Are there any R-Typers in the house? The time has come for you to help send this classic series out with a bang in one Final hurrah.
On the sidelines when it comes to shooters (and we’re not talking the first-person kind)? Now you can get in the game with one of the finest ever crafted – at a mere 30 bucks, the price is right. Those of you who don’t care for that lovable genre needn’t read further than the end of this sentence?Eust know that you’re missing out on one of the cornerstones, one of the basic food groups, as it were, of video gaming – one that, incidentally, plucks at the very heartstrings of hand-eye coordination and sheer reflex: An exhilaration not to be missed. Unless you have Ikaruga or the coveted Radiant Silvergun, R-Type Final is sure to find a welcome place in your library. Go ahead and rent it first if you’re not sure – even with the price of an initial rental, the game will cost you some ten to fifteen dollars less than most new titles – but as I will now attempt to illustrate, the unique gameplay and lasting appeal are in place to make this one a keeper.
2-D shooters are usually the last place to look for jaw-dropping, breathtaking feats of visual engineering; R-Type Final is not really an exception to this rule; but, even if its graphics do not shatter any artistic boundaries, they are almost always above reproach, if not positively impressive. Colors are vibrant, textures and backgrounds are crisp and clean, enemy models are detailed and widely varied, bosses huge and complex. Many of your own ships have compelling designs ranging from the super-sleek to the ultra-exotic, while the array of firepower they collectively wield provides many a visual treat. There’s only so much you can accomplish graphically with this kind of game, and in that sense Final shows a lot better than one would expect. While control of your fighter will always take place on a single, two-dimensional plane, as you make your way through the levels you’ll find that perspective is played with quite a bit and to pretty spectacular effect. The overall design manages to be both stylish and functional.
The best part about the sound experience in this game is that it complements the visuals so nicely. Neither is likely to win any awards, perhaps, but together they do well to support the core vision of the game, and so I do not have any real complaints to offer. The music, for example, seems very forgettable to me, but most of the time you probably won’t mind because you’ll be kept so busy concentrating on the action – certainly you will not forget that it consistently steps up and adds to the tension and excitement during boss battles and so on where. The developers seem to have decided on ambience as the music’s guiding principle, so often the soundtrack’s near-silence is actually effective in conveying the solitude of your lone fighter. What I’m trying to say is that the musical score is a little sub-par, sure, but I never particularly cared or even noticed.
Meanwhile, the sound effects are great fun and add a lot to the appeal, especially since they tend to accompany the game’s flashier visuals; just jump into the cockpit of your Andromalius, charge that Shock Wave Cannon, let ?er rip, and tell me it isn’t a religious experience. I can’t think of a single sound effect that felt out of place, and in fact when considered as a whole the sound effects constitute perhaps the most immersive single aspect of the game’s presentation.
Turning now to gameplay, let me say at the outset that my observations here are based primarily on the game’s highest difficulty setting. The reason is that with R-Type Final, as with some other games I have played, the quality of the gameplay seems directly tied to the amount of challenge – that is, to the amount of stuff that’s being thrown at you at any given time. The lower difficulty levels have their moments, but also have a lot of downtime, where you’re just sitting there holding down one button (usually R1) and waiting for something interesting to happen. As the difficulty is increased, these moments gradually disappear, and are replaced with ones that require unflinching attention, a full appreciation of the all the options at your disposal, and a strong ability to improvise when things start to go awry – which, more often than not, they will. The combat options you have are plentiful, and this is no doubt a critical part of the equation. The 99+ ships you’ll accumulate over the course of the game each have their own strengths and weaknesses, and power up in different ways, so the choices you make back in the hangar will have a big impact on the strategies you employ in flight.
Collecting power-ups can require some planning; it won’t always be in your best interest to snag every one that you see, since some beam types are much more effective than others for certain areas. Absorbing enemy fire is the key to unleashing your special weapon, so you won’t always want to shoot every enemy down as soon as possible. The Force, that invincible (and invaluable) support orb which is a cherished hallmark of the R-Type series, is without a doubt the most compelling tool in your arsenal; if you never seen these in action, they’re like a shield, a weapon upgrade, and a wingman all rolled into one, and to survive the enemy onslaught you’ll need to attach and detach it from your ship time and time again in a kind of synchronized space ballet. The upshot of all these different game mechanics is terribly engaging play, speckled here and there with moments of chaotic bliss, where you’ll wonder just how in the name of Bydo your ship hasn’t bit the dust yet and then bask in the realization that it’s all down to you.
Even on normal difficulty, finishing this game will take most people a decent while; on the hardest setting expect to take dozens of hours at least. Make sure you find every ship, then haul your science vessels out into the fray to make sure you’ve collected all the research for every enemy; don’t forget the unusual AI Versus mode, where you define some combat parameters for your favorite ships and watch them duke it out in head-to-head battles for the championship. The replay here is very solid, the more so since the gameplay is just plain fun enough to warrant going through for fastest mission times and highest scores, both of which are recorded. I can’t really call this game a must-have, but for a suggested retail price of thirty dollars it’s much more than a bargain.