is for.... forward to

R-TYPE Series (continued)

By Irem Arcade 1987-


The pace is stepped up during the final four stages where progression is inextricably linked to accruing
power-ups. Things really start to get tricky during the navigation of level six's hi-tech maze
(second from left) and the penultimate level, a punishing test of joypad dexterity.


Both R-Type and R-Type II contain some of the most glorious moments in shoot 'em up history. Moments whenthe R9 has probably just lost all of
its weapons due to an untimely collision with a
wall. Moments when blind panic seems
like the only option..

R-Type level 3:
While dodging an onslaught of enemy fire the player has to navigate the R9 around a gigantic alien mothership before swooping down and blasting its vulnerable core. This stage is one of the game's most celebrated set-pieces

R-Type level 4:
Halfway through the maze of green blobs a pack of aliens suddenly crawl on from the back of the screen. The only hope is to get the shield onto the rear of the ship (if you can find enough room) and watch the front carefully..

R-Type level 7:
A space station where enemies pour onto the screen and sections of the walls explode. Why does that ominously passive red enemy vessel cruise on from the rear of the screen? Simply because Irem knows it will bewilder the player.

R-Type II level 2:
The R9 is submerged in water for most of this level but it isn't until the crab-like mid-boss appears that panic sets in. Icebergs form on the water's surface, the screen fills with aliens and a mad
few moments ensue..

R-Type II level 3:
Follows in the footsteps of the original game's third level a little too closely, perhaps, but includes two onscreen motherships and more squeezing of the R9 through impossibly tight gaps. A huge and
horribly tough final boss , too...

R-Type II entered the arcades in 1989 and made amends for the weak interpretations endured by the ST, Amiga and SNES. Perhaps less well-rounded than the original, Irem's sequel is still a truly memorable blaster with some stunning visuals and
exceptionally tough gameplay.

That was 1988. A coin-op sequel arrived a year later in the form of R-Type II (a title that was later translated into the lacklustre SNES title Super R-Type), while the final coin-op in the series, R-Type Leo, appeared a few years later to a decidedly lukwarm reception. Consequently, Irem pulled the plug on its coin-op development, ultimately squeezed out by the growing market for high-end dedicated coin-ops like Daytona USA and Ridge Racer, and the gradual slump in the PCB market. A withdrawal from the console arena followed shortly afterwards, with Irem only returning briefly for the one-off release of R-Type III on the SNES in 1994.

Recently, however, Irem returned once more to the console market with the release of R-Types for the Playstation in Japan (and subsequently in the West also), marking a comeback to software publishing as Irem Software Engineering, and providing yet another boost for the PSX in the eyes of the hardcore gamer who the series is targeted at. 'We were inundated with requests from fans of the game, so it seemed like a logical step to convert the games to the Playstation', revealed Irem's Keith Masauda. 'It was a difficult task despite the fact that the PSX hardware is better than the arcade board. We had to recode the games specifically for the machine, rather than running them under emulation (as is the case, for example, with Namco's Museum series) but its been worth it - the games have been translated perfectly.'

As a testament to its enduring appeal, it's extremely difficult to find fault with any aspect of Irem's original design in R-Type. It's one of those rare games that was virtually perfect from the outset, setting standards of excellence that no developer could hope to match. The graphics are sublime and amazingly detailed, even by today's standards, and the sound punchy and atmospheric. But it was the gameplay, packed with so many innovative ideas, that made it such a timeless concept - and one that has little in common with contemporary gaming design sensibilities.

The imaganitive power-ups and stock weapons are perhaps R-type's most obvious strength. A perfectly balanced firing system allows either a stream of bullets or - after holding and releasing fire - a powerful blue beam to be unleashed, but not both simultaneously. The detatchable shield (which can be powered up itself several times) is the game's crowning glory, though, with many of its subtler features only becoming obvious after considerable play. This can be attached to either front or back of the R-9 ship - certain sections requiring the player to switch it around quickly - and can also be fired off as an independent satellite with its own firepower. It was an ingenious creation.

Unlike a seemingly random old-skool blaster like Asteroids or Defender, R-Type's appeal was always firmly lodged in its pre-determined paths of enemy attacks. While this might appear contrived, it was a design that enabled players to get to grips with an immensely challenging game. 'R-Type isn't so much a shoot 'em up as a memory test,' conceds self-confessed addict Fred Williams, lead programmer at Corrosive Software. 'But somehow it never got too samey. There are three heavy-alien-onslaught levels, three long corridor levels, and two odd ones, the alien mothership and the maze - and you have to memorize, really really well, two safe routes through all eight. One for when you are fully powered up, and another much harder one for when you lose all your weapons. As a result, R-Type was one of only two arcade machines I've put considerably more than a couple of quid into...'

Julian Eggebrecht head of Factor 5, the team
responsible for the Amiga conversion, offers some final thoughts. 'I vividly remember the first time I played
R-Type. It was a new kind of shoot 'em up with almost intellectual depth. I liked everything about it. I was also shocked by the amount of innovation and gameplay possibilities with the shield that I died a hundred times on the first level just trying to figure out different ways to play it. Also, graphically it was unusual because it was one of the first games to use pastel colours at a time when everyone else was using harsh greens and reds. It still holds up fantastically well compared to other shooters today.'

Too well perhaps...

First published in Edge Magazine April 1998. R-Types for the Playstation is currently available, containing excellent conversions of R-Type and R-type II. The latest in the series, R-Type Delta for the Playstation, has just been released in Europe and should be coming to North America any time around now.

Other R-Type

Irem's Official R-Type homepage
Blazing Lasers
The R-Type Files at Computer Exchange London
See also:
Easy Bosses!

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