Do you remember the arcades? A network of compartmentalized warzones brought to life with the sound of machinegun button mashing and the smell of sweaty joysticks. Gamers hunched over a screen, cursing, as they thumb their lucky 1979 quarter into the machines insatiable maw, their last chance to save the universe from ninjas, aliens, or an overabundance of white dots.
Alas, as the games we play evolve, so has the arcade. It lives on in each console as a virtual network, rather than a physical building. The Xbox 360 has the Xbox Live Arcade, the PS3 has the Playstation Network, and the Wii has the virtual console. These incorporeal arcades deliver booster shots of nostalgia by reinventing the games we know and love, and the newest addition to the retro revival is the Xbox Live Arcade’s R-Type Dimensions.
R-Type Dimensions (RTD) is a port/makeover of side scrolling shooters R-Type I and R-Type II. After downloading and launching the game it gives you the choice of which game you want to play, which graphical version you want, camera style, and difficulty. The two different graphical modes are 2D and 3D. The 2D mode is a faithful reproduction of both arcade versions and it offers a unique camera choice aptly named “Arcade.” Instead of taking up the whole screen, an arcade cabinet appears on the screen and you play the game from there. It’s a nifty throwback but when you move, the entire screen moves. It took about five minutes before I started getting sick. The 3D mode looks like a supped up version of Aegis Wing.
The player’s ship, enemies, and buildings are all rendered in 3D but they never fly into or out of the screen, effectively making it 2.5D. This mode offers its own unique camera option as well. The “Crazy” camera option shifts the camera into a position that isn’t completely behind the ship, or beside it. It makes the ship look likes it flying forward, rather than left or right. I enjoyed this camera mode more than the 2D’s because of the depth it adds to the 3D mode, but when playing from the normal camera perspective; I enjoyed the 2D version more. The best part is you can swap between both graphical modes on the fly. If you push “Y” while you are playing the game it swaps between both graphical modes on the fly. It’s a terrific gimmick that has gotten me blown up more than once.
The two different modes of play, classic and infinite, change the way the lives system works. The classic mode gives you 3 lives and a sets you on your way. You get a life up after so many points, and dying sends you back to any checkpoints you have reached. This is the most challenging mode because RTD isn’t just hard, it’s impossible. RTD continues the side scrolling shooter tradition of grueling difficulty of forcing players to learn through memorization. The leaderboards state that players have beat the game without dying, but I call shenanigans. The other mode, infinite mode, makes the game too easy. Instead of giving you a set amount of lives, it counts how many times you die. When you do die it starts you from the point of your death, rather than a checkpoint. You can literally fly through the game, crash into everything you want, and still win. If you are feeling a little lonely you can also cruise through the game with a friend via Xbox Live or local co-op. This adds another ship that your friend controls and it makes the classic mode a bit easier, and enjoyable, because both ships must die to lose a life, and either player can revive the other upon completing the stage. If you find that playing with a friend is too easy you can turn on collision detection, which makes contact between either ships volatile.
Each game has a few minor differences but both play out the same way. You start each level with a semi automatic plasma blaster that can be charged up into a devastating blast. Each level has you dodging bullets, enemies, and crafty level designs. More often than not, the bullet fire will be the least of your problems. Almost each level has its own special way of impeding your progress but the problem is that both R-Type I and R-Type II utilize some of the same hazards. Both games have you assaulting ships, enemies that make walls, and both final bosses have this weird homing thing that I, upon retrospect, loathe. After playing through one and starting the other you will find yourself saying, “Didn’t I see that before?”
As you progress through each level you will find power ups: speed, shields, missiles, and special weapons. The first special weapon you pick up brings the force onto the battlefield. This is a smaller orb like ship that flies in front of your ship, firing when you do. It fires the standard plasma bolts, and as you pick up more special weapons, the bolts will fire in different directions. The crux of the force is that it can be docked to the front or the back of the ship by running into it. After it is docked on the ship your ship begins to shoot a more powerful beam from the direction the force is facing. This gives your ship the ability to shoot backwards or focus stronger shots forward. The force acts as a shield as well, absorbing any bullets that come into contact with it. Pushing X will detach/call the force so the player can maximize firepower in any situation.
So, is RTD worth it? With a hefty price tag of 1200 points ($15) I will have to say yes and no. Combined, both games offer 14 stages of deliciously hardcore side scrolling shooter action with two different graphical modes, two different difficulty modes, and an online and offline co-op. The game looks and sounds great (retro tracks!) but the classic mode will take average players weeks, maybe months to complete, and completing the game on infinite mode takes only an hour, and doesn’t feel like an accomplishment at all. Because the game is either too easy or too hard I can recommend it to fans of the R-Type series, or any other side scrolling shooters, but casual gamers should stay away.
The Aegis Wing style 3D graphics look great, and the 2D graphics are a faithful port. Switching them on the fly is icing on the cake.
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A difficulty disorder limits the games accessibility. Its either too hard, or too easy.
The retro tracks are crisp, but like the old days, they tend to repeat themselves.
If you can handle the classic mode, it will take you months to master. The infinite mode makes the game too short and not challenging at all. Co-op adds replay value, but not enough to save it.
Its a bit too expensive for what you get. A entertaining ardous romp for the hardcore, an hour distraction for everyone else.