The original R-Type featured some of the most iconic creature designs in 1980s gaming: a Giger-like colossus with a whipping tail and sharp teeth. A similarly humongous, pulsating alien heart with a deadly snake that slithered out of its valves.
In R-Type Final 2’s first level, I found myself shooting at some geometric shapes that looked like abandoned refrigerators.
This isn’t to say R-Type Final 2 is a bad-looking shoot-‘em-up: built in Unreal Engine 4, it’s packed with saturated colour and moody, atmospheric lighting. But in terms of imagination, the dark ingenuity that made the early games so memorable is conspicuous by its absence here. I bring up the visuals early because they’re so key to what made the series a hit with shooter fans in the first place; these have always been slow-paced games, and sometimes frustratingly unfair in terms of difficulty, but their imaginative weapon designs and creative enemies carried them through.
Admittedly, R-Type Final – intended as the series’ swansong – didn’t have quite the same visual flair as the earlier titles, either, but it still had a sense of grandeur about it. Still, it’s exciting to see the R-Type name back, and this new entry has a solid pedigree: designer Kazuma Kujo worked on Final, and Final 2 feels very similar in terms of pace and style.
Taking control of your R-9A Arrow Head (or any one of a number of unlockable craft in your hangar), you fly at a stately pace through waves of mechanical and biological aliens. To help you in your mission, you have the Force – an indestructible satellite that sticks to the front or rear of your craft – to help clear a path through the enemy throng. Like all R-Type games, Final 2 offers a formidable challenge – not endless waves of ordnance like a bullet hell shooter, but rather maze-like stages that have to be carefully navigated and enemy patterns that require careful memorisation.
One of the more unfortunate challenges, however, comes from a design flaw: it’s sometimes difficult to discern what’s part of the background (and harmless) and what’s a deadly obstacle. There’s one area where enemies fly in from the foreground, and it’s hard to tell whether they’re on the same plane as your craft or just really large. At other times, you find yourself exploding because something you thought was harmless really wasn’t.
That gripe ebbs away as you memorise each stage, though, and the further I got, the more enjoyable it became: the visuals may lack verve, but there are still some interesting, almost puzzle-like set-pieces to navigate.
This isn’t exactly classic R-Type then, but it’s still an enjoyable blaster, despite its drawbacks.
Like its predecessors, R-Type Final 2 has one of the best weapon systems in any shooter. Using your Force as a shield or a battering ram still feels as satisfying as ever (despite the odd moment where the satellite glitches through objects now and again), while your charge shot is useful for taking out some of the bullet-sponge enemies.
A welcome – if not exactly triumphant – return for the legendary shoot-’em-up series.
Format: PC (tested) / Switch / PS4 / XBO / XB S/X
Developer: Granzella Inc.
Publisher: Granzella Inc.
Release: Out now