R-Type Final 3 Evolved Review – What? R-Type is Evolving!

    Title: R-Type Final 3 Evolved
    Developer: Granzella
    Release Date: April 25, 2023
    Reviewed On: PS5
    Publisher: NISA
    Genre: Shmup

R-Type is a fascinating shmup franchise with diverse continuities, some even experimenting with different gameplay genres. Apparently, the original R-Type Final on PlayStation 2 was intended to be the final game in the main series, but then this supposed final saga saw a direct sequel of its own in 2021. Now in 2023, we have a third game in R-Type Final 3 Evolved as a PlayStation 5 exclusive.

Now, if you haven’t booted up your copy of R-Type Final 2 for quite some time, you might want to take it for a spin because the last update has quite literally transformed the game into its sequel R-Type Final 3.

In other words, the second game has been completely replaced by its direct predecessor. Fighting game fans were already used to these transitional updates, but this is perhaps a first for a mainline entry in a horizontal shooter IP. And so, R-Type Final 3 is a separate game to the Evolved version, the latter which can only be played on a PS5.

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The exclusivity seems like a puzzling decision, but it largely has to do with the planned PS VR2 features, which will be introduced through an update at a later date. This VR update won’t add anything to gameplay and has solely to do with the first-person launch sequence animation, which takes place prior to the main story campaign.

There are other online features, too, the most notable being a hub world for players to gather together as their pilot avatar. However, at the time of review, none of these features were fully available and are likely not going to be fully ready by launch. Needless to say, this PS5 exclusive has yet to evolve to its final form.

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When the major update will roll out with all of its promised features is anyone’s guess, but even out of the box, R-Type 3 Evolved isn’t exactly lacking in content. There is a brand-new campaign for this release. The main campaign from R-Type Final 2 is also fully intact here as well.

The new campaign introduces seven completely new stages with plenty of challenges and intense boss encounters. Aside from this, there are a range of extras, including a high number of ships to unlock and build. By clearing certain stages and collecting resources, players are able to construct new ships in the museum. These ships can be modified cosmetically and fitted with new missiles. It’s a bit like a Build-a-Bear Workshop, except your building trans-dimensional death machines.

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At its core, R-Type hasn’t changed too much from its predecessor. In fact, this still feels like an enhanced edition of the 2021 game more than anything else. And so, the experience remains true to the core fundamentals of the R-Type experience. This is a horizontal shooter where the level design matters just as much as the enemy waves.

Dealing with wave after wave of various enemy types and their projectiles is hard enough as it is, but players also need to carefully navigate the environment, which is especially difficult when everything is on rails. There are some narrow pathways and hurdles to navigate, and more often than not, boss encounters trap you into closed-quarters combat. It can all feel quite congested, but such is the nail-biting intensity the series has always been known for.

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Regardless of the difficulty setting, there is simply no way around the one-hit deaths. Sure, this is a standard feature in most shmups, but here it feels especially painful. True to the series’ tradition, getting hit brings the entire action to a screeching halt. It’s a moment of harrowing silence, almost like a mic drop at your own funeral, before the ship explodes. Defeat just feels agonizingly embarrassing, and so regardless of what campaign you play or the difficulty setting you choose, this game will not hold back on its relentless challenge.

For longtime fans, this is still horizontal shooting at its finest. The core mechanics feel great, the level design is engaging, and the unique play mechanics involving the detachable sub-weapon is always interesting. It’s no doubt a strange entry, but the core fundamentals of what made the series a classic are all included.

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Even as a PS5 exclusive, there isn’t much of a graphical facelift here. The visuals honestly look a little plastic, and often the particle and lighting effects can be impractical, especially when enemy projectiles and other hazards come in all shapes and sizes, which makes it difficult to make sense of the action sometimes.

The rest of the presentation feels hit or miss, and the hub worlds in their current state come off as a lazy afterthought for now. It remains to be seen whether the developers will indeed be able to create a thriving online community of avatars running about. For now, these are just ideas and promises until the next major update rolls in. At least the soundtrack does the job, with most of the new music having the right energy.

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R-Type Final 3 Evolved feels more like an R-Type Final 2.5 than a full-fledged sequel. If you have a copy of R-Type Final 2, then it’s worthwhile exploring the updates made to that release first. If you are interested in the release as a PS5 exclusive, then it’s probably worth waiting a little longer to see how the promised features pan out. This game isn’t really a sequel, and it doesn’t quite feel like an evolution, either.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Jahanzeb Khan

Old SEGA games will go up in value... you'll see!