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R-Type Final 2

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Granzella
Release Date: April 30, 2021


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Switch Review - 'R-Type Final 2'

by Cody Medellin on May 25, 2021 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

R-Type Final 2 is the latest title in the long-running, side-scrolling, shoot-'em-up series.

Buy R-Type Final 2

In 2004, R-Type Final was released in North America, and for some, it marked the end of the traditional space shooter. Gradius V would get released later in the year, but that was pretty much it for the big publishers getting into the genre, leaving it into the hands of smaller publishers to push the shooter in its bullet-hell form. Despite the title, R-Type as a series wasn't exactly gone, as the PSP saw two tactical games in the franchise, while R-Type Dimensions took the first two arcade games and remade them with modern 3D graphics. It wasn't until April 1, 2019, when it was announced that the series was returning, which excited fans once it was confirmed that it wasn't an April Fool's joke. Two years later, we have the finished product in R-Type Final 2.

Although the narrative is often the least cared-about part of a shooter, what's here is interesting nonetheless. Following the "good" ending of R-Type Final, the war against the Bydo empire is over, and while relative peace is present, the threat of Bydo's return is ever-present. As such, it has been decided that there needs to be more data gathered on the battles that led to the Bydo's defeat to be better prepared should the threat resurface. You play the role of the pilot assigned to go through those fights again.

The fact that the premise is tucked away deep in the in-game instruction manual reinforces how trivial plotlines are in shooters , especially since you get no hint of this in the game's opening moments. At the same time, it goes a long way to explain why most of the stages seem familiar. From the set pieces, like flying through the wreckage and hull of a large spacecraft, to the enemy patterns and the bosses themselves, you won't be able to shake the feeling that you've seen this all before. At the same time, these aren't complete retreads, as there are enough changes to make it more of a reimagining than a remake. A good example of this is the first boss, who still looks like it was heavily inspired by the works of H. R. Geiger but is now encased in ice with the head popping out of its chest.

The other big change to the levels is that they're now presented in 2.5D. As far as gameplay goes, you're still moving around in a side-scrolling 2D plane, but the background moves around as if you're turning corners to simulate movement in a 3D space. By using it more as an aesthetic choice rather than a gameplay one, it accomplishes the task of putting out some cool visual moments without briefly disorienting the player. The one drawback is that the game sometimes fails to make it evident when something is in the background or foreground and when the element is finally in the same plane as the player. A good example is in the third level, where a giant warship is coming from the background and getting into the same space as the player. You'll catch it once you see that your gunfire hits it, but the transition and indication could've been better for this and other ships flying in the foreground.

Even though R-Type Final 2 has made a superficial transition from 2D to 2.5D, the core shooting mechanics remain the same. The title adheres to the classic shooter formula of challenging players via enemy placement and the somewhat maze-like structure of some stages, rather than filling the screen with enemies and bullets. Your ship is maneuverable enough, but you can change up its speed to bob and weave through oncoming enemies or be more precise in lining up shots. The standard gun is powerful enough, but you can hold down the fire button to charge up a more powerful volley, and you can also acquire different guns, such as lasers that bounce off walls or fire that runs across the top and bottom of the screen.

The most formidable weapon is your force pod, which has several functions. By default, it acts as a shield for most enemy fire and enables you to use special weapons. It can be attached to the front of your ship or even behind it, which proves useful in a few levels where you're flying backward and need the gunfire. You can also detach it from your ship, sending it forward like an invincible battering ram, and it gives you an extra set of normal guns. Letting it block shots or come into contact with enemies is also the only way to power it up, so you can deploy an almost screen-clearing attack, but don't expect to use it often, since it takes quite a while for the meter to refill.

Alongside the classic shooting mechanics comes the return of the game's difficulty. The levels may be short, but scrolling through them is slow, which lays the groundwork for some tricky enemy and obstacle placement, with a few instances where you are surrounded by foes. It takes one shot to kill your craft, and the game reverts to old-school rules by letting you respawn at an earlier point. Unlike its peers like Gradius, R-Type Final 2 is lenient because you can acquire your force pod shortly after respawning, but the loss of acquired powers still hurts. The game offers up different difficulty levels — four, if you don't count the Practice difficulty — but the main limiter is in the amount of credits available for a run, so those who are used to pumping in virtual credits to brute-force themselves toward the end will struggle on even the lowest difficulty.

There are a few annoyances to this. The first is minor, and that's the fact that you never see a complete explosion when you die. The game stops at the apex of the explosion of your ship instead of letting it completely play out, which comes off as rather abnormal since no other shooter does this. The other thing, which is a bigger deal, is the presence of a loading screen that appears after every death. This isn't a quick load, either, as deaths can mean looking at a black loading screen for roughly 5-10 seconds, with the first death in a run being the longest. It accomplishes its task of irking users into getting better, but it does so in a way that lessens the fun factor.

Should you be able to make it through the campaign, R-Type Final 2 still provides players with plenty to do, but it is heavily dependent on the grind, since playing through stages gives you four different currency types. The coins that you earn can be used to purchase a bunch of cosmetics, ranging from pilot colors and helmet types to various decals for your ship. Considering that you only see your pilot in one scene and you have no way to show off your ship's decal designs other than sharing your system screenshots, it seems like superfluous stuff. More significant is the fact that the other currencies and the completion of specific actions gives you the ability to create more ships, each with different weapon and force pod configurations. The total count comes in a little lower, with 99 ships compared to R-Type Final's 101, and some of those are locked behind passwords and provided only to backers of the game. Still, there's more than enough here to keep completionists busy.

The presentation is rather good. Graphically, the game looks quite nice as far as ship and enemy designs go. The environments also look good, but the whole thing feels washed-out color-wise, like it came from the Xbox 360/PS3 era. The particle effects are good but not impressive for this generation, and while it is impressive to see another Unreal Engine 4 game running on the Switch, the lower-than-expected frame rate and slight blurring at some effects means that this is the least impressive-looking version of the game. As far as audio goes, the techno vibe fits in with the shooting well enough, and the sound effects are fine. There are no voices in the game except for the opening cut scene, but it sounds too happy in contrast to the unfolding situation.

Compared to the magnum opus of the series that was R-Type Final, R-Type Final 2 serves more as an epilogue that maintains how solid the series still is. The level design and combat feel just as good as in past games, with a level of challenge that'll test those who have cut their teeth on modern bullet-hell shooters. The number of unlockable ships and the processes needed to do so will make players spend more time with this than most other titles in the genre, and that'll make up for the lack of extras like online scoreboards. Despite having a few issues in presentation and a rather annoying load upon death, R-Type Final 2 will please genre fans.

Score: 7.5/10

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