R-Type Leo
  • Genre:
    • Shoot 'Em Up
  • Platform:
    • Arcade
  • Developer:
    • Nanao
  • Publisher:
    • Irem
  • Released:
    • JP December 1992
Score: 80%

This review was published on 02/23/2018.

R-Type Leo is a side-scrolling shoot 'em up developed by Nanao and published by Irem. It was originally released as a coin operated arcade game in Japan in December 1992. As its name implies, this game is a part of the excellent R-Type series. What its name doesn't imply is that this is the third game in the series, following R-Type II, which initially released as an arcade game in 1989 before being ported to other platforms. Most people know R-Type II as Super R-Type, as that's what the SNES version of the game is titled. Anyway, R-Type Leo is a drastic departure from the series, being that it abandons most of the unique concepts pioneered in the previous games. That doesn't mean it's bad, though. In fact, this is one of the finest shooters out there, living up to the quality standard set by the previous R-Type games.

Image

In the far flung future, mankind has become technologically advanced enough to travel the stars. However, their prosperity got interrupted by the Bydo Empire, a swarm of evil alien organisms that wanted nothing more than to eradicate all of humanity. After successfully thwarting the Bydo Empire's attacks, mankind found a moment to catch its breath. During this moment of peace, humankind finally began a space project that had been held back for a long time called Project Paradise. This project involved the construction of an artificial terrestrial planet called Eden, which would be used as a possible human retreat. However, shortly after the planet was fully functional, something went horribly wrong. Major, the biological computer responsible for maintaining Eden, malfunctions and begins attacking mankind with the planet's defenses. It's now up to a variation of the R-9 spacecraft, the Leo, to fly in and stop Major's assault on its creators.

Image

Graphically, this game is a huge step up from the previous R-Types. It was created for the Irem M-92 arcade system board, which was quite advanced for the time. A mere glance at the game will reveal some of the nicest looking 2-D visuals ever. The resolution is radical, the sprites are splendid, the backgrounds are beautiful, the foregrounds are fantastic, the parallax is paralyzing, and the animation is awesome. Everything is also silky smooth due to the high frame rate, which stays at a constant sixty. The music is also rather interesting, being that it's comprised of jazzy tunes instead of the typical fast paced electronic beats of previous titles. That gives the game a very chill atmosphere, which is something you wouldn't expect out of a shoot 'em up. It's weird to have such comforting music play in the background when you're constantly in the face of danger, but it somehow works.

Image

You'll be taking control of the titular Leo spacecraft for the duration of this mission. The joystick is used to smoothly move your spacecraft in eight directions and you use the primary button to fire your current weapon. That's really all there is to the controls. Unlike the previous R-Type games, you can't charge up your main weapon and there is no Force pod. The Force pod is the signature feature of the series, so its omission is the main reason R-Type Leo plays almost nothing like an R-Type game. Without this unique characteristic of the series, R-Type Leo can feel a little generic. Further, the removal of the Force pad also removes much of the strategic depth that the series is known for. On the flipside, this omission does have the benefit of making things far simpler and more intuitive. As a result of that, it's easier to focus on the action.

Image

Since there's no Force pod, you'll have to rely on more traditional power-ups to give you an advantage. There are three different weapon power-ups available, and each one is color coded: red gives you access to a powerful horizontal laser beam, blue lets you shoot multiple lasers that ricochet off surfaces, and green grants you a homing laser. These are similar to some of the weapons from previous titles, though they function a little differently here. Also, the same weapon can be stacked a couple of times to upgrade its effectiveness. A nice touch is how weapon power-ups cycle between the three colors, giving you the freedom to choose what you want. There are also power-ups that increase your movement speed and allow you to shoot missiles, which are automatically fired alongside your main weapon. This game has fewer power-ups than R-Type II, but that's okay, because it's mostly the fluff that has been cut out.

Image

The first weapon power-up you acquire will always give you the same thing, regardless of its color. That thing is a pair of satellites with tiny guns mounted onto them. One hovers above your ship while the other hovers beneath it, and they'll continue to follow you around wherever you go. These satellites will shield you from certain bullets and they shoot their guns whenever you shoot your ship's main weapon. If you move forwards, they'll shoot backwards, and vice versa. You can launch the satellites into enemies as an attack by pressing the secondary button, but doing so depletes a meter at the bottom of the screen. After the attack is over, you can either wait for the satellites to slowly hover back toward you, or press the secondary button again to quickly reclaim them. Once the satellites have been reclaimed, the meter will begin to recharge. The satellite attack is pretty potent, and it even homes in on targets, but you'll be left somewhat vulnerable until they return to their positions. While this whole thing is interesting, it's not quite as interesting as the Force pod from previous titles.

Image

There are only six stages, but they're all fairly cool. The first stage is a battleship graveyard in outer space with hostile alien worms that burst out of the decommissioned ships. In the second stage, you fly across an arid desert region as rocky platforms fall from above. The third stage has you explore a lush tropical forest filled with perilous plant life. Within the fourth stage, you'll bear witness to a majestic floating island with shifting scenery you must avoid crashing into. Eventually, the game progresses into ancient ruins with tight passageways and blocks that get carried around on conveyer belts. Finally, you end up in the planet's core, where Major lies. Here, there are security sensors that trigger countless turrets to pop out when you pass through them. The bosses aren't nearly as memorable as the stages themselves, though they're still fine. Some of them are a little too derivative of Gradius, however.

Image

Technically, the previous games had support for two players, but you had to take turns because only one player could play at a time. That's not the case with R-Type Leo, which is the first game in the series to feature true simultaneous cooperative play between two players. A second player can join the action at virtually any point during the game with the mere press of a button. Both players can also immediately come back upon dying, provided that there are credits remaining. Not only that, but players drop a single weapon power-up when they die, allowing them to reacquire it when they come back to life. Of course, the surviving player is fully capable of stealing the dead player's power-up if he or she wants to. All of this makes R-Type Leo far easier than its predecessors, as you're able to credit feed your way to victory. That's kind of a good thing, though, because the series always needed a decrease in the difficulty department.

Image

Polished to a shimmer, R-Type Leo is an audiovisual spectacle with tight controls and good design. It does do away with all the innovative features of previous titles, but that doesn't necessarily detract from its quality. Besides, the game makes up for those removed features by adding simultaneous cooperative play between two players. Co-op makes everything better. It's unfortunate that R-Type Leo has never been ported to home platforms, because it's darn good.

Word Count: 1,361

Tweet