When it comes to the 2D shoot-em up genre, it’s hard to think of a series more iconic than R-Type. The Irem developed title was originally released in 1987 and while the genre has grown to be more sophisticated over the years, the classic franchise has managed to maintain a special place in the hearts and minds of its fans. R-Type Dimensions, which was first released for the Xbox 360 in 2009, has now made its way to the PlayStation 3 and looks to endear a new generation of gamers to the series.
Bundling together R-Type and R-Type II, Dimensions serves as a perfect introduction to the shoot-em up genre. If you are unfamiliar with it, the concept is simple. Players are tasked with navigating their R-9 ship through a series of consistently changing environments, all while dodging enemy attacks and delivering effective counter-fire. Essentially a bullet-hell shooter, enemies and bullets are constantly flying across the screen, so having good reflexes is key to victory. The unique feature of the two games, though, is their use of a detachable pod. With the pod attached, the R-9 has the ability to dish out greater firepower and can also fire backwards. If the pod is not attached, though, it can fly alongside your ship and provide a second wave of bullets.
While simple in concept, the genre is also known for its punishing difficulty and R-Type Dimensions is no exception. Both R-Type and R-Type II are soul-crushingly and ball-bustingly difficult. The type of difficulty that makes you want to rip out your hair and slam the controller to the ground in anger. This is especially true of the “Classic Mode” included with the game, which only grants you three lives. The ability to slow-down time using the L2 button and the presence of checkpoints makes things a little more bearable, but make no bones about it, both games are still incredibly tough to get through.
If you are like me and don’t have the patience to make it through that mode, then the “Infinite Mode” will probably be more up your alley. As the title suggests, instead of only having three lives, you now have as many as you need to see both games through to completion. While the plot, which involves the R-9 ship facing off against the Bydo Empire, is nothing to write home about, being able to play through each level more than justifies the existence of this feature. For added embarrassment, R-Type Dimensions also keeps track of how many lives you needed to make it through each game, which led to me realizing that I managed to die over 20 times in just one stage.
Besides simply porting over the two classic shooters, R-Type Dimensions also updates their presentation facets. The upgraded graphics and music implemented by Tozai Games are both done rather well here, as they manage to stay true to the art of the series while also looking noticeably different. If you don’t approve of these improvements, though, Dimensions features the unique ability to seamlessly transition back and forth between the new visuals and the games’ classic graphics.
While I enjoy their new look, the two games’ original artwork still looks great today. The H.R. Giger-influenced Bydo Empire still looks grotesque and unique, while the original soundtracks remain both enjoyable to listen to and very complementary. The compilation also includes a feature for playing through both titles with a new isometric camera angle. However, although this helps give the games a more three-dimensional look, I’m not sure I would recommend using it over the traditional camera angle, outside of just trying it for curiosity’s sake.
If I have a problem with R-Type Dimensions, though, it’s that both games are rather brief. I know that both R-Type and R-Type II were originally arcade titles, but the fact that it only took me around 45 minutes to play through both on Infinite Mode is a little troubling. Obviously, playing through the two on Classic Mode helps add more time, but I’m not sure the added frustration makes it worthwhile. The included multiplayer mode also helps add some replay value to the title, but I didn’t find it to be that interesting.
As an introduction to a classic franchise, R-Type Dimensions more than justifies its cost. The ability to transition from the new look to the original style of the games is an excellent feature and the timeless gameplay still holds up today. However, as with many titles in the shoot-em up genre, its punishing difficulty and brief length will likely turn away many potential players. Those that are willing to stick with the compilation, though, will be rewarded with a fun throwback to the arcade days of yesteryear.
This review was based off the PlayStation 3 version of the title, which we were provided with.
R-Type Dimensions serves as a fun, if perhaps a little too difficult, introduction to the classic franchise.