Take that, you Bydo filth.

Source // Hardcore Gaming 101

We've all got genres that we've avoided, or else just left behind while we focus on our favourites. For me shooters were a prime example of that - they weren't bad, per se, but I never found myself attracted to them over racing games, for example. As such I am largely ignorant of the many titles there are when it comes to shoot 'em ups, though I know the odd name here and there.

R-Type is a shoot 'em up, that much I know. Beyond that, I don't have a clue what I'm in for. Perhaps strange to say when I've played so many shoot 'em ups from this 1001 list already, but it's true nonetheless.

I don't know why R-Type has got a place here. I don't know what it does differently, I don't know what it excels at. I do know that it has a legacy, so what better place to start exploring that legacy than at the very beginning.

Fun Times

I'm playing the Sega Master System port of R-Type, and if that's a bit of a bland screenshot it's because I was having quite a bit of fun playing the Sega Master System port of R-Type. Too much fun to pause and frame screenshots of the action.

On the surface, it doesn't look too dissimilar to other titles. Waves of enemy ships fly towards you in formation, and rapid firing of your weapon will see those ships turn into explosions in no time at all. So far, so shoot 'em up. Power-ups get dropped from time to time, notably a ball that is known as the Force, a kind of auto-pilot drone that syncs to your movements and can link directly to your ship to increase your firepower.

I don't even know what's going on here

In terms of the story, this Force is a Bydo embryo, a biological weapon that was created by humans to help them take over the Universe but as you could guess turned on their creators and waged war with mankind, of which you in your trusty R-9A Arrowhead fighter are their best hope. That sentence was quite a mouthful, my apologies.

So you and your infinite firepower join up (willingly? Probably not) with some spawn of the enemy to take down anything and everything that moves. There's a lot that does move, and it usually wants to shoot at you, so it's best to get busy dodging shots and returning fire, either by spamming the fire button to pew-pew-pew your way thru-thru-thru the enemy or by holding down the button to charge up a shot.

What starts as a typical spacey encounter soon turns into something nightmarish, as the entities you face consist of some rather grotesque looking things. The first boss is... shown below...


You'll notice that I'm exploding in that screenshot. I've read that R-Type is hard, requiring Dark Souls levels of dedication to finding paths through the game and of not giving up. I've not experienced that in R-Type, but then I didn't get past this guy to really find out.

It's a simple enough boss fight, but the sluggish controls for the Master System port don't help. That or my controller needs a bit of work. That or I need a bit of skill. The good news is that there is a power-up to increase your speed, which is damn helpful. The bad news is that a death resets your power-up collection to zilch, and the checkpoint may not be back far enough for you to reclaim the power-ups you want. If that's before trying to fight a boss for the second time, well, good luck.

I sure walked into this ambush...

I ran out of lives and continues to silly mistakes, as always, as well as some frustrating collisions with scenery that I could have sworn didn't blow me up the first time. There's no health bar, so if you're caught out by anything, you really are caught out.

Final Word

As ever, I hit up the Internet to watch the experts make it further than I could manage, and this allowed me to see the arcade version running at decent speed, certainly compared with the Master System, as well as allowing me to pay attention to the soundtrack, which is top notch despite my inability to remember any of it right now. No, seriously, it's worth a listen. Whether it's better with a million lasers and missiles and explosions layered over the top I don't know.

When you're playing the game, you are of course paying attention to the visuals, and if you're able to sit back and watch what's going on, you can see some freaky stuff. You could lose your lunch as early as stage two if you're that kind of person.

It's a sight to see, that's for sure, and if you can track down a copy to play, all the better. I didn't get far, and I'd prefer the controls to be a little more welcoming, but it's addictive, and that feeling of knowing that you're going to do better in your next life is always there after each and every failure.

If failing a game makes you want to keep playing, it must be doing something right.

Fun Facts

In the first release for the ZX Spectrum, R-Type was incorrectly recorded to tape. Instead of recording the last stage, stage 7 was recorded a second time, so the stage 8 was never viewable to players.

R-Type, developed by Irem, first released in 1987.
Version played: Sega Master System, 1988, via emulation.
Version watched: Arcade, 1987 (DerSchmu)