The seven year old in me giggled with glee upon seeing the forthcoming release of R-Type Dimensions a few weeks back. This past Wednesday, it was unleashed upon us. A big part of me thought “about time too”.
For those who don’t know, R-Type was a sideways scrolling shoot em up that seemed to dominate coin op machines in cafes and seaside arcades all over the place in the late 80s. You fly a space fighter, blasting through the stars through eight levels, shooting an assortment of enemy space fighters, robots and weird alien creatures. Possibly not the first of its type by any means but it did show us all how simple and great a game could be at the same time. Instead of telling you how addictive it was, I’ll simply say that it could easily have bankrupted that seven year old version of me if I hadn’t have had pesky things to do like going to school or playing outside in the sun. It was a simpler time. Over the years there were many clones available on home computers, the most notable of these being Team 17’s Project X. R-Type itself was released too. I had a copy for my 128K speccy. It was still brilliant in 8 bit monochrome. But now it’s here, lovingly rebuilt on the PSN.
In Dimensions, you get R-Type and its sequel, the imaginatively titled R-Type 2. Both games have 2D and 3D camera angles, the latter with updated graphics to bring it kicking and screaming into the present, while the former, 2D version stays faithful with its coin op appearance. There’s also a choice of camera. Normal is exactly as you’d think. You also then have arcade camera mode, which merely puts the game into an arcade coin op cabinet, complete with a joystick that moves as you move your fighter about.
The other addition to it is two player. Now you and a friend can team up and blast the minions of the Bydo Empire to hell. That’s only if you have an actual real life friend though; it doesn’t work over the interwebs. This is one of the only downsides about Dimensions I think.
Another downside (although this really isn’t that big a deal in reality) is the lack of inclusion of R-Type: Final, released originally on the PS2. It just would have been nice to have included it for the sakes of the collectors out there maybe. With its changeable space fighters and pretty graphics though, I think it would just have hiked the price up more, whereas eight quid for R-Type 1 and 2 isn’t too bad really.
The gameplay itself is very simple. You can hold R2 down and just fly about shooting anything that gets in your way. Shoot the odd looking metal space hopper thingies to get the extra orb and then just keep powering it up to get the better lasers. At the end of almost each level is a bigger nastier boss to reduce to a quivering pile of alien goo and move on to the next. You get three lives, after that it’s game over. There are check points through some of the levels but if you die you’ll come back without your high powered orbs and have to collect them all over again. Whereas it’s simple to understand however, the game itself is far from simple. It’s mostly a case of just remembering the pattern of the enemies and dodging the sometimes random firepower (usually an annoying orange ball) hurled at you. I remember being able to blast through the original R-Type’s levels, getting right to the end without a single life lost. At the moment on Dimensions, I’m barely able to get through the first level without getting shot to (8)bit(s). Nothing appears to have changed with the difficulty, and I’m sure if I could fire up my speccy 128k and wait the forty minutes for the game to load, I’d see the enemy patterns are identical. It’s purely that I’ve gotten older, my reflexes probably aren’t as good as they could be, the sun was in my eyes, my laces were untied, whatever other excuse you can think of. The truth is R-Type is a tricky as hell game which is good. If it was too easy we’d beat it in two minutes and never come back to it then wonder where we’d wasted our money on later. You can’t change the difficulty either; it’s just stuck on frustratingly tricky. The levels are relatively short though, so you shouldn’t be tearing your hair out for long. One way around the frustration though is the infinite mode. You get infinite lives (as the title suggests) and have to work your way through the levels, losing as few as possible.
R-Type 2 is really more of the same. The original graphics look prettier, but that’s to be expected. The original version was obviously released later so things had moved on a bit. The new remade 3D version however looks just as pretty as R-Type’s new 3D version.
With eight short levels (six for R-Type 2) and the pure trickiness of the game, I reckon many people will keep coming back to Dimensions. The fact it’s even been released in its original form surely has to be an indicator of its replay value. It’s a retro classic I’ve personally waited a long time to play again. It’s just a bit of a disappointment that I can’t play alongside folks on my friends list as well. It is, however, still great fun to play.