Before leaving, he sent me a short missive asking if I would be so kind as to fill in for him on his weekly Bargain Bin Laden article, and if I would "please refrain from quoting the Danish." Having already failed his second request, I should at least make this BBL thing happen; so men, hold your ladies tight, snuggle up close, and prepare to have your minds blown through the wall behind you.
R-Type Final (PlayStation 2)
Developed by: Irem
Released: February 2, 2004
Bargain Binned: $7.99 at Game Crazy, 150 Goozex points
Over the last two decades, the 2D shooter genre has had a rise and fall similar to that of the 2D fighter genre. While 2D fighters once drew thousands to arcades, recently they've become solely the realm of the hardcore gamer, the sort who spends hours mastering the art of parries, super combos and the Shun Goku Satsu. Similarly, where 2D shooters once flooded arcades and home consoles with gamers, they have devolved recently into the bullet-hell sub-genre, a type of game reserved only for those with insanely fast reflexes and the patience to memorize the patterns of the thousands of bullets that float in mesmerizing waves reminiscent of the aftereffects of psilocybin through the levels of the Ikarugas and Radiant Silverguns of modern times. Thankfully, R-Type Final retains just enough of the user-friendly shooters of the late 80s, while providing the shooter savants with moments of bullet-rain that would make George Patton a bit moist.
The story of the R-Type series is pretty typical for these sorts of titles. The Bydo, a seemingly alien menace, have launched an assault on post-apocalyptic Earth and the only thing standing between them and an all-you-can-fondle tentacle love-in is your tiny, fragile ship and an itchy trigger finger. If this were 1989, I could make some clever jab at the government's reliance on overactive military might to solve all of their problems, but since our current administration seems so hell-bent on turning the other cheek I ... hey! Wait a second! That joke still applies! God bless America!
Remember a few moments ago when I referred to this game as a 2D shooter? Well, that isn't entirely accurate. The game functions on a 2D plane, but the backgrounds are rendered in full 3D. This allows the title to toss some stunning scenery at you such as the giant ship in level 3 which you fly above, below, swirl around and end up blowing your way through. Sadly, the developers seem to be overreaching themselves at times, and the inevitable slowdown -- particularly in the set piece that I just mentioned -- is unavoidable.
The gameplay itself is a very slightly updated take on the R-Type games of old. You have three color-coded weapons systems, "options" that function as vaguely sentient lethal shield/guns and variable flight speeds, but the true joy of Irem's series has always been in the environments. In that regard, the final chapter does not disappoint. From waterlogged swamps to burned out cities, everything is rendered beautifully and even in the desolate regions of outer space, you're forced to pilot your ship through some frustratingly maze-like structures all while blasting creatures that look suspiciously similar to human reproductive organs.
Merely repackaging the shooters of old with a shiny modern veneer would only offer twenty minutes of replayability, but thankfully Irem decided to throw enough unlockables and fan service into the title to keep players busy for months. From the 100+ ships that are only revealed by playing through the game multiple times to the hidden level variants, R-Type Final is a high-note for the series to go out on. Unfortunately, most of the ships are merely variations on a theme, and even with branching levels and secret routes through the game the single-player portion of the title is incredibly short, once you get a feel for where enemies will start cropping up.
In an era where games come packaged on media that routinely allows for 40+ hour long adventures, perhaps the 2D shooter is a tad too simple for modern audiences. R-Type Final is one of the finest examples of the genre ever constructed, and anyone who considers themselves a fan of this halcyon breed of game would be well served by its eight dollar price tag, just so long as you remember you aren't getting the next Final Fantasy Chocobo Blitzkrieg.
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