxed out; charge blast is a spread of bydo ghosts; Δ-weapon is a full barrage of creepy bydo ghosts; the force full of spikes shoots in a fixed rotating pattern when detached.

First contact
(courtesy of YouTube user MatrixAndrAla)

When you think about the amount of attention to detail in R-Type Delta it's hard not to see why this shmup is praised by so many people. Everything about it evolves gracefully, with brief cinematic intermissions highlighting key points in the levels, providing animation sequences for large enemies or simply enhancing the sense of depth and non-stop shooting action. Debris fly everywhere, backgrounds show wrecked cities and revolving wombs while mechanic beasts disrupt the environment as they get torn to shreds by your deadly firepower, all ending in a final contact with the enemy on the other side of a dimensional rift. Of special note is the recycling of many set pieces from the original R-Type in the sinister ambience of stage 5. It's just one of the aspects that make this game so epic.

Another nice improvement devised by Irem in this chapter lies in the scoring system. Whenever the force is in contact with an enemy the score increases at a steady rate, whereas every single bullet shielded by the force also gives you a few more points. On top of that, a dose meter at 100% also serves to boost the points you get from every single kill. This is excellent because the player's performance with the force is finally rewarded in a risk/reward mechanic that's completely new to the series. In my opinion that certainly gives R-Type Delta the distinction of having the best scoring system in the whole Irem catalogue.

As a complement in the top notch work on the Playstation disc, the developer provided a lot of game options and a handful of extras for those who like to unlock stuff. A special section called War Record keeps track of the pilot's performance and the items he/she has unlocked, including the animated ending sequences, a gallery for different backgrounds and a comprehensive list of achievements. It's possible to turn autosave and vibration on and off, as well as tinker with the HUD display by changing the "cockpit" option in the pause menu.

My ship of choice for the high scoring 1CC was the R9. I beat the game in the Normal difficulty (Human in the Japanese disc) and got the stats shown below, which appear briefly after the credit ends. As for the other ships, I enjoyed playing with the Pow Armor the most, it's quite fun. The RX has an extremely powerful charge attack but its yellow weapon isn't good at all in certain situations (it reminds me of the ship from X-Multiply). And with the R13 it's important to learn how to deal with the clutch-like force in order to overcome the somewhat weaker weapon selection.

Next: R-Type Final.

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