By Nick Benefield / December 19th, 2018
|Title||R-Type Dimensions EX|
|Developer||Tozai Games (Irem – 1987,1989)|
|Release Date||November 28th, 2018|
|Platform(s)||Nintendo Switch, Steam|
|Age Rating||E for Everyone|
R-Type is a shining example of a SHMUP title done right. Spanning a history of 30+ years in both arcades and in homes around the world, it continues to live on and build upon that legacy. Following the current trend of nostalgia and rebooting older IPs, the folks at Tozai have developed an HD-enhanced package of the original two arcade titles. Dubbed R-Type Dimensions EX, this is actually an updated re-release of R-Type Dimensions which came out on PSN and XBLA back in May of 2014. This new “EX” version is exclusive to the Nintendo Switch eShop and Steam. I’m specifically focusing on the Switch version. Since this is technically a port of the original arcade titles, I’m going to revolve this review around one common question: How does this release live up to the glory of the originals?
As mentioned, this release bundles the arcade versions of both R-Type and R-Type II. Right out of the gate, you’ll notice that the presentation of the title screen is done in a similar fashion to what one might expect from a Namco Museum title. Both the first and second game are represented by replica arcade cabinets that you can cycle between. For each game, you are given the option of single-player or co-op. You can also select either the 2D or 3D version, though these can be toggled while playing. Being that these are arcade games, you can also browse through your high-scores and unlocked achievements (not in the original arcade versions obviously).In terms of gameplay, I can really only say one thing: it’s R-Type. If you were expecting some new, groundbreaking twist on the traditional formula, you won’t find that here. The controls, power-ups, and levels in R-Type and R-Type II remain just as they were in their original arcade forms. Having said that, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Too many classic arcade titles get revamped to appeal to modern audiences. I’m of the opinion that adding gimmicks to existing gameplay just to appeal to modern players tends to lessen the experience. Seeing the core gameplay of these two remain intact is certainly a point in this release’s favor.
If the gameplay hasn’t changed, then what has? As I alluded to earlier, both titles can be played in either a classic 2D mode or a new 3D mode. The 2D mode mirrors that of the original arcade versions, albeit with a higher resolution for modern screens. I really appreciate seeing the original sprites upscaled in full HD. Having said that, the 3D mode isn’t half-bad either. While I prefer the look of the original sprites over the 3D models, the backgrounds in the 3D mode are (for the most part) superior. Some of the backgrounds in the original versions were non-existent (e.g. black screens). Not only does the 3D mode do a fantastic job of recreating the original backgrounds in 3D, but it also provides new ones where there previously were none. This made both titles feel more polished overall and I greatly appreciated that. I found myself toggling back and forth between the two modes during gameplay just to catch all the differences.
One aspect of the 3D graphics that I didn’t care for so much was the use of colors. To pay homage to the original graphics, the developers chose to stick with the exact same color schemes for the 3D ones. I certainly appreciate the fact that they chose to use these colors as a reference, but while they work great for the original artwork, they make the 3D models look somewhat flat and (dare I say) generic. The backgrounds and larger, boss enemies don’t feel as flat, but something about the shading or the color palette for the other models gave me this impression. All in all though, I understand the design decision and by no means consider it a deal-breaker.
The other big change between the two versions is the soundtracks. I truly appreciate a good FM soundtrack as much as the next person, but to my surprise the new scores were even better. Much like the graphics, the new audio tracks are based off of the originals while expanding on them in an effort to feel more modern. The result is music that I’m sure the original developers at Irem would’ve approved of and been jealous of. I found these modern takes to be very refreshing and thought that they brought a lot to the table.
The last item that I’d like to touch upon is the two different game types: Infinite and Classic Mode. Infinite Mode is made with people like me in mind. If you enjoy SHMUPs but don’t have the best hand-eye-coordination, then infinite mode is for you. Instead of having a set number of lives, you instantly respawn when you die with (seemingly) no penalty. The objective in this mode is to instead rack up the highest score that you can. The more you die, the lower your score will be. For those who enjoy achieving highscores but also appreciate a good challenge, Classic Mode will be more your style. This mode is essentially just the regular arcade mode where you have a limited number of lives and restart at certain checkpoints upon dying. Both modes are perfectly valid gameplay options, but Classic Mode is likely to be the one that most will gravitate towards.
Overall, R-Type Dimensions EX is a very competent take on the original arcade titles. It takes what made both R-Type and R-Type II so memorable and blends those quality traits with updated visuals and a modernized soundtrack. The only option that I would’ve liked to see is the ability to mix and match the visual styles and soundtracks (i.e. 2D with modern music and 3D with arcade music). More importantly though, I believe that the Nintendo Switch release has a huge advantage over the version on Steam. The Joy-Con controllers and portability of the Switch make that platform the ideal way to play this release. This is the type of game that you bring with you to a bar and play with the other patrons via local co-op. I myself was quite comfortable taking this to work and playing it in 20-30 minute bursts. This release normally retails at $14.99 USD on the eShop and on Steam. There is also the original 2014 release which can still be purchased digitally for PS3 or Xbox One due to the 360 backwards compatibility program. Given the low price-point and ability to use those Joy-Con, I’d say the Switch release in particular is definitely worth snagging.
A review copy was provided by the publisher.
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