I write this having spent (wasted? spent? wasted? spent?) an entire sunny August Saturday playing R-Type Final. During this time the game has made me seethe with anger, curse the developers, and even question my very interest in gaming itself. Yet once I had completed it (after God knows how many continues), I headed straight back to the first stage just to unlock the secret levels and finish it all over again for the extra endings. Having done that, I now feel drained, slightly emotional and (I can't believe I'm going to say this) I don't feel like I've wasted my day.
Frustrating and repetitive, Irem have made no attempt to expand the series' 17 year old template. This is the same bit-by-bit progress and memory test gameplay that we've seen since the original first hit arcades in 1987: entertainment at its most masochistic, with one of the most inconspicuous fun factors in gaming history. And yet, there is something strangely comforting about R-Type Final's predictable level designs, unchanging enemy waves and stubborn hardcore principles. Perhaps it's nostalgia, but more likely it's the shmup genes that I believe exist within certain gamers that make this kind of appalling player-treatment acceptable. Mine took some goading, but were eventually coaxed back into active service by Irem's latest. And it felt good.
It looked good too. Visually resplendent, the game is about as 3-dimensional and lavishly operatic as a side-scrolling shooter can get. The obligatory, satisfying slowdown (satisfying because it always occurs at the game's most apocalyptic moments of carnage) is far from a hindrance, enabling the player to catch their breath and marvel at the extravagant fireworks and the splendid mech designs on display. As a fan of the series, I was fully prepared for these dramatic drops in frame rate, and I feel it is unfair of Mike to ascribe them to "poor programming". Slowdown is, like everything else in this title, an R-Type tradition, and Irem's decision to include it is simply another knowing and playful nod to the series diehards. In any case, it is pretty clear that there is simply no need to make an R-Type game look any busier or more over-the-top than R-Type Final. So, ironically, perhaps it is the game's CPU-intensive graphics that help to partially explain why this will be the series' swansong. As Mike mentioned in his review, the next step on the technological ladder would have to be full 3D environments—and let's not even go there…
In many ways, R-Type Final is the ultimate shmupper's shmup. It sticks fast to its hardcore traditions even when they are in danger of breaking the game—which they will for the many players who are simply unwilling (or unable) to allow such ruthless, patience-testing gameplay to grow on them. However, those who come to this farewell party better prepared will interpret R-Type Final as a highly distinguished exponent of Irem's unique shoot-'em-up (or 'shmup') aesthetic. So, as snotty as this may sound, it's probably in everyone's best interest that I end with the following proviso: Rookies need not apply.