Arcade cabinets and the NES became well-known for incredibly difficult shooting games, and they maintained their popularity over the years due to often brutal levels of difficulty and excellent visuals that combined to lure people in and keep the most competitive gamers coming back for more.
Beating games like Gradius and Lifeforce was not only a challenge, but a bragging right to your friends. R-Type was of the same vein, but it was a title I did not get to play for several years because I never seemed to have the right system at the right time. Despite all of my frequent visits to the arcade over those years as well, R-Type just never seemed to make its way to one of my local ones.
It was a shame too, because I saw images of it and the incredible-looking first boss fight in magazines (the same giant alien shown in the first two screenshots of this review) and desperately wanted to play it. Years later I had a chance, and even though the title was a bit dated by then, it lived up to all of my expectations. The difficulty curve was fair, but the challenge was appropriately brutal by the end of the game. The power-up system as fun, the visuals colourful and the audio a pulsing, driving soundtrack that helped blend the experience together perfect.
Now, many years later, I have the chance to revisit this classic favourite of mine in R-Type Dimensions, which takes the original R-Type and R-Type II games and put them into what feels like one of the more complete retro packages out there. If R-Type was just the classic game with some minor bells and whistles, it would have been enough for me due to nostalgia alone.
Thankfully, the developers went a great deal further than that when making R-Type Dimensions. Starting with the presentation, the visuals and music are both excellent. With a press of a button you can shift back to R-Type’s classic graphics and music, which are still vibrant but obviously pixelated and antiquated by today’s standards. Pressing the same button shifts the game back to its shiny new coat of visual paint and updated soundtrack, both of which pack just a bit of extra punch and polish. The old graphics are referred to here as 2D, while 3D represents the redrawn visuals. To compare the two, take a look at the first two images in this review.
The option to play through the game with either online or local multiplayer is brilliant. My son never played these games – they came out many years before he was born, but the two of us had a brilliant time blasting through it together.
The additional Infinite Mode, meanwhile, grants accessibility to R-Type Dimensions that might have otherwise might have eluded this game for some people. In Infinite Mode you have unlimited lives, and you do not roll back to your last checkpoint when you die, but burst right back onto the screen where you were just at. You are assured of beating the game, but for those who do not want to sit around memorising enemy flight patterns or just want a quick, satisfying fix of action on their own or with a friend, this is a great way to get it.
Shooters of this nature were never terribly long. They would beat you down over and over again until you got better at everything the game was through at you. As such, the Infinite Mode does make for a fun, but also a short experience. Blasting through the levels does not take terribly long and you can plough through both R-Type and R-Type 2 in an hour or two. The leaderboards and trophies do give you a reason to come back for more as you attempt to better your best scores or those of your friends.
Shooters do not offer the type of storyline depth, character customisation or lengthy gameplay we have become accustomed to in today’s video games, but R-Type Dimensions proves that there is still a place for the genre if it is handled the right way. R-Type Dimensions has been handled in just that fashion, providing fun bursts of action with enough modes and variety to make the entire package worthwhile.
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