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Monday, May 10, 2021

Review: R-Type Final 2 (Nintendo Switch)


Review by Alex Kidman.

Objectively, R-Type Final 2 has a remarkably daft name and a rather slow play style that won’t endear it all that much to fans of more modern, bullet-hell style shoot-em-up titles.

Subjectively, I rather like it despite the stupid name. If you’re a long term fan of the series the odds are pretty good that you will too.

That’s the difficult part of assessing a new entry into any long-running series, because if you’re coming at it cold, you might not get what all the fuss is about. Equally, however, long-term fans will have expectations, and R-Type Final 2’s rather curious Kickstarter origins – including a weird, seven-day-only original Kickstarter most people (myself included!) totally missed – and high asking price means that it’s fair to assess whether it can meet up to those expectations.


It’s worth pointing out that I have a long history with R-Type. The classic Master System version was my go-to game for a long time for simple but enjoyable shoot-em-up action, and I can still play bits of it with my eyes closed because they’re wired into my muscle memory. R-Type Delta, long-held by many fans as the series pinnacle, was the very last game I ever bought as a single man, the day before my wedding. I’ve been taking to the stars in my one-person war against the evil Bydo empire for a long time now. Any game with R-Type in the title has to stand up against a lot of expectations.

R-Type Final 2, silly name and all, tries its best, but it isn’t quite the best of the R-Type experience.

It does get the very basics of R-Type right, from the classic “Force” powerup that defines your combat abilities to the charge beam’s risk/reward scenario due to its charging time. A suitably powered up R-Type ship is a thing of majestic destructive glory, and a lot of fun, as it’s always been.


You will eventually end up with a huge hangar of variant ships that add genuine variety thanks to their differing force weapons. If you’ve played a lot of R-Type, you’ll appreciate the not-always-subtle nods to enemies in prior games, too.

What R-Type Final 2 gets most right is that it doesn’t rush the experience. R-Type games come from an era of slower, more considering arcade-style shooting. It’s an almost sedate and very sombre experience, where the strategy of how you take down enemies is a key gameplay hook.

However, there’s no getting around the fact that this means that R-Type Final 2 can often feel downright sluggish.


Not so much in your ship movement, with speed shifting only a shoulder button away at any time, but in the way it lays out and loads out its levels as you go. It doesn’t help much on the Switch version that load times when you die can be lengthy, although that might not be an issue on other platforms.

I can’t quite decide if the way that R-Type Final 2 kills you is genius slow design, or frustrating anachronism, either. You freeze for a second or two, showing your final resting place for a while before fading to black and jumping back to the last checkpoint you passed.

No fast restarts here, and I wouldn’t want them, but there’s been plenty of times I would have liked to at least start the reload just a little bit more rapidly. The death pause is also more annoying because of the indistinct visual layout. Some objects are harmless background animation that won’t kill you. Others are deadly at the touch, and you’ll only find out when you crash into them, triggering that multi-second death pause. It’s a step that is true to the series roots, but again feels like it could have been a little more refined for a 2021 era shooter.


There are also some downright obtuse design decisions at play, especially around bonus ships. You unlock these with in-game ground out currency, which is hardly a new idea in itself. However, this involves loading to a separate menu, selecting each ship in turn, then spending a variety of in-game currencies to unlock it – which feels like the worst abuses of mobile game payment systems, even though all the currency is virtual – and even then you’re not done.

If you want to actually use your shiny new death machine in-game, you’ve then got to add it to your personal hangar before reversing all the way back out.

Yes, it has an almost old-school ambience to it, because it feels like retrieving an actual manilla folder from a filing cabinet – but there’s a reason we’ve shifted on from those days.


All of this leads to a game experience that doesn’t quite feel as polished as it could have been, but with enough of that core R-Type DNA to keep me engaged enough to keep on unlocking ships. Although, once again I come back to that silly title, because even R-Type Final 2 isn’t the final R-Type. There’s DLC to come, and a premium edition just of this game if you’re particularly keen.

At least I’m not stuck with the silly name, because one of the more unusual tweaks in R-Type Final 2 is that you can opt to change the display name on menus. That’s why, technically speaking, this isn’t a review of R-Type Final 2. It’s a review of my chosen name, R-Type Universe World.

Subjectively and objectively, that’s no less silly.



- Alex Kidman.
Contributor


Review: R-Type Final 2 (Nintendo Switch)
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