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R-Type Final

Platform(s): Arcade, Game Boy Advance, GameCube, Nintendo DS, PC, PSOne, PSP, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox, Xbox 360
Genre: Action

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PS2 Review - 'R-Type Final'

by Geson Hatchett on Feb. 12, 2004 @ 2:03 a.m. PST

Genre: Action
Publisher: Eidos
Developer: Irem Software
Release Date: February 3, 2004

Buy 'R-TYPE FINAL': PlayStation 2

A long, long time ago, in a video game generation far away, Super R-Type and I had a bit of a falling out.

Specifically, I hated its guts, and it didn't think too much of me, either.

I hated its unorthodox power-ups, I hated the relatively slow gameplay, I hated its unforgiving loss-of-life penalties. How could this possibly hope to top my beloved Gradius ? It felt like a poor-man's version, at best. Thus, I cast aside this game, and all things related to it, never to play it again.

Flash forward nearly a full decade, to last week, when R-Type and I are reunited due to the fact that this wonderful staffer job allows me to play it for no charge in the name of journalism. (Life is grand.) However, I got a little more than I bargained for. This time, I decided to play the game by its own rules as opposed to my own, and consequently found it to be actually fun, even in the face of my still dying countless deaths.

I still hold a bit of a grudge against R-Type, because it knows how to kill me very efficiently, and I'm a very petty man; but unlike before, I can now respect it completely. I have found out that back then, it wasn't the game that was doing things wrong. It was me.

R-Type Final (is this the final one?) marks the return of quite possibly the most well-known "you-versus-them" horizontal space shooter outside of Konami's Gradius series. In such games, you pilot a tiny little ship with enormous power-up potential; yet you are still rendered insignificant as waves of shots and enemies are hurtled at you, usually in predictable patterns.

The shooter has been around since the dawn of videogaming itself, and has been redone, rehashed, and reinvented countless times. It has also, over the years, turned into a genre that people either love or don't know much of. It's always taken a lot for a shooter to become a viable franchise; however, somewhat surprisingly, the name R-Type has persevered over the years, due to its unique gameplay.

R-Type Final, like its brethren, is all about technique. The majority of your arsenal is not native to your ship; it takes the form of companions to your ship. In addition to upgrades to your normal gun and missiles, you can pick up tiny shields that hover above and below your ship. That's not all, however.

The integral strategic part of your fighter in any R-Type game is the Force (insert lame Star Wars pun here, please and thank you). A Force, according to the tutorial and manual, is a living thing, and it seems to be true; sometimes the blasted thing acts as if it has a mind of its own. The Force can attach itself to the front or rear of your ship, or it can simply just drift about by itself in some other part of the screen. The Force is invincible, can absorb shots (which charges up its own attack meter), can provide a good amount of extra backup fire, and is upgradeable in power. Add this to a good amount of standard and chargeable guns supplied to your main ship, and you stand a slim-to-fair chance against the scum of the universe.

At least, that's what you think before you actually start playing, and find out that R-Type Final's enemies come at your ship and its buddies from wherever the hell they feel like. Frontal assault, rear flank, up, down, corner, some moving in patters, some moving erratically, some crawling on the ground, and some trying endlessly to charge or divebomb you into oblivion. If your ship gets touched once, you die, lose all your power-ups, and are sent back a little ways in the stage, to fight through the same waves of enemies you just died to with only the chargeable pea-shooter you start out with by default.

Scared yet? Good. You should be. This is not a game for people who are used to easy fights, nor it is for people used to pumping quarters in arcade shooter machines to get extra ships which respawn on command. Here, it's win-or-go-home, be-perfect-or-die-trying. Being frustrated with this game is a normal and frequent occurrence.

Look alive, however; there is hope! If you wish to not die in R-Type Final (or any R-Type for that matter) the key is to be creative. Your shields must be used to the maximum extent possible, power-ups must only be picked up according to the current situation, and-most importantly-the Force must be treated as an extension of yourself. Just keeping it attached in front of you at all times will get you killed, and the game will laugh at you. You're going to have to let it roam free sometimes while allowing it to lay down suppression fire. Sometimes having it attached to the back of your ship will be better. Sometimes you may need to hide on front of or behind its invincible shell. And there are times when you really will just have to attach it to your front so you can lay down some massive firepower, and teach some space aliens who's boss. This is without a doubt a thinker's shooter; one that can humble even the most confident of players in a few short minutes.

R-Type Final is a 2D game set in a 3D world. Luckily, the polygons help this game out more than anything else. Rich, vibrant, and sometimes dynamic settings are the standard fare in this game, all employing a vast array of blending colors that make things downright surreal. Explosions and power-shots are a sight to behold, and the backgrounds themselves look beautiful. It's possible to even interact with the backgrounds and scenery, by shooting at surfaces, or skimming across water and watching as your ship makes waves. At other times, the entire play field will shift perspectives depending on the environment, making your space (or planetary) battles that much more cinematic. It's like Ikaruga taken to the next step, and it's a wonderful thing.

Should trends like this continue, I dare say that the age of the purely sprite-based shooter is nearing an end. There's little reason--outside of restrictive arcade hardware--to keep the old style in place in the face of this new, just as capable, and more beautiful method of creating shooter games. (Besides, Ikaruga gives you just as many bullets, if not more.)

Sound is completely mood and atmosphere-based in this title. A flight through ruins will yield little to no background, for example; while a flight through a city in peril is met with an orchestral score laden with suspense. Effects are your basic shots and explosions, though none are displeasing to the ear. Turn that sound up if you want a hear war in your room.

For a shooter game, this title is loaded with a deceptive amount of extras. The biggest draws are the 99 unlockable ships and a ship-AI battle mode, which allows you to simulate space battles between any two ships you want. Sadly, neither of the battling ships are controllable, which irks me more than it should, really. A well-done two-player ship-to-ship space sortie in the vein of Star Control would have made my day, and raised this game's score by a full half-point. Still, it's nice to watch and play around with.

Also included are galleries and databases, chronicling just about everything you'd ever want to know about the R-Type universe, and the ships available to your cause. The tutorial mode is very well-done; it contains extensive videos that break down every single nuance of gameplay. Simply by watching these videos, one can jump into R-Type's sometimes confusing system without breaking a sweat.

If this truly is the final game in the series, then Irem went out with a bang. Be thankful that they did, because the result is a fun, good-looking game that challenges all comers, and still isn't as sickeningly masochistic as, say, Contra: Shattered Soldier. The concept of using a control pad or stick to blast a thousand aliens is as old as the video game system itself, but even in this day and age, R-Type Final may well pull something out of its bag of tricks to surprise you, with entertaining results.

Score: 8.0/10


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