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May 2021

R-Type Dimensions EX

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360
Genre: Shoot-'Em-Up
Developer: Tozai Games
Release Date: Nov. 28, 2018


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Switch Review - 'R-Type Dimensions EX'

by Cody Medellin on May 30, 2019 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Coin-op classics R-Type and R-Type II come together as R-Type Dimensions EX, with original 2D and new, fully enhanced 3D graphics.

The original R-Type and its sequel belong to the upper echelon of classic arcade shoot-'em-ups. It falls under the same category as Gradius and Thunder Force, where even casual fans of shooting games can recognize the ship or the big boss — in this case, a giant embryo that looks like an evil xenomorph from the Alien movie series. It was legendary in the arcades and a gem of a shooter for both the Sega Master System and Turbo-Grafx 16. (This is one of the few genre titles to not hit the NES.) In 2009, we saw the first iteration of an arcade-perfect port and HD remaster with R-Type Dimensions on the PS3 and Xbox 360. The port took the arcade original and the sequel, gave players a toggle for both old and new presentation styles, and even added a new mode to ease players into the notoriously difficult titles. Almost 10 years later, that version has been released on the Nintendo Switch, with the addition of "EX" to the title and a few tweaks for newcomers.

There are two games in the package, but the story for both titles is pretty much the same. The universe is being overrun by the evil Bydo empire, which is taking over planets left and right. As an inhabitant of one of the last free planets in the solar system, your job in the first game is to eliminate the Bydo empire. In the second game, the Bydo empire has returned, and you set out to eradicate it once and for all.

The game is a standard side-scrolling shooter. Your arsenal of weaponry consists of fireballs, missiles, speed boosts and several different laser types, including curved lasers and reflective ones. The most iconic weapon of the series is the satellite. Players can choose to attach it to the front or back of the ship, so it acts like a shield. What makes it a formidable weapon is that it can be launched out in front of you, acting like both a battering ram and an extra set of guns.

While all of this firepower is great, you'll need more than that to get far in this title. Both R-Type and R-Type 2 were known for being notoriously difficult, and that reputation still rings true today. Unlike modern shooters, which rely on blankets of bullets to challenge the player, old-school shooters relied on memorizing enemy and stage patterns to get the best score with little margin of error. The R-Type series takes things to extremes by providing no real margin of error. Players had to learn the hard way which enemy types would appear where and, in some cases, where a level dead-end would be placed.

Whereas death in some games means restarting immediately where you perished, death here means restarting at a checkpoint, which is usually placed before a really difficult area of the level. It's this brutal design that gives the series its difficult reputation, and while old-school players will revel in it, new players might find the gameplay system too archaic and could be scared away.

The compilation features two single-player modes for each game. Classic mode is a perfect emulation of the arcade versions, including the notorious difficulty and checkpoint system. For arcade purists, this is the way to go. For all other gamers, an Infinite mode has been created that makes the game much easier in several different ways. As the name implies, you have an infinite number of lives. At the end of each level, you're shown how many lives it took for you to beat the level, encouraging you to die less the next time around. Another major change in the mode is that the checkpoint system is gone, allowing you to return to the game the instant you die. New to this EX variation is the ability to manipulate time, so you can speed up or slow down the action to get past uneventful areas or get a better handle on the on-screen enemies, respectively. There's also the option to arm yourself with every weapon from the start, but that should only be used if you're absolutely terrible at shooters.

Beyond the single-player, EX features multiplayer modes for the first time. The two-player co-op mode can be played in either Infinite mode or Classic mode. While Infinite mode is exactly like the single-player mode, Classic mode gives you the ability to revive a fallen player by picking up a power-up, and that eases the difficulty a bit more. You can also choose to activate collision between players, but with a game this difficult, this option is really for masochists.

If you're using the new look, everything is presented in 2D using 3D assets. This is stunning to look at, and it makes you feel like you're looking at a brand-new downloadable shooter instead of a remake of an old one. If the team had simply stopped there, the graphics would be considered a big feat, especially since the graphical upgrade introduced no flaws or slowdown. However, with the press of a button, the user can switch between 2D and 3D graphics on the fly. This is a very cool feature that one doesn't get tired of, especially since the transition is seamless and doesn't require constant pausing of the game to accomplish. Speaking of 2D, the original graphics still hold up very well in this age, especially the 16-bit look of R-Type 2. Players who have never seen the arcade originals of either title will be surprised to see how much detail was put in both the characters and backgrounds, a real testament to the talent of the original programming team at Irem.

Adding even more to the graphical package, the programmers decided to add camera options. For both 2D and 3D graphics schemes, you have the ability to show the game in standard 4:3 mode or in widescreen. The 4:3 mode will be good for purists, and the border around the screen isn't bad. Widescreen stretches out the image instead of giving you more real estate to work with. Unlike other old arcade ports, the widescreen looks pretty good, and nothing suffers in the process.

These sound like the expected camera options for the title, but things start to get interesting when you look at camera options for specific graphic modes. For 2D, there's an Arcade mode where you are literally looking at the game through the eyes of someone playing in an arcade cabinet. All of the movements you do are also shown with an on-screen joystick. The mode isn't very useful, since the camera moves whenever you move, making the game screen veer off-center almost all of the time. Couple that with the fact that the game screen is small enough so details can be missed, and this becomes a mode that few gamers will bother trying more than once. For 3D, a Crazy camera option is available, and it's much more useful than the name implies. Here, the game camera tilts for a more 3D view, where the right side of the screen goes in a bit and the left side goes out. In this view, you can see that the programmers put plenty of detail in their 3D models and, for some, the view makes the game feel fresher graphically. You may choose to play both R-Type titles from this interesting viewpoint just to see the old levels in a new light.

Unlike the graphics, the sound hasn't changed from the original. The classic 8- and 16-bit sounds from the original arcade versions are intact and faithfully reproduced here. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, since the sound is very well done. The synthesizer-based music fits very well with the space theme, and it holds up very well considering how much time has passed. The same goes for the sound effects, which complement the 3D graphics as well as they did the 2D graphics. Overall, it was a very wise decision to keep the original sounds and music intact.

R-Type Dimensions EX is a solid tweaking of a remaster that was pleasing to begin with. The original titles are classics, and while their difficulty is well known, the tweaks and additions make this more accessible to new players by getting them interested in playing the game the right way. There's already plenty of good shooters on the Switch system, but EX is still a great addition to that growing genre library.

Score: 8.0/10

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