You don’t have to be an 80s or 90s kid to be nostalgic about R-Type, but it helps. Those with fond recollections could do worse than checking out R-Type Dimensions EX, a compilation of the original two Irem arcade games in the series by Tozai and Esquadra. Both games are playable with modern polygon graphics or the original sprites. For those new to the series, they’re slower-paced (nigh-contemplative) shmups with quite technical combat and some iconic H. R. Giger-inspired monster designs. Below, a launch trailer featuring that toe-tapping famous first-level theme.
R-Type Dimensions first released on the PS3 a few years ago, but the EX version is the latest iteration, featuring some small tweaks and improvements. It’s not cutting edge, but it’s always good to see old games kept alive, especially when they’re from effectively-defunct studios. R-Type and its sequel hold up well today, and feel more sedate than almost any genre peer past or present. Later levels emphasise repetition and memorisation so you can manoeuvre your bullet-absorbing ‘force’ pod to protect you, but it’s nothing too fierce. There’s even an infinite lives mode in this version.
I personally think that the 3D graphics in Dimensions aren’t too bad. They capture the look of the original 2D art well enough, and fit in with the later 3D games in the series. The other big change for this release is the remixed soundtrack. The melodies are still immediately familiar, but given the benefit of modern synths. It’s a more widely agreed on improvement than the art, although you can switch all the modern enhancements off if you want, a feature becoming increasingly common in retro remasters like this.
The R-Type series has been out of vogue for a while. Original developers Irem have withdrawn from the videogame industry, leaving it in Tozai’s hands. The last mainline game in the series was the (fittingly titled and elegiac) R-Type Final on the PS2, although its true last appearance would be (recently fan-translated) PSP strategy game R-Type Tactics 2: Operation Bitter Chocolate. Still, these are important games, and the original R-Type was stunning by 1987’s standards. Huge bosses, complex weapons and a slower pace made it feel almost like a puzzle game in places.
R-Type Dimensions EX is out now on Steam for £10.79/€11.99/$11.99.