R-Type II
  • Genre:
    • Shoot 'Em Up
  • Developers:
    • Irem (ARC/SNES)
    • Arc Developments (AMI/ST)
    • Bits Studios (GB)
  • Publishers:
    • Irem (ARC/SNES/GB)
    • Activision (AMI/ST)
  • Released:
    ARC
    • 1989
    AMI/ST
    • UK 1991
    SNES
    • JP 07/13/1991
    • US 09/01/1991
    • UK 06/04/1992
    GB
    • JP 12/11/1992
    • US UK 1992
Score: 80%

This review was published on 02/19/2018.

R-Type II is a side-scrolling shoot 'em up originally developed and published by Irem as a coin operated arcade game in 1989. In 1991, Arc Developments developed ports for the Amiga and Atari ST, which Activision published exclusively in Europe. Bits Studios developed the Game Boy port, which came out in Japan on December 11, 1992, and North America and Europe in 1992. A modified version of the game known as Super R-Type was released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in Japan on July 13, 1991, North America on September 1, 1991, and Europe on June 4, 1992. As its name implies, R-Type II is the sequel to the original R-Type, which similarly started out as an arcade game before being ported to other platforms. Konami set most of the standards for the shoot 'em up genre in 1985 with the release of Gradius, but R-Type took those standards to new heights with better level design and deeper mechanics. While a little unoriginal, R-Type II is better than the first game.

Image

In the first R-Type game, humanity battled against an army of terrifying alien organisms known as the Bydo Empire. Thanks to the efforts of a single person, who piloted the R-9 spacecraft, mankind was saved. That's really all there was to it. Nothing lasts forever, of course, so the blissful peace humanity had earned came to an abrupt end in R-Type II. Unsurprisingly, the powers of the evil Bydo Empire have returned. Having recovered from their previous defeat, the Bydo Empire is stronger than ever before. Now, these diabolical extraterrestrials are poised to launch another devastating assault on planet Earth. Mankind has once again placed its hope on the formidable R-9, which is being sent to the frontlines at the very frontiers of space. Armed with some of the most advanced weaponry around, the R-9 is the ultimate battle machine. However, it needs the ultimate pilot to actually be effective. That's you.

Image

The controls are pretty much the same as the first game: you move the eight way joystick to move eight ways and press the main button to fire bullets from your ship. There is no life bar, but there is a charge meter at the bottom of the screen. If you hold the main fire button down, you'll gradually fill the meter, building up energy for a stronger shot. Depending on how big the meter is before you release the button, your shot will be more potent. Shots that have been charged up enough can plow through multiple enemies, but only the weaker ones. R-Type II improves on the charge mechanic a tad, because now you can charge up to an even higher level that fires a shotgun-like beam blast with a wider radius. However, if you hold the button for too long, you'll revert back to a normal charged shot, so you have to let go with the right timing in order to get the extra powerful one. Charged shots will get you charged up.

Image

While charged shots are one of the unique things about R-Type, the signature feature of the series is the Force pod, which returns here in full force. You don't start with it, but you should, because it's the most useful power-up in the whole game. Basically, it's a pod that shoots whenever you do, and it either attaches to your ship's front or back, or it follows you around. There's a whole button dedicated to detaching and reattaching the Force pod to your ship, because it's that important. In other words, the Force pod is like the "Options" from Gradius, except way better. In addition to its amazing offensive capabilities, it's also an excellent defensive tool, as it blocks small bullets and damages enemies on contact, usually killing the smaller ones in a single touch. Once you get a Force pod of your very own, you won't know how you ever lived without it.

Image

The Force pod isn't the only power-up this game has to offer, though. The auxiliary power-ups like homing missiles, speedups, and defensive orbs are back. Most of the weapons for the Force pod have returned, as well. Like before, the Force pod only shoots its powered up shots if it's attached to your ship, and these upgraded shots include lasers that bounce off walls, powerful circular lasers that go in a single direction, and fireballs that shoot out vertically from the top and bottom of your ship. R-Type II does introduce a couple of new power-ups, though. Two of them are additional weapons for the Force pod: one's a homing laser that bends around like a snake to hit targets, and the other is an explosive bullet. There's also a new auxiliary power-up that allows you to drop missiles directly beneath the ship, mimicking the one from Gradius. With more power-ups comes more fun.

Image

The only aspect in which R-Type II does worse than its predecessor is the length, as there are fewer stages this time around. They make up for that by being really good, though. Quality over quantity is the best policy, after all. Some portrayals of this quality are the flooded cave stage with waterfalls that push you downwards, a mechanical fortress area where parts of the foreground shift around as you fly through it, and a stage with robots that build destructible walls to block your path. Occasionally, R-Type II will bring back design concepts from the first game and put a new spin on them. For example, the first stage in the first R-Type began in space before progressing to the insides of a massive robotic base. R-Type II features a similar scenario, except the big base is now in shambles, featuring sections filled with water and sand. Another example is how the first R-Type made you fight a big battleship for the entirety of a single stage, but this game pits you against a whole fleet of big battleships in a futuristic city. It's all good stuff, but like the previous title, the game is intensely difficult.

Image

Fewer stages also mean fewer bosses, but they're all awesome. The first boss is what appears to be a giant robot that destroys the environment around you with lasers, but his faceplate soon breaks off to reveal that he was a fleshy alien all along. The second boss is a crab-like alien creature that constantly shifts its weak spot from the top of its body to the bottom, all the while trying to crush you with its considerable girth. The third boss is a massive mechanical contraption armed to the teeth with rotating guns, laser turrets, and bombs. Another boss fights you in a horizontal corridor that continually scrolls forward, forcing you to dodge countless walls while shooting the boss itself. The final confrontation has you freeing up friendly ships from the tentacles of an embryonic monster. Upon being freed, the friendly ships will assist you until their inevitable demise, which is a nice touch.

Image

There aren't as many ports for R-Type II as there were for the first game. The closest to the arcade original is the port included in R-Types, a compilation of R-Type and R-Type II released in the late '90s on the PlayStation. The Amiga and Atari ST versions are predictably inferior to the original arcade release, but they do faithfully recreate much of the original's stage design. They don't look or sound half bad, either. However, they lack all the newly added weapons. Out of the two, the Amiga version is better than the Atari ST one, as it runs at a much faster speed, and it looks and sounds nicer. On the other hand, the Game Boy version is definitely the worst incarnation of R-Type II, though it's impressive considering the limitations of the hardware. What's of true interest is the SNES version, Super R-Type, because it adds new stages and bosses, plus redesigns some of the older ones. The homing laser weapon was also replaced with a spread shot. Because of the extra content, Super R-Type is the most complete version of R-Type II. The graphics and sound are pretty good, too. Unfortunately, it doesn't have any checkpoints, which makes it even more unforgiving than the original.

Image

The improvements in R-Type II are slight, but they're definitely there. Sure, it rehashes a couple of ideas from the first game, but that doesn't detract from the artisanal quality of its design. If you're a fan of the genre and can stomach the game's insane difficulty, then R-Type II is for you. It may be short, but it's most certainly sweet.

Word Count: 1,454

Tweet