Apparently, R-Type has a long and sordid history. Apparently the game is popular enough, at least in Japan to allow for a number of sequels and this, an attempt at 3D graphics. Apparently, it would seem that the game can be beat, level for level, without dying repeated times, over and over without any clue as to who you are and why you are doing this. R-Type has, already, garnered a 41/2 star rating on the New (new) Xbox Live Experience. The question is; Why?
Why indeed; for a game that came out over two decades ago. Surely Dimensions is an example of XBLA re-making games for the sake of a few quick bucks. Impossibly hard, R-Type and R-Type II are both lessons in frustration. Frustration that the game is working against you, blocking you off at any turn as you attempt to navigate your R-Type spaceship through a maze of oncoming enemies and space obstacles. There is, apparently also a back-story; something about the evil Bydo Empire and your own personal war against them as a valiant wing-commander bent on bringing peace at any cost. R-Type II which comes with the original in this package does have a brief cut scene showing your shuttle leaving for battle but, other than that, any one downloading this off of XBLA is left scratching their collective heads.
One of the classic side scrolling space shooters from the end of the eighties arcade era, R-Type is the quintessential Japanese game. It exemplifies what Japanese games have become famous for: tough repetitive gameplay, outrageous character designs and colors and really bad ‘Engrish’.
There is an infinite gameplay mode for both R-Type and II which essentially removes the ‘three-life level cap’ and gives you infinite re-spawns but even in co-op with another R-Type pilot at your side, it becomes a grind to the finish as you simply hold the A button and hope for the best. The R-Type games are really difficult to judge, because the learning curve is incredibly hard for a game, which by definition should be very simple to play.
Even a brief Wiki search reveals an underground of R-Type followers dedicated to continuing the series. The original developers Irem have initiated many viral marketing schemes and stunts in the name of making their series popular. But for the casual observer or anyone not intimately familiar with the legacy, all this is lost in a game which can not be ‘won’.
Co-op mode helps, infinite lives allows you to finish the game, but when you can pass a level simply by outlasting and evading an enemy rather than destroying it, it makes you think there is more to it than simply shooting forwards. Instructions with the game point to complex combinations of power-ups and pickups designed to level up your skill; in the game though you will be lucky enough to see a clear path through the onslaught of shapes and objects flying your way.
The saving grace of this particular port of R-Type is the unique feature to switch between 3D and pixel based graphics on the fly. This is actually a very neat function, slick and easily mapped to one of the triggers. It is also immensely satisfying to be playing in 3D co-op only to switch to the less than average pixels mid game, and watch as your partner flounders to figure out what happened. Doing this too much can become disorientating but it is interesting to see how a ‘pixel perfect’ layer of 3D polygons have been applied as an overlay. The down shot in this is that for this to work effectively even the ‘3D graphics’ are basic at best.
There are plenty of weapon effects and explosions, most of them coming from your dying ship but too much on screen to clearly see both where the next power up is and how to navigate the level effectively.
Only one of the bosses is suitably detailed, characterizing the ‘full-screen sized’ uber, mega, ultimate bosses seen in many Jap-arcade games; most are ambiguous masses of metals and things that shoot other things at your ship in no particular direction.
Repurposed for the XBOX Live Arcade, Southend Interactive, in conjunction with Irem have done little other than port a game that really deserves better, considering other titles available. There are some truly odd features built in, such as the ‘crazy’ 3D camera that tilts the whole picture at an angle as you gain speed or the option to turn ‘arcade’ on; in which your game screen is reduced to a miniature one within an old arcade cabinet. Cute, but practically useless it makes the game even harder to play and almost impossible to navigate at all.
If you can tough it out, there are actually two games for the price of one, but R-Type II looks no different in style or theme to the first with a case of more does not equal better. There are only fourteen levels across the two games and each is rather forgettable while the ending sees no conclusion except a big “Congratulations” on completing ‘our game’. The reward is that you finished it at all.
Dimensions is true to the original two games, but more so with the sound. It is disappointing to hear that no effort has gone into re-mixing what is essentially a really annoying tune anyway. Based on sound alone, R-Types would seem to be better suited to mobile or PSP gaming and although there are versions on the way, it does not excuse the waste of a good sound system when you download it to your XBOX Hard drive.
It would have been nice if even the noises in the background provided some reprieve from the difficulty of playing this game.
If you are blessed enough with the reflexes of a ninja or unfortunate to suffer from some sort of OCD affliction, then R-Types Dimension should offer a suitable challenge. There is also an inherent logic to the madness in that the game is more about navigation and avoidance then a front on assault of lasers and noise; but unless you were alive during the era of the original R-Type there is no justifiable reason to buy it for 1200 points. Microsoft would have you believe that some kitsch 3D layers and the ability to suck the colors all the way back to 8-bits is enough to entice you in for a play. Co-op and multiplayer aside, R-Type is a painful experience in watching yourself die. Repeatedly.
As the number of re-made arcade classics, shooter or otherwise, reach saturation point on XBLA, one can afford to be picky in the selection on offer. More accessible games like Metal Slug or even Worms provide better gameplay and it has to be said, fun.
If pushing a camel through the eye of the proverbial needle is your idea of enjoyment, or if you simply fall into the obscure R-Type fan boy club, then maybe, this game is for you.
AAG Score: 5/10
1. Authentic feel of playing a 1989 Japanese Arcade game
2. 3D Graphical overlay
1. Steep learning curve
2. No win scenarios
3. Expensive considering
Reviewed and Written by Ian Crane