I’m not even going to question how you can have a sequel to an IP that was already declared to be the ‘final’ of something. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter taught me not to bother to question such trivialities back in 1984.
Anyway, I was about 11-years-old and it was 1987. My older brother had taken me into the city centre of Birmingham here in England to do a bit of shopping and just have a bit of brother time together. He took me to Dayvilles the ice cream parlour on the corner of New Street and (if I recall correctly) Bennett’s Hill. It was an American import and people often raved about their thirty-two different flavours.
In the corner of Dayvilles stood a Rampage arcade cabinet that people could play while they enjoyed their ice cream. But there was another side to Dayvilles, as a set of stairs that ran alongside the counter where the frozen flavoured milk was served from, led curious customers downstairs. It was there, in the basement of this ice cream parlour, where nirvana was found. Underneath where all of that sweet, sickly gelato was being severed as a full-blown arcade. It was here in 1987 where I first saw and played the original R-Type.
Okay, so I wasn’t very good at it… I was only 11… And R-Type was one of the hardest arcade games around too. I couldn’t even clear the first level back then. Even so, I loved it. The graphics, the music, the end of level boss that killed me over and over and over again. The very memorable weapons, including the powerful wave cannon beam thing that you’d have to hold the fire button down to power up. As I said, I wasn’t very good at the game but my brother was. It was when watching my brother play R-Type in Dayvilles and when I got to see level three for the first time. That giant mothership that was the entire level is one of my all-time favourite gaming memories.
R-Type went on to become a pretty successful franchise and one of the most-loved side-scrolling shoot ’em ups ever made. With sequels and spin-offs aplenty over the years. Now, I’ve not kept up with all of the games in the series, I’ve not even played the first R-Type Final game from 2003, to be honest. Still, I have always had a soft spot for the franchise and every now and then, I’d find myself playing R-Type in one of its many forms. Be it the original arcade version, one of its many ports or even one of the sequels/spin-offs. I had a particular passion for the R-Type Dimensions remake from 2009. When I heard that a new R-Type game was coming from developer Granzella and publisher NIS America, I knew I had to play it. I just had a serious hankering for some high-quality arcade shooting action and you can’t get much better than a bit of R-Type. So here it is, my review of R-Type Final 2.
I must admit to being a tad confused when I first loaded up R-Type Final 2 as it was in Japanese, but a quick bit of playing around with the options and I was in English. Not sure why it didn’t auto regionalise when my console is set up for English? Anyway, the game starts with you having to create your pilot, give them a name, gender, etc. Then you can access your hanger where you start with three ships, the original R-9A from the first game, with an R-9D and R-9F as well. More ships are unlocked and added to your hanger as you progress through the game. Even though all of the ships have their own look and weapons, all of them can be customised. Change the colour, missiles, bit device and even add decals. I’ve played driving games with less customisation options than this arcade shooter. Customisation that extends to your pilot too. You can give the pilot a new helmet, flight suit and new poses. I’ve not even started the game yet and I’m lost in all the options and variables available to me. There are multiple difficulties to play on, from Practice (very easy) to R-Typer (very hard). So if you’re new to shooters like this, then you’ll easily find a suitable pace. Remembering how punishingly difficult R-Type games are, I settled for Normal setting… Which is still tricky enough. Even then, the game features an adaptable difficulty that changes as you play. So if you are blowing away enemies too easily, then the game will increase in difficulty in real-time.
The game starts out in a first-person mode with you as the pilot in your chosen ship in an interactive cut scene kind of thing before you launch. After which, it’s time to blast off to destroy the evil Bydo empire! The music kicks in and everything suddenly feels very, very R-Type. Sticking firmly to its roots, R-Type Final 2 is still a 2D shoot ’em up. Well, perhaps that should read a 2.5D shoot ’em up. Even though the game sticks to the basic left to right scrolling action (save a few instances) and you are pretty much playing on a 2D plane, the graphics are in 3D and as the levels scroll, you may find yourself going around corners, enemies move from the back to the foreground and the like. Yeah, this is 2D action, but it looks and feels 3D. Speaking of the graphics, R-Type Final 2 is quite a looker. Bold and very colourful and instantly recognisable as R-Type. Familiar enemies have been given an update and look great, even the levels themselves feel very much like classic R-Type ones, given a modern twist. There are some really nice lighting effects which, with a game set in space, is not something you’d expect. The lighting and shadows when you power up your beam are particularly nice. Enemies, scenery and the like cast shadows or give glints of light, as do your weapons and the copious explosions light up the action. Dust clouds appear, sparks fly, debris explodes everywhere and it all looks gorgeous too, especially when the screen gets a little hectic.
Yup, R-Type Final 2 is a very pretty looking game indeed. Yet under all of that glitz, the game has lost none of its heart as this still feels and plays like a classic R-Type game should. If you have ever played an R-Type game before, then you’ll know exactly what you’re getting here. Control-wise, things are very familiar. Standard shooting, which comes with a rapid-fire button. There’s the powering up for the wave cannon beam, the ability to shoot your Force unit and move it from the front to the back of your ship. Everything from previous R-Type titles is here and it all felt instantly comfortable the second I picked up the controller, even if I’ve not played one of these games for a few years now.
In terms of the levels, I have to admit that even playing this on normal difficulty, I’ve struggled to get past stage four. Yet I’ve been enjoying every second of the many, many, many game overs I’ve had, just wanting to get back into the action again. I learn something new each time, where an enemy comes from, a boss’ attack pattern, the best weapon to use at the right time and more. Still, of the levels I have seen so far, I have genuinely loved them. They all feature throwbacks to R-Type history. From the very familiar looking end of the first level boss to the now traditional third level massive warship thing… And of course, a bit where you have to fly in the middle of a rotating thingy and destroy it from the inside. Classic.
Then there are the weapons themselves. As I mentioned before, each of the playable ships in the game have their own weapons. The original R-9A and its instantly recognisable red, blue and yellow lasers are all here. But those same red, blue and yellow power-ups are different for each of the ships in the game. This adds a lot of depth as different ships can be used to suit your own play style and preferences. Then there’s the speed of the ship itself. In previous R-Type games (at least the ones I’ve played), you’d have to collect an upgrade to increase the speed of your ship. Sometimes a faster ship was very handy, sometimes it was a pain in the arse. What’s needed is a speed level that you can control yourself and yes, R-Type Final 2 has just that. With a tap of the left shoulder button on my Xbox pad, I could increase the speed or decrease it with the left trigger. This really proved handy for when I needed to get out of a tight spot, but didn’t want my ship to remain at that speed. The variable speed thing really is a fantastic addition and help to make you feel much more in control of your chosen ship. There’s also the addition of a special weapon. Use your Force unit to destroy enemies and that will power up (what is called) the Dose meter, once this is full (Dose Break), your attack and score increases… But you can also unleash that Dose Break as a powerful smart bomb type thing that looks effing cool.
Bearing in mind that I’ve only been talking about the main game mode here so far and R-Type Final 2 has quite a lot of options outside of the standard arcade mode to play around with too. As you play, you earn resources (in-game currency) that can be used to buy a variety of things. More decals to customise your ship, helmets and flight suits for your pilot. Your pilot even earns experience the more you play too and can rank up and earn medals along the way.
Other game modes include a Stage & Score Attack where you can replay any of the levels that you’ve unlocked and try for a high score. Data & Gallery is where you will find all sorts of info on pretty much anything in the game. There’s the R Museum where you can look at and explore any of the ninety-nine ships that are in the game (once you unlock them of course). Get ship, weapon info and more. The Pilot & War Record is where you can see just how well your pilot is doing. Check their rank, medals, edit their suit and more. Then there’s the Bydo Lab and here you can find out any and everything about all of the enemies you’ll come across in the game. How many you’ve defeated, how strong they are, etc. There’s a serious amount of detail going on outside of the main game itself. There’s even a Gallery where you can unlock some really nice artwork and screenshots that show off just how pretty the game is (and it is). You can even set any of the unlocked images to the loading and title screens. Honestly, this game offers a lot in terms of unlockables and extras. I’ve still not scratched the surface in my game and there’s a lot more to unlock, other game modes and options that are greyed out until I (assume) finish the game.
I think I’ve covered pretty much everything the game offers, or at least that’s open to me right now anyway. So the big question is, is R-Type Final 2 worth playing? Yes, oh so much yes. If you’re an arcade shoot ’em up fan then this is a must buy. If you’re an R-Type fan, this is a no-brainer. R-Type Final 2 is a cracking and beautiful looking shooter with a lot to unlock and play around with. Yeah, it tough, but R-Type is meant to be hard, it is in the franchise’s DNA to be a difficult game. But it’s so damn playable and fun too. Full of customisation options and variables that it’ll keep you coming back for more.
My only slight niggle would be its price point. As I look on the Microsoft store, R-Type Final 2 is £34.99. That price is a little too high for my liking. Look, I really do love this game it is brilliant, no doubt about that. But is it almost £35 brilliant? It’s a tough call to make. You do get a lot here for your money… But it is still an arcade shooter and they are not exactly known for their longevity. Yes, I highly recommend this one but you’ll have to decide if it’s worth £35 of your hard-earned or not. Did I mention how gorgeous it is though?
R-Type Final 2 will be available to buy within hours of me pressing the publish button for this very article.