R-type, the bane of my gaming life. Never has a title garnered both love and hatred from me at the same time. Back in 1988 I played R-Type on an Atari ST and was wowed by the great graphics and sound of the time. However, as much as it looked great, it was a tough bastard to play.
Unlike most shooters that require raw staying power and reactions of a hawk, R-Type requires you to learn the path of a level. All the skill in the world can’t save you if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time. In that respect the game becomes as much as a puzzle, as shooter, requiring you to memorise the layout and when and where enemies will be at any given time. It’s here where many gamers become frustrated and give up, myself included, but there’s something about it that calls you back for more… eventually.
For those who have never played R-type or one of its many sequels. You take control of a type R ship, across side scrolling environments and must take out the evil Bydo empire. Your ship is equipped with a weapon called the wave cannon, which can be both fired as multiple single shots, or powered up to unleash a powerful beam. Power ups are also available and as you progress and destroy enemies these will be dropped behind for you to pick up. The most important of these is ‘the force’. The force is an orb attached to the front of your ship, that acts as both a secondary canon and a shield. It comes in most handy during the boss fights, where you can launch it in front of you, and call it back as you move. This allows you to target the weak spots of a boss that are otherwise out of reach.
The traditional game is played as one long play session, with the game ending either by you losing all your lives, or if you are a gaming god, by completing the game. The iPhone edition allows you to select any level that you have unlocked to start from (a godsend). And there is an endless mode too, where you’ll never run out of lives. You will, however, have to restart from a checkpoint and not from where you perished.
There are three control options available in this iPhone edition and, unsurprisingly, none are perfectly suited. Many of you will no doubt jump for the traditional v-pad (virtual d-pad) layout including two action buttons. This control mode places the game into a zoomed out cabinet view, with the v-pad and buttons positioned as a transparent layer at the bottom. If you’ve played the multitude of SEGA emulations on iPhone, you’ll be right at home. The upside of this setup is that it most accurately replicates the experience of the original game. However, without the tactile feedback of the edges of the V-stick it’s very easy to make a mistake by either running your thumb from one position to another, or moving off the v-stick altogether. It can become very frustrating, and considering the game’s already high frustration rate due to it’s extreme difficulty, it can drive any gamer to madness.
The best method is touch control. Unlike the v-stick you simply drag you finger around the screen and your ship will follow. Much like Dodonpachi Resurrection, the ship appears offset to your finger, so you can see the ship at all times. The downside is that where your finger is touching the screen, it covers up potential enemies and their bullets that could be coming up the rear. This can be a huge problem. Having said that this is the best method, and in fact I can get further using this touch method than using a classic controller while playing R-Type on the Turbo Grafix. This is because that unlike the other two control options where your ship moves at the same speed, in touch mode it moves much quicker, matching your finger exactly. This allows you to dodge bullets far easier, which in turn makes the game easier.
Lastly, there’s tilt controls, and as you would expect these are temperamental at best. They do work, and you won’t have any missed input like the v-stick, but the slow nature of your ship doesn’t translate well with your quick and larger tilt actions. And added bonus though is the ability to use the touch controls with the tilt. As soon as you touch the screen the tilt is disabled, allowing you to more accurately control your ship. And when the screen gets a little hectic you can lift your finger and return to tilt to avoid any rear attacks. This offers the best of both worlds, however we would like to see an option of a floating, touch anywhere v-stick. But we can only hope EA give it to us in an update.
The game has never looked better (not including sequels). It’s no doubt the smaller screen, hiding the pixelation that is so noticeable on large TV sets, giving me that impression, but it still looks better than I remember. There’s no retina support, but I guess with retro games like this there isn’t much point. EA have also upped the presentation for the menus, creating something both modern and retro at the same time. The same cool soundtrack is there, though it doesn’t quite sound the same.
R-type is one of those classics that just won’t go away. Despite its difficulty, people keep buying it on multiple systems. It has a quality to it, be it the great soundtrack, great graphics (for the time) and challenging gameplay, that keeps you coming back for more. Now it has arrived on the iPhone and it’s a great addition to the family. It’s low price will appeal to both newbies and fans. And with the touch control option making it easier to progress – and add to that an unlimited mode, giving you unlimited continues – then you might just get further than you ever have before.
R-Type is out now for $1.99. get it on the