R-Type III: The Third Lightning
  • Genre:
    • Shoot 'Em Up
  • Developers:
    • Tamtex (SNES)
    • Raylight Studios (GBA)
  • Publishers:
    • JP UK Irem (SNES)
    • US Jaleco (SNES)
    • US Destination Software (GBA)
    • UK Zoo Digital Publishing (GBA)
  • Released:
    SNES
    • JP 12/10/1993
    • US 08/02/1994
    • UK 1994
    GBA
    • US 03/26/2004
    • UK 11/19/2004
Score: 85%

This review was published on 02/28/2018.

R-Type III: The Third Lightning is a side-scrolling shoot 'em up originally developed by Tamtex for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It was initially released in Japan on December 10, 1993, North America on August 2, 1994, and Europe in 1994. Irem published the game in Japan and Europe, whereas Jaleco Entertainment published it in North America. A port was later created by Raylight Studios for the Game Boy Advance, which originally released in North America on March 26, 2004, and Europe on November 19, 2004. Destination Software published the GBA version in North America and Zoo Digital Publishing published it in Europe. This is the first game in the series to not have originated in the arcades. Despite its name, this is the fourth R-Type game. The third game is actually R-Type Leo, which came out exclusively for arcades in 1992. R-Type Leo plays nothing like any other game in the series, however, so that may be why it lacks a number. In any case, R-Type III is the best game in the series.

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The premise for R-Type III is more or less the same as the premise for most of the series. That is, it's the distant future and an army of hostile alien life forms, collectively known as the Bydo Empire, seeks to wipe out all of humanity. Oh, the humanity! The Bydo were in the first two games, but they didn't make an appearance in R-Type Leo. In that game, the major villain was a computer literally named Major. Anyway, while mankind has tangoed with the Bydo Empire several times before, the situation is far direr in R-Type III. Yes, direr is a word. I checked. Most of Earth's forces have been decimated, leaving only a single capable pilot behind. As the last pilot on Earth, you must fly the untested R-90 against the Bydo. Will you succeed? Well, knowing how hard this game is, probably not. It's worth a try, though.

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Visually and sonically, R-Type III beats the first two games in the series, but isn't quite up to par with R-Type Leo. That's not an entirely fair comparison, though, because R-Type Leo was built on powerful arcade hardware that felt like a whole generational leap over what home consoles could achieve at the time. Still, R-Type III is no technical slouch, being that it's one of the best looking and sounding shooters on the SNES. Featuring a pleasing palette, fabulous foregrounds, bodacious backgrounds, superb sprites, and attractive animations; this game's a beauty. The Super Nintendo's special Mode-7 effect is also put to good use, resulting in rotating foreground objects and sophisticated sprite scaling. There's even a little bit of actual 3-D thrown in for good measure, which is incredibly impressive for the SNES. The only technical downside to R-Type III is the fact that it tends to chug when there are too many objects on the screen. This was a typical problem for SNES shooters, as the console had a puny processor. The slowdown isn't too bad, though.

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One of the finest spacecrafts ever crafted for space, the R-90 is a vicious vessel. You can fly in eight directions using the four arrows on the d-pad located on the controller. The default movement speed is higher than in previous titles, so you don't start out feeling like a snail anymore. Similar to the SNES version of R-Type II, Super R-Type, there is one button dedicated to rapid fire and another one for charging your weapon. Though not present in R-Type Leo, weapon charging is a staple of the R-Type series. Holding the charge button will gradually fill the meter at the bottom of the screen, the size of which determines how powerful the shot will be when you let go of the button. Like R-Type II, completely filling in the meter twice will cause it to flash red, which results in an even bigger energy bullet when the charge button is released. Unlike R-Type II, you thankfully don't lose the red meter charge if you wait too long to fire your weapon.

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A new feature introduced in R-Type III, Hyper Mode builds on the weapon charging system. Under the default control scheme, pressing the R shoulder button switches you to Hyper Mode. When in Hyper Mode, releasing the charge button when the meter flashes red will cause your ship to flash red. While your ship is in this particular state, you'll be able to rapidly fire charged shots, generally resulting in a higher damage output than if you did it the normal way. However, your ship will only remain in this powered up state for a short while. Additionally, the ship will have to cool down after this state wears off, preventing you from charging the meter for a few seconds. You can still fire your weapon normally, though. It's entirely up to you whether to utilize Hyper Mode, as it has a definite risk versus reward thing going on. Basically, Hyper Mode can come in real handy during a pinch, but it can also put you in a real pinch.

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Absent from R-Type Leo, the Force pod makes a triumphant return in R-Type III. Essentially, the Force pod is an orb thing that shoots when you do, shields you from some bullets, and damages or outright kills enemies it comes into contact with. It can be attached to either your front or backside, detached to fly around the screen, or ejected forcefully to act as a powerful projectile. The same button on your controller that ejects the pod also calls it for reattachment. When loose, the Force pod will move based on the positioning of your ship, giving you indirect control over its movements. The Force pod is an indispensable tool, but you actually don't start out with one. In order to acquire a Force pod, you must obtain at least one weapon power-up; any will do. All of this is consistent with the first two games, but R-Type III expands upon the concept by having more than a single type of Force pod.

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Prior to starting the game, you're given a choice between three different Force pods. They're known as the Round Force, Shadow Force, and Cyclone Force. While all three Forces share the same basic functionality outlined above, there are some differences between them. The Round Force is basically the standard one that appeared in the first two titles, and it's capable of shooting bullets in multiple directions at the same time when detached from the ship. The Shadow Force can be retrieved much faster after it's been detached, plus it gets some floating turrets when upgraded. As for the Cyclone Force, it's the only one that doesn't shoot when detached, but it does expand its size to act as a better shield. You can't change Forces once you begin the game, so you must choose wisely. Combined with the weapon charging mechanic and Hyper Mode, this gives R-Type III an unprecedented amount of depth for a space shooter.

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In addition to their unique attributes, each Force has its own set of weapon power-ups. The Round Force has the three main power-ups from the first two R-Type games; a powerful horizontal laser, multiple lasers that ricochet off surfaces, and energy beams that shoot towards the ceiling and ground. The Shadow Force has a backwards shooting laser, a forwards shooting laser, and lasers that crawl along surfaces. The Cyclone Force has a large laser that passes through walls, a laser that shoots in a spread pattern, and a strange weapon that materializes stationary orbs that fire lasers for a while before vanishing. Like previous titles, each weapon can be upgraded once by collecting the same power-up again, and weapon effects are only active when the Force pod is attached to your ship. The vast difference between Forces adds some replay value to the game, and there's certainly nothing wrong with that.

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The R-Type series is known for its incredible level designs, and they don't get much more incredible than in R-Type III. A definite display of this dazzling design can be spotted in just the first stage, which begins with you shooting down scrap metal and Gundam lookalikes, one of which eventually crashes into the scenery. Further into the first stage, there are environments that rotate with the help of Mode-7 and you must avoid crashing into the scenery yourself. Further still, you'll encounter an actual 3-D model of a pillar spinning in the background. The second stage takes place in what appears to be the innards of a giant alien, where acid drips from the ceiling to cause parts of the environment to disintegrate. A later stage has shape shifting aliens that camouflage as parts of the scenery. As you can see, the game never stops being cool. Sadly, the simultaneous co-op from R-Type Leo isn't in R-Type III.

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The Third Lightning is a true return to form for the series, bringing back most of the features that R-Type Leo removed and adding a slew of new ones. More importantly, the level design is top notch. Not only is this the best game in the series, but it's one of the best shoot 'em ups of all time. They say that lightning never strikes the same place twice, but R-Type III proves that it can strike three times.

Word Count: 1,575

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