Back in the early days of video gaming, there was little choice of games. If you wanted to play a horizontally scrolling shoot-em-up. There was either the archaic Scramble or Defender. When a game called Nemesis appeared in the arcades and it spawned a whole new breed of horizontal blasts, because it had a progressive weapons system. The ultimate sci-fi shoot out to incorporate this system did not actually appear until a while later.
The game in question was R-Type. With its Alienesque graphics, impressive weapons and somewhat disgusting enemies, it soon became the object of a large number of... er... 'tributes' (yes, let us be diplomatic about this). Well time waits for no man (and no arcade game) so the inevitable follow up game duly appeared.
After the defeat of their first attack force, resulting in the failure of their attempt to invade our solar system, the Bodean Empire retreated to reassess their combat tactics. Despite our vigilance and constant surveillance, the Bodeans have become rather more cunning. They have managed to amass an even more devastating army and have launched a massive attack on the outer reaches of the solar system. Their forces are heavily armoured and show no signs of retreat. The Earth must draw up a suitable battle plan. It is time to unveil the new R-10 fighter.
The jewel in the crown
The new line of R-Type fighters retains the distinctive styling of their predecessors, along with an enhanced jewel-weapon loader.
The jewel-weapon allows the R-Types to blast enemy pods to reveal the crystals powering the units. Once these crystals are collected the jewel-weapon can produce an image of a weapons pod, which can either be held in position behind or in front of the ship, or flown independently to launch attacks in the heart of enemy fleets. By picking up more jewels the R-Type can improve the image's attack capacity with a whole host of variations on the pod, including spiralling lasers, missiles, reflecting beams and side-firing firebombs.
In addition to the jewels-weapon, the R-Type has its own built-in laser shot. This can either be used to fire a single blast or energised by holding the trigger for a few seconds. A single build-up sends a large laser blast firing forwards, while a second build-up causes the ship to fire a high-power fragmentation shot. This sends a spreading pattern of fire bombs across the screen destroying anything in its path.
Slime and steel
Your ship is not the only one to go through some changes. The Bodean fleet have also revamped their attack fleet. Having learned their lesson from the first defeat the ships in the fleet are now much more heavily protected. They have harnessed power units to large asteroids using them as huge interplanetary cruisers to carry their fighters to the war zone. Within these mighty rocks the Bodeans have constructed tunnels containing squadrons of fighters. At the end of each of the sections a large command ship must be confronted, and the weak point found before it can be destroyed.
As you progress towards the Bodean Command HQ the going gets tougher, with underwater caverns, various mutations, floating ships and gun emplacements to contend with.
Second time around...
The basic gameplay and overall appearance of R-Type II has not changed a great deal from the original game. However, the extra weaponry, graphical touches and generally increased difficulty make it a decent enough challenge in its own right.
The graphics are a very good interpretation of the coin-op, with loads of colour and a large number of impressively sized sprites whizzing about the screen. The sound is pretty much identical too ...unfortunately, because the coin-op's audio delights were less than impressive. Still, if you liked the original music, it is horses for courses.
The coin-op was an incredibly tough game and the conversion is equally as hard. Occasionally, the going seems to be a mite too difficult, more so than the arcade version, leaving you feeling trapped in a certain location. Perseverance reaps its own rewards though, and the feeling of achievement is pretty good once you have beaten that particularly difficult alien.
Sometimes the fact that the playing area is smaller than the coin-op means things drift on from the side of the screen, but when you cannot see them they cause massively frustrating deaths. The other annoying point is that sometimes gun emplacements and aliens stay alive when your shots pound into them, when on previous occasions they had exploded into a mass of flame.
Still, these few quibbles aside, R-Type II is an impressive conversion of a challenging and addictive blast, which will appeal not only to fans of the arcade original, but also to lovers of frantic laser-pulsing action.