Kickstarter: Nothing Is Final Any More

HIGH A respectful ode to both the source material and a dormant genre.

LOW It’s not the most welcoming of titles.

WTF …Maybe going with “Final” was a bad naming convention?

The Japanese aerial shoot-’em-up genre (which I will forever lovingly refer to as the “shmup”) is one I hold dear. Whenever I get the itch for some oldschool Videogamin’ with a capital V, blasting through something like DoDonPachi or Raiden always hits the spot. Ikaruga remains the only game I’ve ever awarded a perfect score to at GameCritics because it’s gotdang perfect. It’s also a genre that hit a peak around 25 years ago, and is probably lower in the ‘niche Japanese game’ rankings than the erotic puzzle genre at this point.

With the current market landscape for the shmup (particularly in the west) as barren as it is, it was heartening to see R-Type get a successful Kickstarter revival. R-Type designer Kazuma Kujo formed a new studio in Granzella, acquired the rights to the long-dormant franchise from publisher IREM, and got over $900,000 to make a sequel to R-Type Final. While I’m happy R-Type Final 2 is here, I can’t help but wonder how Kujo feels about making a sequel to a game he specifically called R-Type FINAL because he threw every R-Type related idea he could into what was supposed to be the ultimate crescendo for the franchise.

R-Type Final 2 is, without question, an R-Type game. It’s a horizontal shmup where players shoot everything that moves while also slowly building up their arsenal with three distinct weapon upgrade paths that vary from ship-to-ship. Compared to other shmups, R-Type can seem slow and quite a bit more barren than something like Espgaluda II, but that’s how the franchise has rolled for over 30 years and it’d be a shame to stop now. It’s a well-established niche, and Final 2 has no interest in rocking the boat from a gameplay standpoint.

Kujo and his team deserve props for making this one of the slickest produced 3D polygonal shmups ever. This is a genre not known for taking advantage of modern hardware, but Final 2 bucks that trend with great particle effects and expansive backgrounds. The menus are nice (a rarity for shmups), the music is well-produced, and it feels decidedly modern despite extreme adherence to genre conventions. There are some flat textures and the indoor environments don’t have that same feel of expanse, but overall this is a great-looking game.

R-Type is considered a brutally difficult series, even for the genre it resides in. In modern shmups, difficulty seems to be judged primarily by how many bullets are on-screen at once, but R-Type is more methodical with expertly-placed enemies who take well-timed shots. Its developers also discovered the most dastardly enemy of all, many years ago — walls. Another famous trait of the franchise is how claustrophobic the environments can get, and one is just as likely to be killed by brushing gently on a bit of fence as they are by enemy fire. Much of this can be mitigated by lowering the difficulty, but I’m not a fan of a company labeling those lowered difficulties as “practice” and “kids” mode. Way to keep the self-esteem up, Granzella.

It’s probably a good thing that R-Type Final 2 is as tough as they come, as most buyers would probably be pretty upset if they beat the game in one go. Final 2 is six levels long (seven total, counting a branching path at the end) and can be beaten in under 60 minutes. This is a genre that is intrinsically tied to the arcades and not known for longevity. However, there are 99 ships to unlock, each with its own combination of weaponry and maneuverability. As such, much of the fun comes in finding the right ship to go chasing high scores with on secondary playthroughs. There are harder difficulties to unlock for true maniacs (not a compliment) and the levels change slightly depending on difficulty too.

Even with extra content to unlock, there’s no getting around that this game costs $40 ($60 for the deluxe version) and can be finished in an hour. While non-shmup fans may gawk at this, it’s par for the course for genre enthusiasts — an exotic product like this usually commands a premium. This would, however, be an easier pill to swallow if not for day-one DLC packs ($7 each, or $20 for all three) that add a series of enhanced levels from older R-Type entries. That’s the kind of addition that would have made this product feel more complete, and it also makes the price feel unseemly when sold separately.

R-Type Final 2 is about as niche as niche gets. It represents a genre that’s hardly en vogue, and it’s a traditional, hardcore example of an experience that ferociously clings to its roots. This is not the shmup I would gift to someone in hopes of luring them into the genre, and it’s an especially difficult sell with the rather astounding $40 price point before DLC. All of this makes R-Type Final 2 a game with a fairly narrow scope, but anyone directly within that Venn diagram will be in for an exceptionally-produced, technically excellent iteration on a legendary franchise.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game was developed by Granzella and published by NIS America. The PS4 version of the game was reviewed, but it’s also available on Switch, XBO and Steam. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on a PS5 with an HDR Certified 4KTV.  An estimated 7 hours of play were devoted to playing the game, and the campaign was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: This game has been rated E10+ by the ESRB and features Animated Blood and Fantasy Violence. Outside of some potentially-unsettling enemy design, R-Type is a safe pickup for parents. With that said, I never met a kid who appreciated playing something officially titled “Kids Mode” when the main game is too hard.

Colorblind Modes: The game features no colorblind modes.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game has subtitle options during cutscenes, and the dialogue is presented in thin white font. The size of the text is not remappable. All dialogue and instructions are provided in text, and there are no necessary audio cues. I’d say it’s fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: The games controls are completely remappable.

Jarrod Johnston
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