"Shoot the core!" is a slogan shared by many games, but R-Type Dimensions brings this old-school style of shooter into the HD-era of video gaming without sacrificing any of the gameplay.
$15 (1,200 MS points)
R-Type plays pretty much the same as R-Type II, except in the sequel there's a second level of charge on your powered-up beam weapon, and of course there are different levels and enemies. They're stunning, punishing, and the most fun I've had with a 2D shooter in a while-- and I loves me some shooters. Oh yeah, and most of the enemies look like the work of one H.R. Giger. Cool.
The d-pad or left stick move the ship, and there are multiple other buttons for rapid fire, powered-up shots, or to launch the "force," a little companion craft that works as a battering ram, a projectile, and a massive power-up. When joined, you can shoot out super-powerful beams from either the front or back of your ship, depending on where it happens to be placed. I've never once looked down at the controller in disbelief in that it had somehow betrayed me. When I die, it's my fault-- and this is the sort of thing that makes you feel good.
Infinite vs. Classic
Before you start, the game asks if you want to play in "Infinite Mode" or "Classic Mode." "Infinite Mode" means you have an unlimited supply of lives to play the game, and you can respawn immediately after you die. And you will die, frequently. In "Classic" mode, you have unlimited continues but only a finite number of lives for each one-- and when you die, you go back to a checkpoint. Certain achievements are only possible in "Classic" mode, so odds are you won't want to take the easy way out with "Infinite."
Of course, easy isn't a word I should throw around because the bosses can still kill you dozens of times and eventually retreat, ending the level, but costing you a particularly important kill. In either mode, this game still provides a challenge, but it was smart of Tozai/Irem/whatever to include a mode that would allow everyone to see all stages in both games rather than only the bullet hell experts.
Each of the games can be played as a single-player assault, or with a partner locally or on Xbox Live. Be careful to watch your settings with a second player, as you can turn on friendly collisions which make the game considerably harder. With a partner, you're both competing for the limited supply of power-ups. Multiplayer works pretty well either way, I noticed no real problems other than the second player makes it slightly harder as they can become a distraction as they join you in screaming at the TV when a member of the Bydo Empire takes you both out in one quick move. It's great to have multiplayer but it doesn't add a ton to the game.
Extra Graphics Modes
Not content to ship a bare-bones product, you're treated to a number of graphical modes and filters. Not all of them are particularly helpful, but they're all nifty and novel enough to try at least once. When you push the "Y" button, you can toggle between the original 1980s graphics and an enhanced mode of your choosing. The new modes include a gorgeous three-dimensional render of the game as well as quasi 8-bit and 16-bit filters to make them look like something you might have seen on a more recent console. There's also a mode that makes it look like you're playing on an actual arcade machine, but when you move the ship, the camera on the machine moves, which in turn moves the playing field. As a novelty it's awesome, but it's pretty frustrating to actually play the game this way.
The "dimensions" aspect of the game comes up here-- you can play it in the typical flat mode, or a sort of an isometric view which lets you see some unique angles and around certain enemies. The special angle view doesn't really help much, but it's fun to play around with it. You also have the option of playing in widescreen or the original aspect ratio. If you have an HDTV, the quality of the game is nothing short of stunning.
Is it worth buying?
YES. Since it's a digitally downloaded game, much fuss has been made over its cost of $15 versus what you get. Since what you get are R-Type, R-Type II, and multiple wacky graphics modes and multiplayer settings, I daresay it's totally worth it. If you considered how many quarters it would take to play in an arcade, it's a bargain. Just don't expect to get the achievements easily.
As the debut from Tozai Games, I'm hoping this is a sign of more great things to come. Lode Runner is their next game, due any day now, and I really hope other companies tap them to update other classic titles.
April 7, 2009