Sunday, 30 November 2014

R-Type: Penultimate Bit

Flash gits may drive E-Type, F-Type or X-Type Jaguars but in 1987, Irem stunned arcade goers as R-Type soon became the most influential shmup series of all time.

Visuals were nothing short of astonishing and bosses dropped jaws.

Due to notorious difficulty level and merciless attack waves, you needed more than the Force to survive.

Even with practice, your ass was usually still grass and supplying the coin slot with countless ‘old’ 10ps was a necessity.

Ah - those were the days…

Let’s blast off and strike the evil Bydo Empire.

C64, Rainbow Arts 1988

Graphics were handled by eventual Turrican maestros Manfred Trenz and Andreas Escher.

Chris Huelsbeck and some bloke called Ramiro Vaco assisted with useful music.

Despite largely fine visuals (especially bosses), much of what we see flickers and glitches. 

Sluggish gameplay, cut down levels and loading that bores means it’s one to avoid.

‘Realized in only 6 weeks’.

I guess they meant ‘created’, or more appropriately – rushed.

Master System, Compile 1988

While slowdown and flicker is outrageous, they made the best of a limited palette.

Locating a not particularly obvious area on the fourth had you warp to a unique ‘super stage’ populated by weird aliens.

While that’s kind of good, the removal of wave cannon is fucking unforgivable.

Spectrum 48K, Electric Dreams 1988

Considering host machine – simply amazing!

Meaty weapons, chunky sprites and attractive colours had us rubbing our eyes in disbelief.

To add further gloss, sprites are ‘unmasked’ so to evade attribute clash.

The frame rate chugs, we hear virtually nothing and much disappears but these shortcomings do not detract from an incredible experience.

It’s a shame 128K didn't materialise as loading would have been definitely lessened.

Grrrr…

Amstrad CPC, Electric Dreams 1988

Very much like the Speccy (as ports often were), but colour scheme offends and moves even slower than what it was based on.

MSX, 1988

Disregarding awful colours, this looked decent but is strangled by spectacularly jerky scrolling.

Amiga, Factor 5 1989

The R-9 and Bydo moved pretty smoothly, but colours are way off the mark and detail lacks clout.

Still, in-game themes are nice but just quite ‘electronic’.

As per usual, the Atari ST was similar, but fell short.

X68000, 1989

Sharp’s monstrous machine is almost perfect in terms of sound and looks, but is hampered by slight discoloration and collision detection issues.

PC Engine, Hudson Soft 1988

It may be military slang but FUBAR (fucked up beyond all recognition), was popularised by Gabriel Cash (Kurt Russell) in 1989 action comedy Tango & Cash.

Meet one of those situations…

They simultaneously (or thereabouts), released two hu-cards in Japan, each containing 4 stages - awkwardly titled R-Type I and R-Type II.

I know football is a game of two halves but this is something else.

After completing stage 4, we enter mothership before the mission code is given in order to begin hu-card 2.

With no internet, they had us by the balls.

The title screen of the first states 'R-Type' and R-Type II declares ‘R-Type Part-2’, so both contradict cover art.

BRILLIANT!

The sixth stage is ‘as you were’ but after defeating the standard monster, a brand new boss followed.

So then, a single card apparently didn't have enough memory to store all but a year later, American audiences played R-Type on the Turbo Grafx 16 without needing a mission code after stage 4...

That makes no fucking sense, none whatsoever.

If any asshole has the balls to say that’s anything other than Dobkeratops dung, come find me and we'll ‘discuss’ it.

The port itself is famously superb as apart from a drop in resolution and tinny music, visuals are arcade perfect with arguably more vibrant colours.

PC Engine GT/Turbo Express, 1988/1989

Exactly the same, just on a 'smaller' scale.

For those who don’t know, ‘GT’ stands for Game Tank and was the first handheld to be identical to its CRT hogging counterpart.

Boasting a crystal clear screen, kick-ass 7.16mz processor and true 16 bit graphics, this was the portable system to own.

Unfortunately, sound capacitors dwindled with age and backlit screen was prone to dead pixels.

Powered by 6 AA batteries, play equated to about three hours before giving up the ghost.

Sega's North American rarity Nomad also required half a dozen, but only lasted a paltry hour.

It's therefore amazing that the Neo Geo Pocket Colour gave approximately 40 hours from only two.

PC Engine CD, 1991

Knowing that Hudson fucked up, Irem stepped in with Japanese exclusive R-Type Complete CD.

Is the title supposed to be some kind of reference or sick in-joke?

Providing you had the Super CD add-on, or owned the all-in-one Duo, you’re cock locked and ready to rock.

Featuring a bunch of unknowns, they added lengthy and fully spoken anime sequences, synonymous with CD based systems.

Apart from original tunes, they gave the choice of marmite sounding arranged music.

Unlike hu-cards, heavy flicker now perversely lingers.

Game Boy/Game Boy Pocket, B.I.T.S 1991

Not to be confused with Micro, the Pocket was a smaller design of the original monochrome monster and two AAA batteries gave about 10 hours play.  For whatever reason, it had a slightly larger screen than the futuristic Game Boy Colour.

We stumble through six, instead of eight stages.

The first three stages are largely as you remember but the fourth, fifth and sixth are slight redesigns of the arcade's sixth, seventh and eighth respectively.

Basically, the fourth and fifth are floating somewhere in space.

Frequent flicker and slowdown unsurpringly hampers, but graphics retain admirable detail.

R-Type II

June 2164.

‘The seed of Bydo’ affair is crushed by the ‘plot type R-9’ group.

Bydo Mission II 2165, confirmation of Bydo’s regeneration received.

Not that anybody cares but this time, an upgraded R-9C is sent to exterminate threat.

Despite upping graphical detail, the 1989 sequel was a disappointment.

Ch-ch-ch-ch changes…

Charging the iconic wave cannon beyond max for a short period results in gauge changing colour, indicating that a new and more powerful ‘bubble’ blast can be unleashed.

The gauge itself has lost weight and stages are downsized to the shmup average of six.

Amiga, Arc Developments 1991

Suffers from lag and visual intensity is omitted, but all stages and charming music compensates.

In comparison, Atari ST owners had a right to be jealous.

Game Boy/Game Boy Pocket, B.I.T.S 1992

Five strikes instead of six and just like before, they got bored after the third.

The fourth and fifth are redesigns of fifth and sixth, with the former having a very slightly altered boss.

So if the arcade's fourth was a personal favourite - tough pap.

Super R-Type, 1991 (SNES)

Meet R-Type II: Gold or R-Type II: Special.

It’s the same, but less impressive principle of what Capcom did with Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts.

Calling this Ultimate Sloth-Flicker isn't unjust, it’s deserved.

There is simply no fucking excuse of how slowly sprites operate and how often they disappear.

Stages 2, 5 and 7 are exactly per the arcade’s first, fourth and sixth, which leaves a minor head fuck to explain…

1 – expendable new creature polluting the big black. 
3 –  the second stage, but slightly altered boss producing snakes is borrowed from R-Type's second.
4 – based on the third, but two battleships completely dominate until we go inside to destroy a larger engine (lazily lifted from the first).
6 – The other new stage is an altered version of the arcade’s fifth and recycles falling junk (like what must be avoided during R-Type's seventh boss).  Finally, the boss is an inferior cousin of R-Type's fourth.

Got that?  Lovely!

This motor burns classic rubber, but is made unnecessarily frustrating because the twisted fucks thought it would be a giggle to remove restart points.

Finishing Hard unlocks Pro mode which if completed, the masochistic are rewarded with an extra sequence after normal ending.

Compilations

Largely prosaic, but nevertheless…

R-Types, 1998 (PS1)

Way overdue yes, but this is the first time arcade perfect ports were made available for home consumption.

CGI and narrative explaining the war against Bydo features a freaky skeletal like pilot.

Leaving the title screen for a short period and against jazzy music, a fancier showcase has the R-9 strutting its stuff with the delusional roar of Dobkeratops bringing proceedings to a close.

Yes, this is done purely for effect as iconic villain never makes a squeak.

Pushing ‘pause’ during gameplay allows ‘vertical hold’ to be adjusted and when beaten, any stage can be replayed.

If the punishment of enemy placement disheartens, exploiting memory card is wholeheartedly recommended.

Let’s cut to the chase, R’s Library Version 1.0 is why this is a must purchase for anoraks.

Genealogy

Here we delve into the ‘R Series ships’ and each 3D model can be freely rotated.

Apart from the R9, earlier models such as R3, R5 and R7 may interest.

If specifying machine specification and history wasn't enough, details on TP (POW Armour), FC (Force), BT (Bit Device) and Parts (information on capable weaponry) should satisfy.

History

From 2043 until 2165, the timeline of spacecraft development project ‘RX-Project’; headed by Dr. Jim Client is displayed in full.

Together with graphical stills, Force development, teething problems of other machines, successes and failures will delight die-hard fans.

Data

It may apply to all but some definitely have alternative names.

For example:

Dobkeratops (Doppelganger)
Sporg (P-Staff)
Ironclaw (Cancer)

Assigning enemies with names like Harsh, Lady, Scant, Rios and especially Pata-Pata, leaves me with this unanswered question.

'WHAT THE FUCK WERE THEY SNORTING?'

The creature known as Manth has a gene structure very similar to that of a human being.

Holy shit guys and gals, we’re closely related to a fictitious alien race.

Our lives will never be the same again…

Unless homework was done, you'd be blissfully unaware they didn't include Library on PAL.

Why?  Who knows?

R-Type DX, 1999 (Game Boy Colour)

Tetris, Link’s Awakening and Super Mario Bros. were others to be given a Deluxe makeover.

Switching systems, Sonic Adventure DX: Director’s Cut was a Gamecube enhanced version of the Dreamcast original.

(Ahem), moving on.

Nobody can argue this is five Arrowheads housed within a single gamepak, but...

Playing the untouched originals is pointless but choosing 'third' and 'fourth' adds up to 56 colours and improves background detail.  

That just leaves DX and I quote:

‘The two R-Types combined to form the ultimate R-Type challenge!!’

Combining colours 3 and 4 as one long game curdles my cream.

What a fucking con.

R-Type Dimensions, 2009 (Xbox Live/PSN)

On the surface, this is R-Types, but Tozai Games quickly reveal a HD revamp.

Nostalgic eye candy is given a superb overhaul as mostly gorgeous colours and new lighting effects shouldn't stun, but make the current generation smile.

Oh yeah, there’s also co-op play.

Whilst indulging in technological advancement, 'tilting' at will transfers action to 3D.

The perspective looks a little weird and plays no different, but eyes soon adjust.

Miscellany

Taking a slight detour, Ninja Spirit, Dragon Breed, Undercover Cops, Mr. Heli, In the Hunt, Gunforce and Blade Master all deserve their place in arcade folklore.

If it wasn’t for Kung-Fu Master, the majority of beat ‘em ups wouldn’t exist.

Obscurity Hammerin’ Harry and wonderful action fighting hybrid Ninja Baseball Bat Man succeeds as having the best video game title ever.

Let’s remind ourselves of what the masters sandwiched around their stellar universe.

X-Multiply came around the same time as R-Type II but boasted darker subject matter, as scientists deploy the x-002 fighter inside a living human host to destroy parasitic filth.

Flexible tentacles replace Force device which was later stolen by Konami’s still stunning looking Xexex.

Along with Image Fight, this was belatedly released on a single disc for Japanese audiences on PS1 and Saturn in 1998.

Slapped with a cyberpunk Akira and/or Blade Runner-esque theme, Armed Police Unit Gallop aka Cosmic Cop, initially baffled in 1991 as this 'part of universe' effort adopted a zero tolerance approach towards ‘mad cars’ in each zone.

Via a gauge that gradually empties, enemies can be locked on with laser stream.  This gradually tops up when unused but power ups encourage a quicker refill.

Your actual sprite is perhaps a tad too large and shat straight from the Bydo.

There is ubiquitous detail but backgrounds are desperately drab.

Short, and not particularly sweet.

Pulstar, Aicom 1995 (Neo Geo)

Extravagant tribute or incredible rip off?

Developer’s origins remain mysterious as only theories exist.

Logic suggests that like Nazca, Aicom was founded by a bunch of disgruntled and frustrated Irem employees.

'Unofficial', but accepted 1998 follow-up Blazing Star was released under their new guise of Yumekobo.  A year later, they unexpectedly excavated SNK's 1989 dinosaur popcorn Prehistoric Isle in 1930.

Having previously dived deep, I’m only wading in the shallow end.

Mind blowing rendered graphics dominate eight superb stages and attack waves even crueller than R-Type guarantees obligatory persistence.

Buying the more affordable CD version sees each stage introduced with blink and you'll miss them CG.

For all its undeniable brilliance, heavy slowdown and being able to cheaply 'nuke' bosses afforded by discarding Force means it’s far from perfect.

If you can find a way of cheating, without cheating - that's a terrible oversight.

Still, what a spectacle.

R-Type Leo, 1992

“3, 2, 1 – Let’s go!”

Never released outside of arcade and discounting Dimensions, it's the only R-Type to offer 2P simultaneous play.

Bastard child is different for numerous reasons.

Instead of Force and wave cannon, weapon crystals give a hybrid of two bits without bobs.

These chaps absorb most bullets and shoot forwards or backwards, but using these as a homing bomb thing is their primary function.

New types of missiles and laser assist further in obliterating intergalactic ass.

Another first is that stages now have titles and battleship, what battleship?

Simply blasphemous.

Its six levels are generously spacious and attack patterns forgive with interest.

Er, is this really an R-Type game?

Visuals bask in relative opulence, but music unnaturally disturbs with a compendium of cheery and out of place compositions.

Bosses are best described as a genuine mix of sterling detail and abject failure.

It’s not bad, good even, but is easily dissociated from franchise.

This came out after Last Resort, so is it a mild coincidence that co-op play was introduced and even how bits behave?

In SNK’s game, you get a single 'unit' that doesn't home in, but can be fixed and shot off in whichever direction.

There’s even some questionable enemy design steals too.

Top secret report!  (Shsssh – don’t tell anybody).

The idea was to build a quasi-mechanical earth by using a bionic computer called the ‘Major’.  The project dubbed ‘paradise plan’, hoped to colonise and create a new world.

This ended in failure because of a Major malfunction.

Paradise Plan became part of history and was destroyed by the latest technological weapon known as ‘Leo’.

Next time, the saga concludes with the rest.

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