Game Over Online ~ R-Type Final

GameOver Game Reviews - R-Type Final (c) Eidos Interactive, Reviewed by - Thomas Wilde

Game & Publisher R-Type Final (c) Eidos Interactive
System Requirements PlayStation 2
Overall Rating 84%
Date Published Wednesday, February 4th, 2004 at 05:45 PM

Divider Left By: Thomas Wilde Divider Right

There are only two reasons, as far as I can tell, for anyone to not like R-Type Final.

One is simply not liking shooters. That's okay. It's clearly indicative of some kind of deep moral failing on your part, but it's okay.

The other is that you might object to how it plays, or, specifically, how you die.

One of the characteristics of the R-Type series, all the way back to the beginning, is that it doesn't subscribe to the "rack 'em up" school of shooter logic. With something like Lifeforce, Gunbird, or, more recently, Ikaruga, there is a giant and indestructible ship dispenser waiting just offscreen, ready to drop your next heavily-armed spacecraft onto the playing field about half a second after the last one was destroyed. It's like pinball; one drops, the next pops.

R-Type Final, in the tradition of its ancestors, does not hold with such nonsense. If you get destroyed, by enemy spacecraft or bioorganic aliens or some kind of H.R.-Giger-eating-pizza-before-bed fusion of the two, you lose a life and are thrown back a short distance in the level. Sometimes, you'll have the chance to replenish your ship's weapons, via the lemminglike Power Droids that drift in at irregular intervals. Other times, you won't. You'll be going into the same fight that killed you last time without your arsenal of shields and special weapons, and odds are, you're going to have to work twice as hard to make up for the lack.

In other words, what we have here is a shooting game for absolute perfectionists. R-Type Final is all about getting things right the first time, because you probably won't get a second chance. I'm honestly surprised the game even offers extra lives.

R-Type Final--which is reputed to be the last game in the series, but, as noted in the preview, any such pronouncements should generally be taken with a grain of salt--is set five hundred years after the original R-Type. Humanity has fought four wars against the alien Bydo, the self-replicating alien bioweapon that is regarded as the embodiment of evil.

The Bydo just keeps coming back, though, stronger than before. Five centuries of battle against a seemingly unstoppable enemy has left humankind weary, and so, a final anti-Bydo weapon was built. Codenamed Operation Last Dance, this new weapon operates on the assumption that perhaps the only thing that can truly destroy the Bydo is the Bydo itself. The questions remain, though; will this actually end the war, and, if it does, will it end in humanity's favor?

Meanwhile, a single jet flies into the ruins of an old city. The Bydo are here, and the pilot of this jet intends to have a few words with them.

R-Type Final is a different kind of shooter from just about anything else out there. A lot of other games just fling bullets at you like they own stock in the company, but Final has a slightly different approach.

As with past games in the series, Final's fighter jet boasts a detachable cannon referred to as the "Force." When attached to the front or back of your ship, the Force fires off any special weapon pickups that you might've gotten, by picking up Laser Crystals. It's thus useful as your rear gun. With the X button, you can shoot it across the screen, where it serves as an invincible, independently targeting cannon that pursues enemies of its own violition. At any given time, you have to decide between keeping the Force on your ship, and enjoying the greater firepower it affords you, or letting it loose, so you can concentrate on dodging enemy fire while it takes out the trash.

Sometimes, you won't have that choice. 2D shooters are traditionally aimed at twitch gamers, but R-Type Final isn't quite that straightforward. Some levels are set in mazes, where you have to delicately pick your way through narrow confines, while others will involve your figuring out some new way to use your Force. A midboss might be invulnerable, save for a single small weak spot that you can't reach. The Force, if fired through a small gap in the boss's armor, can, though, and all you have to do is survive.

Final often reminds me, to be honest, of the second and third levels of Ikaruga, where you often had to simultaneously dodge incoming fire, destroy enemies, and figure out some way to do all this in a very small area. The same applies to R-Type Final: sometimes, you'll have to fight your way up through a waterfall to enter a building, whereupon you must dive underwater and obliterate the creatures lining the walls and ceiling before they get too close. Oh, sure, there are plenty of bullets, but they're often an afterthought, a slight concern in the face of the latest new way the game's found to smash your face in.

Positioning is a key factor in Final. Other games have had enemies come at you from behind or below or just out of nowhere before, of course, but attack vectors play a critical role in Final. Often, you'll encounter an mid-boss or swarm of ships that deliberately crowd you into a small space, forcing you to dodge into an area where you can't easily retaliate. The second boss you encounter, a giant mechanical spider, isn't dangerous because it's shooting at you; it's dangerous because it jumped out at you from the side of a building, and is giving you almost no room to maneuver. Often, the only way to strike back is the use of the Force (...argh), to go after targets your main guns can't reach.

Final's enemies, aside from their vicious streak, are a bit on the average side. When compared to the lunatic inventions I've seen in other recent shooters--Shattered Soldier's undead shark/screaming baby, the infected starships in Silpheed: the Lost Planet, Mars Matrix's giant animalistic war machines that I can't bloody see because their enormous fanlike spreads of giant pink bullets are obscuring my vision--the creature design comes off as a bit blase. I'm curious, at this point, what it is about the hideous fusion of man and machine that draws Japanese designers to it like art students to a free buffet. It's like the lot of them all saw the Tetsuo movies at an early age.

The graphics are otherwise spectacular, with the perspective and backgrounds swooping around in truly dizzying 3D, while the action is solidly 2D. The R-Type itself is exquisitely modeled, and, over the course of the game, you can unlock up to ninety-nine ships, each of which is as well-crafted as your initial three. Some are real-world fighter jets, while others are totally new designs, and still others are designs from past games.

Each ship contains its own unique charge beam, and will produce a different weapon when you pick up a power capsule. One spacecraft might fire a trio of reflective lasers after grabbing the blue Laser Crystals, while another will produce a strange-looking rainbow wave. The weapon dynamic makes for a different game depending on which ship you're playing as, and adds a lot of replayability to a game that's already addictively frustrating. The later ships do tend to break the game, but at this point, you're about a hundred hours into it and you know the enemy patterns by heart.

R-Type Final is a fine example of a great genre, but it's definitely not for everyone. As noted above, its tendency to brutally punish you for losing a life, by sticking your defenseless, weaponless ship in a part of a level where a fully loaded fighter jet was having a hard time, will turn some people off.

I'm on the fence about that, personally; while I've actually made up new profanities while playing the game, it really does force you to learn the game's tricks and figure out its patterns. There's a certain satisfaction in honing your skills to such a degree that you can effortlessly skate through a level without losing a life, and R-Type Final is set up to reward just such an approach. Whether you like that kind of thing or not will determine whether you like R-Type Final.


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