Note: This review of R-type was done on actual Turbografx 16 hardware connected to a CRT TV.
The Turbografx 16 was a victim of terrible marketing in North America. The bundle game was Keith Courage in Alpha Zones. In an article on the TG 16 at Gamasutra, we read this:
Sega’s pack-in game was a conversion of proven arcade hit Altered Beast; NEC’s pack-in was Keith Courage in Alpha Zones, a completely unknown Hudson home title. The hero, called Wataru in Japan, was renamed “Keith” in an attempt to butter up NEC boss Keith Schaefer.
“The pack-in should have been R-Type. If it was R-Type, it would have made a bigger splash,” says Brandstetter. In fact, NEC could have had Irem’s hit arcade shooter; Hudson’s port was a launch title for the TurboGrafx-16. However, rather than catering to an arcade-playing core, NEC wanted a game that scored with both girls and boys in focus tests.
This is true. Back during this time, I almost bought a Turbografx 16 because of R-type. I was addicted to R-type in the arcades. There were home versions of R-type, such as on the Commodore 64, but this one looked flawless! However, R-type was not the pack-in title, that Keith game was. Even then, I couldn’t understand why R-type was not the pack-in game. Had it been, I would have bought a Turbografx 16 and maybe not even a Super Nintendo or Genesis. Instead, I have to rediscover this console decades later.
Above: 15 minutes of the R-Type ‘Encounter’ theme…
The two very successful arcade games that created the modern shmup genre (not counting the granddaddies like Space Invaders, Asteroids, Galaga, or Xevious) was Gradius and R-type. Both defined the horizontal shooter. Both had a multitude of upgrades on your ships.
R-type, though, was really interesting with its pod system. You would get this pod that, when attached to your ship, made a badass weapon and protected the front of your ship. If you attached it to the back, you were firing backwards. But you could also let it float around and it would shoot on its own. It gave much replayability. R-type is not the simply ‘shoot and dodge everything’ shmup. You have to make decisions concerning your pod use.
R-type has the best level design of any shmup ever made or ever will be made. There are eight levels. The first boss is classic and memorable. Here he is:
Above: Badass boss
The second stage is biological with snakes and a space vagina as a boss. The third stage is your little ship against a battleship where you fly around it. The fourth stage has creatures that draw all over the screen. The game is consistently solid.
Above: R-type is famous for its third stage of flying around the battlecruiser
R-type is very rich in its content. There is nothing cliche in this game. If it is, it is because R-type made it famous. Starting off, you have the rich robotics that turns into the boss from Alien. Second stage is a biological mess with a space vagina boss (and a snake). Third stage is the battle cruiser. Fourth stage is a green web with guys who make more. All the enemies are interesting and well realized. Even today, after all these decades.
I cannot stop playing this game. I do not play it long. I play until I die the first time, and then I shut it off. But I keep coming back. I will probably never beat this game. But that is OK. There is something about this game that makes me keep coming back. Its sheer difficulty is its value as you will be nibbling on this game for a long, long while. If someone bought it today, say on the Wii U Virtual Console, they would be most frustrated because they are not used to hardcore arcade games like this. You will die, and you will keep on dying. The gameplay experience is not long either. But you will keep coming back.
“But Malstrom, this is an arcade port. Why not get a modern arcade port for like the PS1 or PS2 or Vita version?” It is a good question. I think the TG16 port, despite some flickering issues, exceeds the arcade port because of its chip tune music. This is the best R-type on cartridge you will ever find.
BTW, I thought the title of R-type meant the ship or the pod. No. R-type is a sex term. R-type and K-type. K-type stands for animals who have a few young and spend time raising them like humans. R-type stands for animals who have a ton of young and spend little time raising them. R-type is another way of saying zerg today. I might start calling women who have five kids by five different fathers as ‘R-types’.
Is this game a classic? Does it deserve the Malstrom Award? Does it stand the test of time?
I’d say yes. It is ingenious in gameplay and level design, excellent production, and nothing about the game seems ‘aged’ today except its frustrating difficulty (which is a plus). R-type is, perhaps, the best shmup ever made, and its value to the player doesn’t drop.
R-type is a legit classic on the TG 16.
-TG 16 Games Reviewed-
R-type (Never gets old because it can never be beaten. Fun to try here and there.)
-None listed yet-
Neutopia (boring, bad game design, can’t hold a candle to Zelda, fire wand is only thing going for this game)
More reviews coming…