R-Type, the pinnacle of ’80s side-scrolling arcade shooters, has set foot to blast the Baydo empire into oblivion on the Nintendo Switch. This 32-year-old space opera and its sequel, R-Type II, would face critical acclaim when coin-op’s were king and mullets were in fashion. R-Type Dimensions EX, a compilation compiled of both classics, brings with it a pumping new soundtrack and a shiny HD skin to warp it into the third dimension. Its legacy says it all, but does its fancy new coat do any favours for its credibility?
Shmups can be relentlessly difficult at the best of times. The R-Type games probably stand at the higher end of the spectrum for their brutal attack patterns and formidable level layout. A single shot, or a slight graze across alien architecture that line the stages will see your ship plummet in flames. It’s a relentless game of memory, reaction and knowing how to handle your assist orb known as The Force. The Force ball is your flexible assistance aid that will try to keep you alive a little while longer. You can upgrade it to fire out stronger attacks, attach it on either end of your ship or allow it to float nearby like a bodyguard drone hungry for some Bydo.
Both games are arcade perfect ports of the originals with a few little bells and whistles tacked on for good measure. The main standout attraction comes in how you can morph the visuals instantaneously by thumbing the X Button. In doing this, you can seamlessly switch from the golden-age pixels of its ’80s heritage into a clean-cut HD rendition of its former self. The music also ramps up from the timeless chiptune sounds of the past into a more dramatic remixed beat during its transition. The modern take on the music is superb. The new 3D visuals, not so much.
In fact, the graphics looked pretty dated back when R-Type Dimensions first released on Xbox Live close to a decade ago. While the visuals are sharp enough to cut yourself with, the lack of imagination that tries to replicate rather than improve the old look doesn’t quite reflect the personality of its original design. There’s a cheapness to its presence that can be compared to a low-budget mobile game utilising a 3D engine. Strangely, it does sort of get away with it though, for the cleanliness of HD polygons and constant movement does temporarily trick the brain into seeing a visual step forward when flipping comparisons. But, as soon as you begin to notice the classic 2D animations have a more impressive flow to them, the 3D models struggle to replicate the same magic quite as gracefully. The added gimmick of the 3D visuals is the ability to have the camera lean to the left slightly to provide a bit of visual depth. It’s a feature that would probably suit the Nintendo 3DS more than it would a normal screen, as it tends to just confuse distances more than anything else.
Despite not being able to mix and match the music with the visuals, R-Type Dimensions EX does have a fairly decent amount of leeway in regards to customisation and gameplay approach. The screen can be adjusted to fit widescreen much better than expected, along with a few screen filters in place that, to be honest, don’t really do anything noticeable. Controls can only be customised by face button only, which is a shame seeing as though you can use the R Button as a secondary rapid fire option. It would have been nice to be able to assign actions to the ZR Button instead, or just completely allow the player free-reign over the customisable input choices altogether.
Gameplay options give you two varieties in Classic or Infinite mode. Classic does what it says on the tin by providing the complete, punishing arcade experience where a death in combat will throw you right back to the last checkpoint. The more lenient Infinite mode allows you to carry on regardless, with each death merely going against your name and high score in the process. The advantage of playing Infinite mode is that you can work your way to the end without fear of being punished. Scores are only uploaded once you have reached the end of the game and it’s more than happy to record your death count as a result.
With that said, the only way to get the most of this vintage fine brew is to gradually understand its stepping stones in Classic mode. There’s enough here for an avid completionist to work with thanks to a level select option in place. With something so simple, you can memorise enemy patterns like a first date’s phone number and learn to keep your weapons intact to beat the end of stage bosses before they eventually sod off. It’s the puzzle and challenge element that can make this type of game so addictive. It’s also these kinds of elements that will make your mind up if you want to take the plunge in making a purchase or not.
Because this is the R-Type Dimensions ‘EX’, there’s a new addition that’s shoehorned into the gameplay. Basically, this brand new feature lets you to speed up and slow down time in a similar fashion to Grasshopper Manufacture’s Sine Mora Ex. While this particular feature can be used as another tool to understand the level layout, the way it’s implemented doesn’t feel very natural to the gameplay. I rarely found it useful on my playthrough but, then again, some may surely come to depend on it. The final noteworthy feature to be found in R-Type Dimensions EX is the ability to have a two-player co-op experience. It was absent in the classic arcade cabinets, so to be able to split the Joy-Con is a welcome little perk. If you have a telepathic Jedi friend to play with, there’s even an option to enable collision detection between team ships, making the whole space adventure even more difficult than it already is in the first place.
R-Type Dimensions EX is a coding of classics that snugly fits the Nintendo Switch like a comfy old pair of slippers. While the minor quality of life components could be sniffed at, the extra features and visual gimmickry make mastering such an unforgiving piece of history more fun than just a standard cut and paste port of the originals. It’s the crown to top the nostalgic arcade shoot-em-up library that currently fills the shelves of the Nintendo eShop, and a recommended addition to a rapidly growing portable arcade collection.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Tozai Games