Ah, R-Type. How thou hast grown on me.  Over the many years of playing each successive title, and loving every shooter moment, I’ve always wondered if that game would be the last.


This time around, it will be.


So, does R-Type Final hold up the longstanding tradition of a fantastic shooting title? Or does the final quest against the Bydo Empire crash and burn? Read on and find out.


To be noticed in the shooter world, one must make a game that looks good. R-Type Final doesn’t disappoint in the least in this category. The developers have given this title their utmost attention, crafting a very detailed world to do battle in.


The monsters and ships you destroy look almost alien in origin, fitting perfectly in the story of the game. The twisted bosses are absolutely gigantic, dwarfing your ship in comparison. This style of presentation extends into the stage design as well. You fly through some very strange looking locales, each of which highlighting your solitary quest to destroy the Bydo empire.


While we’re talking about the stages, I have to bring up the dynamically changing stages featured in the game. That’s right – some of the stages change for subsequent replays. The second stage is the biggest mention here, as the season of the planet surface (and thus, where you can fly during the level) itself changes. From the baking heat of a desert summer to the frozen coldness of winter, all seasons are shown in this stage. In addition, the final sets of levels also change depending on what exactly you do in the stages prior.


The game is filled with neat graphical nuances as well. From how some ships actually shift their shape when accelerating or decelerating, to how the very space warps depending on your speed. Some of the super weapons also distort the space around it when fired, awing the viewer.


There’s only one downside to all this graphical splendor – near constant slowdown, especially during boss battles. It never gets bad enough to make gameplay difficult. In fact, it makes life that much easier as you simply have more time to react to what’s coming your way. It does get annoying though, as it drags some of the stages into a chore.  The otherwise impressive third level is especially guilty of this.

Thankfully, the designers have put the same amount of effort into their musical score. Best described as a mix of rock and classical music, it’s not exactly worthy of purchasing (though in my ears, few game soundtracks are), but it is an excellent musical accompaniment to go along with the slaughtering of enemies. Players won’t even think about muting the game to listen to their own music.


This follows through into the sound section as well. Your opponents explode, shatter, and crumple with a satisfying bang, making you smile as you chew apart the nefarious Bydo. Your weapons have a satisfying feel of force to them, and your charged up blasts sound as deadly as they look.


In most shooters, the controls can make or break the game. This game doesn’t disappoint in that area, either. It’s relatively simple, and uses all the buttons well on the controller. While one might wonder at the default placement of the buttons (the release of your Force is set to X, the primary key for most PS2 games), they can be fully customized if you don’t like them.


Response to your actions is instantaneous, and while the game doesn’t support the analog stick, it really doesn’t need it. Instead, you can adjust your ship’s speed with a touch of the L1/L2 buttons. In a game where instantaneous and predictable ship movement is necessary, not using the analog stick is a great idea.


Ever played a shooter before? If so, you know the basic concepts – travel towards the right, destroy everything that comes your way, and obliterate some giant boss ship/monster/bio weapon at the end. In the process, you’ll dodge bullets, collect powerups, and kill the population of a small planet.


What makes this game different you might ask? Plenty.


For starters, we have the Force. No, not the Jedi power, but a device that sits either at the front or the rear of your ship, drastically increasing the firepower you have at your command. It also does damage to anything it physically touches, and allows you to fire from either the front or rear of your ship, depending on where it’s connected. In addition, you can fire it off into space, doing contact damage as well as firing whatever guns it has on it.


You can also forego shooting and charge up a single shot of massive damage, disintegrating whatever it hits. While it can only fire forward, it can be fired separate of your Force, so you can have it doing its damage while you hide behind the Force’s protective barrier. This blast can be charged up to a whopping seven levels of destruction (depending on your ship), each one larger and more powerful than the last.


So, you might ask, how many ships do you have? While some shooters are happy with just a single craft capable of taking on the galaxy single-handed, others allow you to choose from three or five different ship/weapon combinations. Not this title.
In R-Type Final, you have a choice of a whopping 101 ships. Yes, you read that right – 101 ships. While you start off with only a paltry three ships to choose from, you’ll eventually be able to select the entire force.


How different are these ships? While some are simply more powerful and/or improved versions of the ship before it, others are drastically different. Some are designed around pinpoint accuracy; others deal lesser damage with a larger area of effect; others still do a ton of damage at point-blank range. In short, you will find a ship to match your preferences piloting skills.  Experimenting with them all adds a great deal to the fun, even if it leads to playing the first few levels quite a few times.


As I mentioned above in the Graphics section, some stages can change on successive run-throughs. Depending on how you attack the boss of that level, either you’ll go to an entirely different stage on your next run, or you’ll revisit the same stage, just with a different season (summer to winter) changing the enemies you’ll face. This makes it feel like you’re going through more stages than what is actually in the game.


For fun, the designers also stuck in a one or two player mode where you can select how you want an AI to react to its surroundings, and have it challenge other ships. It’s a fun little diversion from the main game, but not much more.


Other bonuses include a tutorial mode, teaching you everything that you need to know. It’s very well done, and while some might think it’s unnecessary because the game is a shooter, a little refresher course is always a nice thing. In addition, a game gallery opens up as you continue to play, showing preproduction art from this game and the others before it. There’s also a monster gallery, telling you about the creatures you’ve killed, and showing you art and screenshots of the enemies conquered.


Are there any problems with this shooter? Well, for starters, this game is hard on Normal and above difficulty levels. And when I mean hard, I mean ‘toss your controller into the TV screen’ hard. Some consider this a good thing while others will hate it. Ultimately, this is a game about memorization; memorization of where your enemies will come from, how they attack, and what the best way to destroy or avoid them is.


The game will force this memorization upon you as well. Unlike most shooters, where you simply respawn where you died (or a short ways back), this game will drop you back upwards of a minute or two, if not more, depending on when you died. It’s very frustrating replaying portions of the game you know how to go through like the back of your hand, just to attempt a new portion you haven’t learned yet.


Thankfully, the game offers five difficulty levels. The two easiest settings make the game beatable by even the most incompetent shooter fan, while the upper two will challenge the entire world. The Normal setting is just about right for most gamers, providing a ton of challenge until you learn the game. It’s still frustrating in many a spot though.

With a whopping 101 ships (most performing vastly different from one another), 7 stages (most with drastically different versions of the same stage), 5 difficulty levels, and a myriad of secondary options, you’ll invest a ton of time in this title if you want to see it all. There’s even a verses mode of sorts, extending the life of this game even further.


Best of all, it’s yours for only $30 brand new.


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