|System: X360 (XBLA)||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Tozai Games / SouthEnd Interactive||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Microsoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb. 4, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
a New Shine
by Robert VerBruggen
In the late '80s, the R-Type brand developed a huge fan base. For members of that fan base hoping for a retro thrill, the new Xbox Live Arcade compilation R-Type Dimensions is a godsend. For modern gamers with opinions uncolored by nostalgia, however, the games simply do not hold up, and the new features don't change that.
Dimensions includes R-Type and R-Type II, and it captures the old-school feel perfectly. The classic look is completely intact, and you can even apply filters to the graphics to make it look like they're running on decades-old hardware. If you secretly wish that your Xbox 360 were a Commodore 64, or that your HDTV had rabbit ears and a huge channel-select knob, an R-Type Dimensions download might be the best way of living out your fantasies (with no risk of electrocution). As any fan of the classics knows, there's no substitute for the real, original thing, and R-Type Dimensions gets about as close to that as humanly possible. You can even set up the video so you can see the arcade cabinet around the game screen (though for some reason, the whole image bounces around when you do this, which can get a little disorienting). The Bydo Empire awaits your laser blasts, and it's prepared to return fire through level after level of alien-blasting, Force-collecting, hard-as-can-be gaming.
However, for those who didn't catch the R-Type bug in their younger years, or reached gamer age after 1990, things don't look so good. With the push of a button (no need to go through a menu, even), you can switch between the classic graphics and brand-new 3-D ones, but the new look isn't all that impressive. Other arcade shooters, such as Geometry Wars and its sequel, have proven that high-definition graphics are great for depicting space settings; the ships and explosions seem to jump out of the screen. Everything in R-Type Dimensions looks fine, but only a few stages (such as R-Type II's first) create that same visual "pop." For a brand as established and respected as R-Type, that's a shame.
The deeper problem is that these games are, by modern standards, simply awful. They were released in arcades, where they had to munch quarters, and on home personal computers, where they had to provide countless hours of entertainment with just a half-hour of material. In both settings, the solution was to make them ridiculously difficult and ridiculously cheap. R-Type and R-Type II came out back when video games were hard, and these games were known for being hard even then.
You'll face huge bosses who push you into a small area of the screen, and then lurch into that area. Your default gun shoots at a rather slow rate, so it's tough to make sure you kill an enemy when you need to. You can only shoot to the right, but your enemies love coming at you from the left. The only way to beat these stages is to memorize the exact places you can shoot from without being snuffed out, and even then it's no cakewalk. You start with a mere three lives.
The developers could have made the game palatable in a number of ways. They could have made easy, medium, and hard modes; hard would be the original game, and some of the enemies would be gone or tamed down in the other two. They could have let players give themselves more lives, maybe even 30 or more for beginners. They could have added a screen-clearing weapon and limited its use, allowing diehard old-schoolers the option of turning it off.