Title: R-Type Final 2
Release Date: April 30 2021
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: NIS America
Genre: Shoot 'em up, shooter
With a long legacy of titles under its belt, R-Type is recognized as one of the most iconic franchises in the shoot ’em up genre. The challenge of being such a classic series is presenting fan-favorite mainstays without feeling like a complete retread of its previous installments. R-Type Final 2 by developer Granzella and publisher NIS America, for the most part, succeeds in keeping the series fresh and punishingly difficult as ever.
The plot of R-Type Final 2 is simple. You play as a fighter pilot that has to go shoot some aliens. But there is a bit of an intro this time, accompanied by voice acting. During this time, you get to customize the very basics of your pilot and even have an interactive multiple-choice section offered.
It’s interesting for sure, but unless there are future sections that I didn’t unlock, these are really the only moments like this in the game. It’s slightly fun in the moment but overall pretty unimportant to the overall experience. Still, other customizing options like changing your ship’s color are an excellent feature.
After this intro, business proceeds as usual. Combat takes place horizontally, but like the previous R-Type Final, backgrounds are presented in 3D, sometimes showing your ship weaving all around instead of traveling in a straight line. This works reasonably well and is less disorienting than its predecessor, but there are a few times it feels a bit off.
Some obstacles almost appear as if they’re in the background but will cause you to lose a ship if you make contact with them. During another moment, enemies come in from the foreground that feels like they need to be avoided, but they can’t harm the player because they’re not on the same plane. It’s only a one-off moment, and while it can be confusing, most of the level presentation displays vibrant and interesting scenery.
The gameplay is consistent with previous R-Type games; you have a single rapid-fire shot or the charge beam. Charge beams vary in intensity the longer you hold down on the charge. If you hold down long enough, you can create an even more powerful beam but at the risk of leaving yourself vulnerable to enemies for precious milliseconds.
Of course, it wouldn’t be an R-Type game without the force ball, which can be attached to the front and back of your ship to strengthen secondary weapon upgrades or shot out to deal damage. Depending on the ship and the upgrade, it will have a mind of its own and attack in various ways.
The force ball can also defend your ship from minor firearms. It’s iconic to the series and still feels great here. While little has been done to change it since its inception in the 80s, it’s still immensely entertaining and forces you to keep your eyes on both your ship and the force ball for some truly nail-biting gameplay.
R-Type Final 2 has several modes of difficulty, none of which will hold your hand. Even those somewhat experienced with horizontal shmups will probably find some real hurdles to overcome on normal mode. The more I played, the more I realized that it seemed like this incarnation of R-Type focuses on some memorization in combination with strategy. You are expected to die often by some unapologetic cheap deaths, then memorize that for your next run.
On top of this, you are given limited continues. Once you’re out of continues, you’re done and must start at the very first level. While seven levels may seem easy enough to complete on paper, R-Type Final 2 will make sure those levels seem more like marathons than sprints. It’s old-school gaming at its core, and while that may turn off new players, it’s what many fans of the series have come to expect and frankly look forward to.
At the start, you can choose between three ships. Each jet has unique abilities that can give you an upper hand in specific stages, making you change ships as needs. A more severe case of this is an unlockable level after beating the game where you seemingly are not allowed to progress without the ability of a specific ship. It’s not my ideal way to play, as I believe there is merit in trying to beat a level with any ship you want, but there are plenty of fans who will delight in this pick-up and die strategic approach. The fact that this is limited to post-game content also makes it less of an issue.
In combination with the brutal difficulty, several unlockables can really stretch out one’s play experience. Ship decals, pilot uniforms, and an enemy database are all incentives to keep playing. While none of these are super vital or even particularly exciting, it’s nice that they’re included. Perhaps the most significant undertaking is gaining new ships. In my playtime, even after beating the game once, exploring extra levels, and unlocking almost everything else, I still had not unlocked a single new ship.
R-Type Final 2 is extremely ambiguous on how to achieve these ship unlockables and a handful of others. After completing the game, apparently, I had unlimited continues, but I didn’t know this until I started playing a new game. Additional levels are also presented this way.
You just keep playing, and eventually, you may come across a level you haven’t before. It does make me wonder if I happened to unlock even more features that I’m just unaware of. I believe just a bit more clarity in these sections would have helped out a lot.
Even with ambiguity and brutal difficulty, R-Type Final 2 is an entertaining shoot ‘em up. Some levels and sections can be downright infuriating, but it’s also what’s expected from this series and genre. Switching up jets and applying various upgrades will totally change up your playstyle and have you thinking strategically throughout your entire playthrough. For space cadets looking for a masochistic and humbling experience, R-Type Final 2 is a voyage worthy of exploring.
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