For those of you that don’t know, we have a section of the site called the Warp Zone where we play games released 30 years ago and chat about them on our monthly podcast and write up reviews and stuff for the site. Over the past few months I’ve been playing a ton of Super Nintendo games as prep “work” for the Warp Zone and I had fond memories as a teenager playing Super R-Type back in the fall of 1991. That’s mostly why when I got the e-mail asking to review R-Type Final 2 I jumped at the chance. It’s been a very long time since a new R-Type has come out and I’m a sucker for 2D side-scrolling shmups.
My history with the R-Type franchise isn’t as vast as some others out there, but I’ve played my fair share. I distinctly remember taking a try at the original in an arcade back in the late ‘80s and marveling at the intricate sprite work and creepy looking backgrounds. My friend owned Super R-Type and I loved the music and the game was just plain fun to play. Years later I ended up with a TurboDuo and again played R-Type there and had a great time, but that was the last time I touched the series…until now.
R-Type Final 2 (I guess the developers are taking a page out of Square Enix’s book of naming conventions) is very much a love letter to fans of the franchise. It retains the horizontal side-scrolling action of the previous games and revamps the visuals to include 3D backgrounds and enemies. This gives the stages a more realistic look to them as they scroll by and there are even sections that will sort of rotate around you, something you’d never have seen in the 16-bit days.
The main gameplay mechanics are also unchanged, with you piloting your ship through hordes of flying space enemies and creatures. You once again can gain the Force (no, not that Force), which is a mechanical flying object that can attach to the front or back of your ship to augment your weaponry. You can freely detach and propel it forward or backward right into enemies to destroy them. It has the additional benefit of being able to absorb small bullets, which in turn fills up a special Dose gauge that, when filled, can unleash a full-screen attack that will often clear out every enemy at once or do massive damage to a boss.
Weapon power-ups can be picked up as well, offering up your choice of attacks, such as lasers, flames, missiles, and more. If you pick up the same power-up again you can level it up and keep in mind that your firing pattern and attack can vary depending on whether or not your Force is attached to your ship. Speaking of ships, you can select from a few at the start of the game, and they have slight differences and the Force attachment can offer up other types of attacks. You’ll be able to edit them as well as unlock new ones as you proceed.
R-Type Final 2 can be fairly challenging, especially if you’re not used to this genre. It’s not crazy like some of the more recent bullet hell shooters out there, but there are plenty of ways to meet your demise here. From the jump you’ll have access to a variety of difficulty options so if you find yourself becoming space dust one too many times you may want to give an easier selection a chance. I know I appreciate the game’s slower scrolling and somewhat deliberate strategic level design that isn’t just requiring me to memorize patterns, but giving me time to try new things and simply have a good time. So many shooters fall into the same trap of just trying to be difficult for difficulty’s sake, and it’s nice to see one out there that should cater to a variety of skill levels.
Although I had a very fun time with R-Type Final 2, it’s far from perfect. There are a few pet peeves that stick out, but the worst one is that when you die you don’t simply respawn in and keep playing. Instead you go to a loading screen, which is about 7 seconds long (seems even longer) and then you begin at a checkpoint with no power-ups. Usually the game gives you the chance to regain some of them before a boss, which is very appreciated, but this definitely takes you out of the experience and it’s a shame the load times are as long as they are.
Another minor quibble is definitely more of a personal complaint and it might not bother some of you out there, but it’s so annoying to see this sort of thing happen again and again in modern games based on old franchises. And that’s the very much unnecessary cinema scenes or other interactions that are so often shoehorned into games. In this case the very beginning of the game makes you sit through pointless 3D animated scenes that add absolutely nothing to the experience. In fact, there’s one scene where you have to make a choice to give the flight personnel a thumbs up, a salute, or a wink and I’m like, “Why am I doing this? I just want to play the damn game!” You can plow through it by pressing the start button and selecting skip, but even then it doesn’t just take you to the action. It’s pointless and annoying and shouldn’t be in the game.
Graphics and sound are a mixed bag. There’s nothing outrageously bad in either department, but nothing really stands out as exceptional. Part of the appeal of the original games in the series were the creepy and almost Alien-esque backgrounds and bosses. You get a tiny bit of that here, but for the most part the 3D backgrounds are generic and could be found in literally any other space shooter out there. The enemies aren’t overly interesting and overall the graphics look a bit muddy and maybe something from the PS2 era. Perhaps I’m being a bit too harsh there, but that’s honestly the way I felt while playing. Luckily I didn’t encounter any technical issues with slowdown or flicker or anything, it’s just sort of underwhelming visually. The music is pretty forgettable as well and I miss some of those rocking beats we had with Super R-Type on the Super NES.
Despite some of these flaws, I can’t help but recommend R-Type Final 2 to those who have a fondness for the series or those curious about side-scrolling shooters. I think it’s one of the most approachable shoot’em-ups of the past decade thanks to multiple difficulty options and a slower, methodical pace to the action. All of the classic gameplay mechanics return and it’s still a joy to blow everything up. The $39.99 asking price might seem a little steep for newcomers, but if you’re on the fence there’s a free demo to check out on the eShop or you could always wait for a sale. NIS America is usually very generous in marking down its titles after a few months. No matter what price you ultimately pay, I think you’ll find a lot to like here.
R-Type Final 2 Review
- Graphics - 6.5/106.5/10
- Sound - 6.5/106.5/10
- Gameplay - 8.5/108.5/10
- Lasting Appeal - 7.5/107.5/10
Final Thoughts: GOOD
R-Type fans are sure to enjoy this new romp through space. Newcomers will be glad to see multiple difficulty options from the get-go. Although the audio-visual presentation is somewhat lacking, the gameplay is still addictive and fun.