face it, the shoot Ďem up genre is in a state of hibernation and there
doesnít seem to be an end in site for the long sleep this style of
game has been in over the last five years.
Perhaps it was the overkill of the 16-bit era, or perhaps itís
just that gamers tastes have changed, but whatever the case it isnít
often that we get to hop on board a decked out space fighter, scroll
around the cosmos, collect power-ups, and fight giant bosses.
Now one of the first and most popular shoot Ďem up franchises,
R-Type, is bowing out as R-Type Final lives up to its name marking the
end of the long-running series. Happily,
from the graphics to the intensity of the gameplay, Irem has made sure
the series goes out with a bang and not a whimper.
Right from the get-go, R-Type Final will remind gamers that series has never been easy. The level of challenge is very high as players frantically dodge enemy fire and the requisite gigantic mechanical flying limbs one would expect from a shooter like this. From Normal mode and up the difficulty level will likely get many players screaming all manner of obscenity while throwing controllers around the room, eventually reducing the gamer to a crumpled whimpering heap in a dark corner of the room. Nonetheless, despite the difficulty R-Type by no means gives players a hard time through cheap shots. The title truly is a test of reflexes that will really put players through their paces, as they take on wave after wave of enemies, and lock horns with all manner of boss that takes up most of the screen. The game is a challenge, but a wonderfully frenetic, visceral one.
Surprisingly, R-Type Final even has a story to it. Players will find themselves leading the human race on a last ditch effort to rid the universe of the Bydo, a decidedly ambiguous race that the game doesnít fully explain. Itís not Shakespeare, but the level of story telling in R-Type Final is certainly better, if only by a notch or two, than what one may find in other space shooters where the only thing players know is that the world/universe is in trouble and itís time to blow some stuff up.
And blowing things up is a big, big part of the R-Type Final experience. The controls handle much like that of the gameís predecessors, as players are able to adjust the speed of their ship, select between rapid fire and a high-powered shot that needs to be charged before firing (up to three levels depending on your ship), and, of course, using your shipís force orb. The force orb is a multi-purpose tool that can be used to perform a number of duties ranging from being positioned around your ship to absorb enemy fire, to being sent right into the fray and blasting enemies
range, as well as firing weapons gained from power-ups.
Itís a handy tool to have and mastering it is of the utmost
importance. All of these control elements may seem a tad overwhelming
early on, especially getting a handle on the force orb, but the learning
curve actually isnít that bad. Within
a couple of hours most players should have a good handle on the controls
and be able to start blasting the tar out of enemies in no time.
very surprising addition to R-Type Final is the sheer number of ships
players have available to them. Usually
in a space shooter there wonít be much more than three vessels to
choose from, but in this game players will have a staggering 100 ships at their fingertips. Granted
the vast majority of these ships are unlocked over the course of the
game, but it doesnít take long before players will have a massive
fleet of ships available considering how often new crafts can be unlocked
over the course of the game. A
lot of these ships use similar parts in slightly different
configurations, but these are spread out and varied enough between the
vessels that they all still individually bring a unique feel when
playing with them. Tack on
the way power-up weaponsí execution varies from ship to ship as well
as a certain level of allowable customizing (missile configurations and
ship color schemes) and thereís easily enough variation in R-Type
Finalís fleet to keep most gamers happy.
What should also keep players happy is just how good the graphics are. The use of color is great in R-Type Final with lush surroundings chalk full of detail. On top of this, the frame rate stays solid the whole way through with barely a hint of slowdown, bane of the shoot Ďem up genre. Sometimes things get a little over the top, giving an almost surreal sensation while playing the game, and the enemies can feel a little uninspired as the game prescribes to space shooter conventions a bit too much here, but in the end the visuals here will not disappoint.
Even the music and sound proves to be more than serviceable. The zips and zaps of laser, the blasting of the ships thrusters, and the explosions have a real presence, providing a lot more aural impact than many games out there. The music is a bit more of a mixed bag, with its fair share of uninspired run-of-the-mill tunes, but when R-Type Finalís soundtrack is on the ball the tracks are great, offering a very epic feel to the game.
Despite R-Type Finalís high level of difficultyís ability to bring out the masochist in all of us, this title is a wonderful close to an amazing series. It looks great, it controls well, and with time thereís 100 ships for players to choose from. At a retail price of $30US, the game really is a great value and well worth picking up for anyone that wants a nice, visceral experience.
March 28, 2004
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