A timeless classic for Game Gear

By Lim Choon Wee

YET another evergreen hit makes it onto the Game Gear, this time the perennial progressive blast we all know and love, R-Type.

Just what is so great about this shoot-’em-up, anyway? Well, you know what they say - “I don’t know why I love it.”

As a shoot-'em-up, R-Type had that extra "zing" that no other blast, even until now, can emulate. Just what is it that makes it a classic? Well, I don’t have the answer, but R-Type plays as well now as it did back then in its first appearance, more than three years ago.

As far as conversions go, however, R-Type has never been faithfully reproduced. The first, which appeared on the PC Engine, came pretty close but it had too many flaws. One was the game came on two separate cartridges, which disrupted the flow of the game. Another was, of course, the vertical scrolling, which made the game look pretty lame. You see, the PC Engine did not display the game screen in full but had to rely on some nutty vertical scrolling to compensate.

The next conversion, which came out on the Atari ST, was even worse. By all means, it looked totally cool, but once you started the game, you'd be better off investing in the PC Engine. R-Type on the Atari ST was so slow it made a guy with an IQ of 20 seem like Albert Einstein.

Subsequently, the Amiga version came on the scene to alleviate the pains, but this version was not without its flaws, such as its relative lack of difficulty and some missing background graphics.

Now, the Game Gear version arrives and this is as good as it gets! Some great music, faithfully reproduced from the arcade, can be heard upon starting the game and you can be sure of a really smooth ride.

You pilot an R-Type spacecraft against the evil Bydo Empire, which has subjugated a solar system.

Nothing great about the story, though, but the game is something else. All of the eight levels are found on the Game Gear version, unlike the PC Engine version.

The gameplay is identical to the coin-op version, and all those years spent discovering tactics and techniques to defeat the aliens can be used here.

The crux of R-Type's appeal can be found in the detachable nose cone thing, often referred to as "the force", which can be used in a variety of ways to great effect. The game also inadvertently has an intelligence factor, allowing the player use the appropriate weapon in any given situation The problem is, of course, blowing the two-legged robot beasties which carry the icons.

The force can be hooked to the back of the ship or used as an external weapon which can fire bullets. As it is indestructible, it can be pretty useful in some tight situations.

R-Type also has a very interesting feature no two levels are the same. The first level is pretty straightforward. but level three has the player pitting his wits against a giant spacecraft which takes up four screens, of which only one part is visible at any time.

Level four has some interesting aliens which draw up jelly-like trails, while level six can be attributed to a sliding puzzle game.

R-Type is great, and it plays as fresh now as it ever will. It is surprising that with the new technology we have now, nobody as yet been able to match this timeless classic. Irem Corp's X Multiply and the game’s own sequel R-Type II, used the same premise but still lacked the appeal of the original.

Graphically, it looks the same as the coin-up, but a pity about its small size, though. Every feature from the arcade version has been transferred, with no loss in any element whatsoever. except that the background tends to fade out during the meeting with the end-of-level monsters.

However, this creates a dramatic effect that the com-op lacks.

Musically, there is the distinct lack of a sampled electric guitar sound, which makes the arcade version such a frantic blast but that’s not much of a loss. Other that that, R-Type for the Game Gear plays wonderfully close to the coin-op verion. Thumbs aloft!

Note that this review is of a pirate GG cartridge containing the SMS version of the game.

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