Release date: 1988
Developer: Irem, Compile
Type: Horizontal shooter (shmup)
“They came from a dimensional plane clear across the galaxy, wreaking havoc and chaos from star system to star system. With an evil that smothers all resistance with fear and terror, the horrid creatures of the Bydo Empire are now knocking on Earth’s front door.”
R-Type is a game from the period of time where story seemed non-existent, as long as there were martians to shoot or goombas to jump on, everyone was satisfied. A wonderful time, where gameplay was king. This does not mean that the games didn’t have a story though, but instead of telling it through the game, the entire background story was most often conveyed in the manual (and often in perfect Engrish). R-Type is one of those games where you’d be excused if you didn’t know the story, but there is in fact a story: The evil creatures from the Bydo Empire are attacking Earth, and you, the pilot of the super secret aircraft R-9, the only aircraft capable of attacking the enemy in their own dimensional plane, are Earth’s last hope.
R-Type is a side scrolling shmup of the classic one-hit-means-death mold. You control the R-9 ship while flying from left to right trying to eradicate all alien lifeforms you encounter on your way. You have two firing modes on the ship’s energy weapon: tapping rapidly to fire a lot of short pulse beam shots, or holding the button to build up energy and release a massive laser blast. Switching between these modes is vital to doing well in the game. Apart from the main weapon you can pick up “droid units” that are dropped by certain enemies when you shoot them. The droid unit augment your ship’s firing power and can be used either attached to the front or rear of your ship, or you can let it roam freely around you and shoot whenever your ship shoots. The game also has multiple power-ups that you can pick up ranging from reflecting laser beams and guided missiles, to pulse beam shooting “power spheres”. As you pick up these your ship becomes increasingly powerful, and you feel like a true badass when sporting this impressive weaponry, but don’t get too comfortable! One single misstep, one enemy bullet grazing your ship’s hull, and you are done - and when you come back in a new ship all your weapons are gone.
R-Type is a hard game to pin down. Initially I approached it as a classical shooter, expecting that I, after learning the enemy movement patterns, would be able to shoot all enemies on screen, but I quickly found out that that was a big mistake. While I wouldn’t describe R-Type as a “bullet hell” shooter, it does help to approach it as one. Don’t worry about the enemies, simply try to stay alive while shooting as many of them as you can. And hang in there! This game may feel extremely hard in the beginning, but if you give it just an hour or so you will soon learn to navigate the first couple of stages.
R-Type was initially an arcade game developed by Irem, and being an arcadeoholic I’d of course recommend the arcade version, but the Sega Master System port, done by Compile, is really an excellent conversion. It is an impressive port when considering the limited power of the Master System console, so I’d recommend this version any day.
Verdict: 4 of 5 stars
How to pick it up: R-Type for the Sega Master System used to be available on the Wii virtual console, but for some reason (probably licensing issues) it was removed from the store. So if you want to try out this gem of a game, you need to go find yourself a physical copy somewhere. It’s a quite common cart so it shouldn’t be too expensive.