Review: R-Type Dimensions (Microsoft Xbox 360)

R-Type Dimensions
Genre: Shooter
Developer: Tozai
Publisher: Microsoft
Release Date: 02/04/09


R-Type is a classic shooter franchise, and fans will tell you that it’s one of the best out there, for good reason. The original game was an absolute classic, R-Type Final was a masterpiece of epic proportions, and a good many of the games have been above average in design and challenge, if not ground-breaking. The games haven’t changed too much from one to the next, unfortunately, and with R-Type Final apparently being the last shooter in the series, Irem has begun branching out into new directions with the series, as seen in the interesting but clumsy R-Type Command. Fortunately, where Irem has opted to step away from keeping the shooter franchise going, other companies are taking on the job, and Tozai has brought us R-Type Dimensions to fill in the void. It’s basically a visually updated remake of R-Type and R-Type II, but thanks to some really interesting additions and ideas, it manages to not only be more than a simple remake, but it also manages to be a game that shooter fans really shouldn’t be without.

The story of the R-Type series most often amounts to “the Bydo have come, kill them all”, with the Bydo being the bad aliens, so we’ll skip over that in this case. R-Type Dimensions is essentially collection of visually updated releases of the arcade versions of the first two R-Type games, so right off the bat, you’ve got two complete games ready to go. The game offers you the option to play in Classic or Infinite modes, with Classic being the normal “three lives and death means starting from the last checkpoint with nothing” gameplay, and Infinite being “infinite lives and death means starting from where you died with your Force Pod intact, but reduced one level”, depending on what sort of challenge you’re looking for. The game also offers multiplayer support, which is incredibly rare for the series and is flat-out fantastic, as you can play the game with a friend both online and off in either Classic or Infinite mode with player ship collision on or off, depending on how much you hate yourself. There’s a decent amount of depth to the game, more than most other entries in the series, and the added two-player options really make the game shine.

Visually, R-Type Dimensions looks stylish and stunning, and features some nifty tricks that make it a fantastic game to look at. The game features fully re-done 3D visuals that are pleasing to look at on their own, and feature a solid shiny look to them that makes them really stand out. The special effects are appropriately futuristic and make the space combat flashy and impressive, and the various technological and organic enemy ships and environments are also quite nice to look at. The game also offers some neat visual tricks to impress, such as the ability to play the games with a weird, tilted camera angle while using the 3D visuals, which is pretty cool, and the ability to switch the visuals between the 3D updated visuals and the original arcade 2D sprites at the press of a button, which is awesome and should appease fans of the old arcade visuals. Aurally, the game features some nice electronic beats that, as expected from a shooter, are absolutely fantastic and generally good to blow up aliens to, and while it’s not quite as pulse pounding a soundtrack as one might expect, the music sounds as good as it ever did. The sound effects are appropriately futuristic and help sell the “intergalactic fighter pilot blowing up fleshy robotic aliens” concept well enough, and in general, the game is nice to listen to.

If you’ve never played an R-Type game before, you’ll find that the game is pretty easy to understand, whether you’re a shooter fan or not. You’re given a ship, the R-9, that you can fly in all eight directions as the stages horizontally scroll along, and your objective is to shoot down the enemy forces without being shot down yourself. You start off with a little dinky energy shot that you can fire repeatedly or charge to fire a power shot, called the Wave Cannon, that does a ton of damage to enemies and can rip through weaker enemies and keep going. These weapons will serve you well enough when they’re all you have, but you’ll find that there are far better weapons you can acquire throughout the game, if you can hold onto them. You’ll find ships you can shoot down to collect power-ups as you fly through the stages, each with different power-ups inside, but your main beam weapon power-ups look primarily like colorful crystal balls. Collecting one will give you a Force Pod, which is pretty much the basis of R-Type’s entire gimmick. The Force Pod is a shining ball, usually orange, that can act independently or can be attached to the front or rear of the R-9. When left to its own devices, the Force Pod will float around, shooting at enemies if it has a strong enough power-up to do so, but by attaching it to the front or rear of your ship you’ll be able to shoot powered up shots of various types in the appropriate direction, as well as protect the ship from some types of bullets, as the Force Pod will eat them entirely. How you use the Force Pod will depend on personal preference and the stage in question, but it has a variety of uses depending on the situation, making it more than just another power-up.

While the Force Pod by itself is a machine of destruction, it’s the actual power-ups you collect that really make the Force Pod and your ship engines of death. R-Type offers you six power-ups to collect, spread across three beam weapons and three other items. Your Force can be equipped with a horizontal-firing red and blue circular laser, a yellow ground-crawling laser, and a blue reflective laser that bounces off of surfaces. You can also collect Speed power-ups to increase your movement, Missiles to fire missiles that home in on targets, and Bits that act as wingman ships to aid you in combat. R-Type II keeps these power-ups and adds in some new ones, like a laser that bends at forty-five degree angles to hunt down enemies, a shell cannon that makes large explosions that take out enemies nicely, and a ground missile that can take out enemies when you lack ground-firing weaponry. The Wave Cannon also sees an upgrade, by way of a second charge level that launches a homing spread fire Wave Cannon shot for massive damage. The addition of two-player co-op is also a HUGE help in the game, as it makes the experience a lot more bearable than it is solo, as two ships obliterating enemies can allow one player to focus on each direction, making many challenging sections a lot more tolerable.

You’ll need all the help you can get, of course, as the stages are often quite complex and unforgiving. R-Type is all about pattern memorization and maze negotiation, as enemies will pop up that make impassible walls and levels will change on the fly, making remembering locations and their layouts as hard as dodging bullets and enemy groups. The bosses are just as rough, between having weird locations for weak points, having weak points AT ALL, and generally filling the screen with hard-to-dodge bullets and, well, their own girth. You’ll be spending hours on some stages, learning the patterns and techniques needed to advance, if you play in Classic mode, though Infinite mode is always available if you just want to screw around and blow things up for a few hours, as you’ll be able to just blow through the stages without caring how many times you eat it.

The actual games take around half an hour or so to blow through each, though playing on Classic mode will essentially make the games each take multiple hours to complete, as having to start from checkpoints and having a set amount of lives to complete a section will definitely increase the challenge and time spent significantly. You can play the game with a friend, as well, both online or off, in both Infinite mode, where death is meaningless, or Classic mode, where death takes you out of the mission unless the other person collects ANY power-up (thus bringing you back into the game) or the other person dies (which is what it is), making the game, again, as easy or hard as you want it to be. There are several Achievements to earn, a couple player pictures to unlock, statistics you can view to see how your play is progressing, and Leaderboards for you to post your high scores on, and you can go back and visit stages you’ve seen whenever you want if you want to play specific stages or practice particularly hard sections, which, along with the numerous different visual filters available, makes the game great fun for fans of style AND substance.

The biggest flaw in R-Type Dimensions is that while the presentation is outstanding and the overall product is phenomenal, the games themselves may not be for everyone. Blowing through the games on Infinite mode is amusing enough, but after one playthrough you’ve seen everything there is to see, meaning that you’ll be done with both games in around an hour and a half. This, in and of itself, is not so bad, but transitioning over to Classic mode is, in most cases, a cast-iron bitch. See, games where death simply dumps you back where you last were with one less life from your limited stock, like Ikaruga or Gradius V or what have you, challenge you to simply make it through the game with a limited number of lives, like some sort of war of attrition. R-Type and R-Type II instead set checkpoints, and when you die, back you go. You can’t simply continue against a boss in Classic mode, you have to start over, and fighting through a section or facing a boss with a full compliment of power-ups is not the same thing as facing a boss with your default shot and nothing else. The game is mighty hard in Classic mode, and while that’s by no means a bad thing if you love shooters and want to prove your skills, for those with the inability to make it more than five screens into most shooters without eating a death, Classic mode in R-Type Dimensions will pretty much eat you alive. The problem isn’t the challenge so much as it is the lack of options here; basically, some sort of middle ground where death didn’t make you start over but you had limited lives to complete a mission would have been a good addition to the game that would have offered players a choice between “blowing through the whole game” and “seeing the same section of level three a hundred times”. As a discounted title retailing for around ten dollars, this isn’t really a significant concern, but at its full twelve hundred point, fifteen dollar price tag, R-Type Dimensions might be hard to swallow for casual players who don’t want their hands held but suck too much to progress through the game on its default settings.

For fans of shooters, R-Type Dimensions is definitely worth checking out, as it’s faithful to the original games while also offering numerous enhancements and additions that make it worth checking out for fans and newcomers alike. It looks, sounds and plays great, there are plenty of modes and modifications to those modes for someone looking for a little depth to the experience, and it’s a strong remake of two classic shooters that simultaneously enhances the experience and stays faithful to the original work. The addition of both on and offline multiplayer is a nice addition that is lacking from most R-Type games, and it makes the game even better than one would initially expect. Unfortunately, the games are a little odd in their challenge, as the game openly punishes the player and forces them to memorize patterns to survive, and there’s no middle ground between “infinite lives and instant restart on death” and “three lives and back to a checkpoint on death” unless one is playing multiplayer, so you’re either blowing through the games in a couple of hours or you’re spending six hours on one boss, no exceptions. R-Type Dimensions is worth its asking price for fans of the franchise and fans of shooters in general, but everyone else will have to decide if they’re willing to spend a lot on a game they’ll either blow through or be punished by, though with how much the game does right, hopefully the answer is “yes”.

The Scores:
Game Modes: GOOD
Graphics: CLASSIC
Sound: GREAT
Control/Gameplay: GREAT
Replayability: GOOD
Balance: ABOVE AVERAGE
Originality: ABOVE AVERAGE
Addictiveness: GOOD
Appeal: ABOVE AVERAGE
Miscellaneous: CLASSIC
FINAL SCORE: VERY GOOD GAME.

Short Attention Span Summary:
R-Type Dimensions is a fantastic remake of two great games, R-Type and R-Type II, and fans of the series and shooters overall should have every reason to pick it up, as it’s a faithful remake that both enhances and preserves the experience, though that experience might not be for everyone. There are enough game modes and modifications to make the game more than just another shooter, the updated visuals are fantastic, the old arcade visuals are as good as ever, and the game sounds great. The gameplay is simple enough to understand immediately but interesting enough to keep you playing, there’s enough variety between the two games to make them both interesting, and the addition of online and offline multiplayer make the game worth owning for that alone. However, while the game does offer an easy Infinite mode for beginners to play with and a Classic mode for experienced players to throw down with, there’s no real middle ground here, which means if you want to get the most from the game you’re essentially going from Easy to Insane with little transition, and it would have been nice to see something done to easy new players into that. On the whole, however, R-Type Dimensions is worth its asking price, if only because the two games in the package are awesome classics that are well worth your attention, and while the challenge might put some players off, overall, the remainder of the game is strong enough to make it worth investigating all the same.

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