Even in the “shmup” space, R-Type has always stood out. Alongside years of bullet hells, anime style and other straightforward space battles, R-Type was more interested in dread. Not only does R-Type oppress players with one-hit deaths and hazards from all directions, each game often descends into extraterrestrial body horror as more and more Bydo are revealed to be massive meldings of organic tissue and technology.

Since the last new R-Type (Final) all the way back in 2003, this vibe has spread from the margins to the mainstream as gamers have grown to embrace things like roguelikes. Just look at the big, first-party PlayStation 5 release of the spring, Returnal. That game shares so much DNA with R-Type and yet it’s taken this long for a canon sequel. You can partly blame the Tohoku earthquake and Irem dropping videogames for that.

R-Type Final 2 Review

Regardless of the details, Granzella (former Irem folks) was able to acquire the rights and run a successful Kickstarter for R-Type Final 2. A few years after the campaign, the result is fascinating to say the least. In many ways, this is a classic R-Type game with all the core mechanics you’d expect to see intact. And if you’re new, well, get ready for a learning curve. In other ways R-Type Final 2 wears its faults on its face, with a low-budget feel in the presentational sense. That said, a surprising focus on customization adds a neat, new twist to the formula that could pay off for Final 2 in the longer term.

With a title like “Final 2,” one may wonder where this falls on the Final Fantasy scale of numbering and storytelling relations. Obviously the R-Type story isn’t a big part of the experience, but these games are all connected. But what happens when the last “Final” was truly supposed to be as such? Well, the answer is you come up with a flimsy premise and tuck it away into a menu, apparently.

Basically, the Bydo were defeated last time, possibly for good (or not so much if you count the Tactics/Command games as canon). The Arrow Head’s pilot gave their life in the endeavor, so the war should be over! Final 2 takes an abstract approach, stating the missions here are deep dives into recorded history. It’s pure historical research, aimed at using previously unaccounted for data to help develop anti-Bydo weaponry should the conflict ever return. You don’t really have to think about that, though.

As far as the game itself is concerned, you’re in the driver’s seat and blasting aliens as if it’s happening in real time. Your pilot, whom you get to name and choose a gender for, goes on what seems to be a linear journey through Bydo territory. The levels continue seamlessly, with no narrative content at all until your ending. There are branching paths and multiple endings however, so there is incentive to figuring out what the path triggers are.

R-Type is a strange game compared to its peers. Typically in a scrolling shooter you get a ship with a simple gun that is upgraded as you pick up power-ups. Here, the capabilities of your ship seldom change. You can pick up and lose a missile attachment, but otherwise you’re working alongside your Force unit, a sentient ball of light that provides covering fire and other attributes.

Manipulating your Force while avoiding damage to your actual ship is the key to surviving R-Type. You can “launch” the Force out in front of you and call it back with the press of a button. It’ll attach to your front or back on contact, which changes how your Force contributes to battle. It also blocks certain shots and does damage to enemies on contact, so you are basically playing a deadly game of intergalactic dodgeball.

R-Type Final 2 expects you to know what you’re doing or figure it out fast. Since you can get your Force on either side of your ship, the game has no problems chucking hazards at you from either direction on a moment’s notice. Of course, your Force only moves so fast and it tracks you, which makes moving its position fumbly. So there’s an element of pattern recognition as well. 

Sometimes you’ll have to know or anticipate a wave of enemies coming from behind you to deal with them efficiently. Boss encounters can also throw you for a loop, sometimes in much tighter spaces. And depending on what color power ups you pick up, your Force will fire weapons of different properties when it’s attached to your ship, and fire regular (but varied in pattern) shots when it’s detached. You also have to figure out which surfaces a Force can go through and which it can’t, and sometimes use weird environment snags to get it stuck on an enemy for huge damage.

Related: Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection and Capcom Arcade Stadium Bring More Retro Radness to Nintendo Switch

There’s a lot going on at any given moment in this game! It’s certainly not nearly as ruthless as the original R-Type games (I’m sweating just thinking about those), but it has no problem backing you into a corner and slapping you back to the start menu. That said, it seems like the more you play, the more continues you can start subsequent runs at, which is helpful if you aren’t an expert. There are also multiple difficulty settings, which feels generous for a game like this. Rest assured, you’ll be able to finish R-Type Final 2 (eventually) even if you can’t dominate the leaderboards.

And, surprisingly enough, there’s a lot of incentive baked in to keep playing. Aside from the different endings, you also get to customize things quite a bit. There’s a whole garage full of different ships you can unlock, and you get a pretty big list of slots for registering them. That includes being able to change the color, choose between certain subweapons and even add tons of decals.

You can even dress up your pilot to a certain extent, and take pictures with your favorite ships! That includes buying poses, which can lead to some pretty amazing photo opportunities, like this one:

You also earn background information on R-Type lore, mostly a bunch of enemy information that updates over time. There’s also a really big gallery that lets you set pictures for both your title and loading screens. You can also set titles, reward medals and even fill out a little text box in your profile. And there isn’t even a multiplayer aspect beyond the leaderboards. It’s just a bunch of neat stuff that was thrown in on top of the very polished core game, for the sake of having it. I respect that moxie.

It feels unfair, but the biggest criticism I have is how R-Type Final 2 looks. This is a crowdfunded game to some extent, and the first R-Type in the HD era. No, R-Type Dimensions EX doesn’t count. Anyway, you can really see Final 2’s budgetary restrictions in how it looks. To be fair, there’s a modern fidelity to it; this isn’t an ugly game. There’s detail in the models, especially the ships which have really benefited from Granzella’s use of Unreal 4.

Related: Preservation Group The Hidden Palace Drops Project Deluge: Over 700 PS2 Prototypes

But R-Type has this vibe, man. From the arcade original even up to the PlayStation 2’s Final, these games have a specific identity. It’s that disgusting fusion of organ and metal eating up an entire race, done in a way that exudes evil instead of progress. Final 2 often feels too clean and bright, even when those grotesqueries are on full display, such as when you encounter R-Type’s iconic, xenomorph-y first boss encased in ice.

Stages and enemies that would probably be deeply discomforting in other context just… don’t here. Sometimes it’s hard to put my finger on it, but there’s a lot of geometry especially that distinctly lack any personality. Especially when it comes to Bydo technology, ships that are covered in rounded edges, simple shapes as turrets and weird colors that make everything look like toys. Take a look at this image from R-Type Dimensions EX:

That ship looks horrifying. Even with the overly smoothed textures and bright green paint job, this ship contorts into nonsensical angles and features detail work that looks like muscle fibers. The holes showing the pipes and wires inside add to the fear factor, alongside an engine section that almost looks like an insect. Now, look at this boss from Final 2:

It’s a big purple thing in a room that looks like a hangar in a Star Trek ship. It’s so clean and sterile, but in a way that feels more mundane than eerie. Sure, there are plenty of more strange and gross-looking spaces and enemies in Final 2, but there are also even less threatening moments on top of how toyetic everything is. Final 2 just doesn’t hit the same vibe its siblings do. The tinny electronic soundtrack that fades into the background doesn’t help.

That’s where I’m at with R-Type Final 2. It’s a great, solid and modern-feeling R-Type sequel that takes the familiar basics and does a lot with them. The challenge is on point while still offering easier options for more casual players and the volume of unlockable nonsense is actually really cool. But the atmosphere that truly makes R-Type what it is just doesn’t land on target. Despite that, I still had a great time here and plan to dive in further to unlock more bells and whistles. 

If anything, R-Type Final 2 was great motivation to really go back and dive into the series’ history and get a deeper understanding of where this game came from. A lot of shooters are just that, but R-Type always felt more fueled by ideas. And considering Final 2’s theme of going back to learn from the past, it feels appropriate.


Pros:

  • Challenging, but gives several difficulty choices
  • Unique gameplay separates series from other shooters
  • Weird unlockables

Cons:

  • Atmosphere doesn't hold up to previous titles
  • Really bad checkpointing

Score: 7.5

A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review.