|Platforms||PC (reviewed), Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S|
|Release Date||April 29, 2021|
I fancy myself a fan of shoot ‘em ups (SHMUP). Now I shall jeopardize my authoritative voice as a connoisseur of the genre by confessing that I have played many SHMUPs, but never R-Type. Yet, when I learned that R-Type Final 2 had concluded development after two crowdfunding campaigns, I thought that now would be as good of a time as any to dip my toe into the franchise for the first time. What I learned is that this game was designed specifically for R-Type enthusiasts.
R-Type Final 2 is a SHMUP featuring mostly mechanical units and insectoids. Gamers will not find material that they might find objectionable here.
R-Type Final 2 opens with a meager narrative explaining how humanity was once on the brink of extinction in a war against bioengineered weapons called the Bydo. An elite pilot would emerge from the Space Corps and deliver a crushing blow to the hostile forces with their subspace ship. And…that is all. Granted, one should not expect Pulitzer Prize-winning writing for a SHMUP; this game’s genre sets the expectation for a satisfying deluge of enemies, an assortment of weapons, and a memorable OST. Does R-Type Final 2 deliver these things?
Yes, and no, for the keyword here is “satisfying.” As this is a SHMUP, and the objective of every SHMUP is as simple as shooting everything on the screen until it is on the screen no longer, I jumped right in. Mistakes were made, for I assumed that a video game released in 2021 with an MSRP of $39.99 would feature either a dedicated tutorial mode or learn-as-you-go tooltips demonstrating for me in real-time the unique features of R-Type. Nay; three hours of expectantly difficult gameplay later, I referenced the boring manuals from the main menu that explained a few key gameplay features.
The most important is a power-up called the Force. No, not that Force, but technology developed from Bydo remains. What I learned about this orange-ish spherical spacecraft attachment is that it is detachable, installable on either side of a ship, and can block certain types of enemy attacks. The Force is upgradable via red, blue, or yellow power-ups, though its power level is frustratingly unreadable, so I cannot tell when, or if, I ever achieve full power. A consistent, though unfortunate tendency in R-Type Final 2 is the frequency in which aspects of the game are ambiguous.
A key example of this is the R Museum. At first glance, it would appear to be a simple gallery, but R-Type Final 2 features a dedicated gallery with disappointingly low-resolution images. In actuality, the R Museum is where one unlocks additional ships. Thus, this “showroom” is where players procure their real power spikes, as I discovered while reading the text accompanying the selection of a ship. Again, this is another area in the game that would be improved with modern quality-of-life features that would help newcomers interpret ship power. After testing a mere dozen out of the 99 that are allegedly possible to unlock, a subsequent ship in a line is not always necessarily more powerful than its predecessor.
R-Type Final 2 begins with the R-9A Arrow-Head unlocked: the standard-issue space corps craft that, when charged, shoots a projectile that fires an energy shot reminiscent of a Hadouken. Boring, though I wish I could take its secondary fire weapon, homing missiles, over other bombs that drop straight down or at a hard-to-aim arc on other, better ships. The R-9E series of ships occupy a place in my heart, beginning with the Midnight Eye. Because its charged shot is a large, circular explosion rather than projectile-based, it is essential for stage 4 where several enemies are immune to forward fire, but vulnerable to AOE.
My favorite ship series in the game thus far is the R-9D line, beginning with the Morning Star. These ships sport mounted railguns, reminiscent of the iconic Metal Gear, though instead of a nuke, these ships shoot a large, screen-eviscerating beam that can be (over) charged up to four times for longer-lasting rays of evisceration—impractical except for boss encounters, but awesome to see. Derived from the R-9D line is my favorite ship in the game, the R-9 DH3 Concertmaster because it sports the largest gun.
So far, I have only mentioned one stage. R-Type Final 2 technically features seven stages. I say “technically,” because according to the mission selection screen in score attack mode, I am still missing three missions despite defeating the final boss and watching the end credits roll. By the time I had played the game for three hours, I had finally scratched and scraped my way to stage 7, but exhausted my continues before the boss encounter. Because I did not finish the stage, it did not unlock as an option in score attack mode. Currently, I have stages 1-5, 6.2, and 7.2 unlocked; I know I am missing 6, 7, and another unknown mission. How did I unlock 6.2 and 7.2 instead of 6 and 7? I have no idea; this is yet another example of R-Type Final 2’s frustratingly opaque approach to exposing gamers to its content.
The prevalence of R-Type Final 2 foregoing quality of life features makes its $39.99 asking price an exercise in audacity, especially when there are already two $3.99 DLC packages available for purchase. What R-Type Final offered in 2003 might have been considered acceptable during the PS2 days, but in 2021, developers and IP owners of big-name SHMUPs like R-Type must reconsider what modern audiences expect in terms of value. In ye olden days, SHMUPs extended gameplay time with controller smash-worthy difficulty, and that was satisfactory for a short game. But modern shooters have adopted roguelite features such as randomized, procedural layouts and rewarding players with unlocks even upon failure; this combination generates dozens of hours of gameplay. In contrast, with R-Type Final 2, once one learns enemy patterns, replaying levels to grind the nondescript resources used to unlock additional ships in the R Museum is a chore. Turning toward score attack mode, where every ship begins a run fully-powered, and increasing the game’s difficulty only brings temporary relief to the tedium.
Because of this, R-Type Final 2 strikes me as a game almost exclusively for enthusiasts, for Granzella Inc. has accomplished the bare minimum compared to what I have come to expect for a modern SHMUP—the OST is forgettable, the intro cinematics are unnecessary, and the ship/pilot customization is a misuse of resources that could have been invested into more stages and more enemies. This game might be a dream come true for hardcore R-Type fans looking for a nostalgia injection, but general SHMUP fans will want to exercise caution.
Review copy generously provided by NIS America.
The Bottom Line
R-Type Final 2 is a throwback of shooters from 20 years ago; for premium pricing, we expect more.