Way back in 1987, R-Type appeared on the bullet-hell shoot-em-up scene and promptly blew everything else out of the water. Since then it’s got bigger but not necessarily better, becoming more bloated and seemingly moving away from the pure roots of its ancestor. Well, fast forward to 2019 and a Kickstarter campaign was launched in order to produce the latest and hopefully greatest in the R-Type series. The game in question is R-Type Final 2 and so I guess the question that needs answering is whether it lives up to the difficulty of the original games, or whether it is a softer, more gentle R-Type.
Well, it all seems to be very much business as usual in the actual gameplay stakes, with a lone star fighter going up against the massed Bydo hordes in a quest for truth, justice, and the Humankind Way. One thing I don’t remember from the original game was a difficulty select, but I’m mighty glad there is one this time around. Playing on Normal I ended up dying ignominiously before the end of the second level, and while there are a limited number of continues, the urge to do it the old-fashioned way, without dying, is very strong. After some reflex-improving Monster I quickly lowered the difficulty to Kids and sallied forth again. I did much better this way, and did my best to ignore the peals of laughter from my son’s gaming corner as he blasted the hordes to pieces on Normal mode, mocking me roundly for playing on an easier difficulty. My reasoning to him, and to you dear reader, is that I needed to experience the full game in order to review, so really I was doing it as a public service. I’m not sure he bought it…
Anyway, R-Type Final 2 itself. The graphics are lovely and shiny, there are no two ways about it, and playing on an Xbox Series X the load times are impressively short whilst everything moves at a good pace, never slowing down even when the screen is exceedingly busy; which is most of the time. Each level has its own look, from outer space with robotic enemies all the way to the bottom of the sea, with enemies based on sea urchins and crabs to batter. Even weirder is the last level, where you appear to be possessed by the Bydo and turn into a weird organic-looking ship creature. Sound-wise, Final 2 is lovely as well – the sound of the Wave Cannon charging up is still as evocative today as it always was, and unleashing laser-based death both looks and sounds amazing.
Onto the actual gameplay itself and the way R-Type Final 2 plays out is very pleasing; at least for the large part. Shooting enemies in their faces, blowing them up with missiles, using the “Dose” smart bomb to clear entire screens of enemies – it’s all very much shoot-em-up nirvana. It’s not just about shooting though and picking up powerups brings a turret into play, which is known as the “Force”, something which is a great addition to your arsenal, particularly as this can be left flying around on its own, or attached to the front or rear of your ship. If it’s fastened to the back of the ship, you can fire backwards, which is a definite advantage in some of the boss fights.
Attached to the front it amplifies your firepower, and when free floating, it will go to the front of the screen if you hang back, and vice versa if you fly forwards. So far, so good, right? Well, there is a slight hiccup with the Force, and that is its ability to get in the scenery, immediately cutting your firepower by two thirds. Stage 3 is particularly bad for this, as the boss is a giant multi-staged battleship-type affair, and for most of the fight, I didn’t see my turret as it was inside the enemy. I’d like to think it was attacking from the inside, but sadly I had no evidence for this. This can be unbelievably annoying, and even recalling the Force to your ship doesn’t always work, and I feel a number of my deaths can be laid squarely at the feet of this issue.
There’s more to the game than just shooting Bydo in the face however, and alongside score attack and remix levels is a whole “R-Museum” to check out, where you can unlock new ships by either entering codes or buying them with resources you get from completing missions. These come in green, red and blue flavours and have suitably sci-fi-sounding names, but basically you need a certain amount of each to unlock new ships.
Finding a craft with a loadout that suits you is a good part of the fun; I think my favourite so far is “Ladylove” as it comes with a very fetching pink canopy, but the Force it is equipped with firing in five directions when its fully powered up. It’s basically a Bydo mincing machine. There’s also a stats section to check out, showing your performance, a shop where you can buy new stickers for the ship and suits for your pilot, and various other things to check out. One of the interesting ones is the Bydo lab, where, as you kill enemies, their details are unlocked in the lab which let you check out what they are and so on and so forth.
In conclusion then, R-Type Final 2 is a very good shooting game in its own right, and having the history and background of the R-Type legacy makes it even better. There’s a lot to get involved in besides just shooting stuff, and the ability to unlock new ships that may suit your playstyle better is a big draw. However, the shooting is the real star, and with a punishing but fair difficulty level, R-Type Final 2 is always challenging but fun to play. If the Force could have been a little less dimwitted this would be right up there with the very best shooters, but because it gets stuck and has such an impact on the game when it does, it doesn’t quite hit the heights.
As a shooter, R-Type Final 2 is right up there, but sadly it’s not perfect.
R-Type Final 2 can now be purchased from the Xbox Store for Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One