Super R-Type
Box Shot
Super R-Type
Platform: SNES
Publisher: Irem
Designer: Irem
Genre: Shoot-em-up
Players: 1
Published Date 1992
Reviewed by: Bryan Cord

There aren't many things that piss me off more than idiotic game design. Seeing a game with real potential utterly ruined because some crack-addled or disgruntled designer either forgot to do something elementary or (even more inexplicable) PURPOSELY ADDED some tiny thing that negates everything else the cart had going for it. It's especially frustrating to see a game you really liked in the arcade (R-Type 2 was almost as good as the original) get mangled when the company who made it finally decides to be magnanimous enough to begrudge you a home version that doesn't want to be fed quarters all the time. So while I'll admit that Super R-Type is about as good an arcade port of R-Type 2 as any fan could want (technically speaking, anyway), various little things left out of this version keep me from really enjoying it all that much, despite my best efforts to learn to love it (hey, it worked for UN Squadron).

As I may have mentioned earlier, the name of the game is deceiving: for all practical purposes, we're dealing with R-Type 2 with some slight changes here. IREM did a bang-up job (for the most part, but I'll come to that eventually) on the translation, especially when one looks at it alongside Gradius 3 (both games were part of the first run of SNES carts). The graphics are as beautiful as they were in the arcade (I love the way all the R-Type games look...there's something plumb awesome about the unique combination of decrepit machinery and slithery organic things that has become an R-Type trademark through the years), and there's not as much slowdown as a certain Konami shooter released around the same time, even though that accursed Bydo empire is out in force as usual and the graphics possess a level of detail not often seen on mere 16-bit shooters. Everything looks great (have I beaten that into your head enough times yet?), as the erstwhile R-9 flies through such exotic locations as a Bydo-infested starbase, deep space, and a dark cave with jets of water shooting everywhere and fish with flames shooting out of their rear ends (in all honesty, there are a lot more exotic ones than that, but those are the only three levels I can actually get to. I apologize.). The enemies are, on the average, quite a bit larger than the average enemy in most other shooters of the era, and most tend to explode very satisfyingly when you shoot them (I don't like it when enemies just disappear when blasted...I want to see their entrails on the cockpit glass, dammit!). With the exception of the uninspired boss of the obviously tacked-on first level, the bosses are quintessential R-Type: gigantic, incredible-looking (there's even a familiar face at the end of the "second" stage), tough, and usually in possession of more than one method of attack (unlike those wiener bosses in Gradius and the like who just do the same thing over and over).

I've never been too fond of the music in R-Type games, and this one is no exception. The sounds are fine (honestly, how could anyone screw up the sounds in a shooter? You'd have to have a hole in your head or something...), but the music is usually pretty tinny and doesn't do a thing for me. It isn't grating or anything like that, just kind of blah compared to Gradius or Axelay. The boss music is an exception to this rule though: it's nicely ominous and sets the mood perfectly. On the whole though, it's probably best to just mute the game and put on something of your own (I know...I say that all the time, but it DOES work when playing good games with bad music).

So what's the problem, you ask? At first glance, nothing major. The "cinematic" intro is pathetically lame, with a tiny R-9 being launched from an equally tiny hangar (it might, just might have taken those sadistic designers ten minutes to tack this on), but that's really a minor point. The control is as good as it's always been, and the cannon can be charged up to the R-Type staple, the Super Shot, or charged up even further to release a blistering Scatter Shot (note: this takes AGES to store up, and you'll probably die in the process if you're anything like me). When the game starts, RT2 vets will find themselves in a level that wasn't in the arcade game! Don't get excited though...it's just an uninspired "space" level with a lot of tiny, ineffectual enemies and a boss that isn't even as big as some of the standard baddies in the "real" levels, and dies in a heartbeat to boot. While I applaud the concept of adding a little something extra to home conversions of arcade games, this level feels uninspired and tacked-on; IREM certainly could've done better, as evidenced by the rest of the game. Even that pales in comparison to the big problem here though...

Ever since the first game hit the arcades, the R-Type series has been renowned for its high difficulty level. Each game has started out tough and gotten downright nasty as the levels wore on, but the challenge always toed the frustration line masterfully, and devotees were always ready to give it "one more try" no matter how hairy things became. On the other hand, Super R-Type (not RT2, mind you) waltzes over that impossibility line and never looks back, due solely to its UTTER LACK OF RESTART POINTS!!! Yes kids, EVERY BLEEDIN' TIME you die, it's back to the beginning of the level for you. The levels are long too, so the slightest mistake can destroy up to ten minutes of masterful play. I'm telling you, SRT has driven me to the brink of insanity many a time as I drove the third boss to within an inch of death, slipped half a centimeter, and had to work my way through the entire (nasty) third stage again. To the game's credit, there are unlimited continues, so the determined can continue to try and try again until finally undergoing total synaptic shutdown (or just throwing the game against the wall 'til it can't bother them anymore, whichever comes first). Moreover, the fact that you've got to play through the entire stage to get to a boss no matter what ensures that you'll never be short on power-ups if and when you do get there. Even so, R-Type emphasizes memorization and replay (some bosses absolutely cannot be beaten on the first try), a trait that's completely at odds with the lack of mid-stage restart points, and you'll be doing a LOT of useless repetition (and probably break down crying more than once) as a result. Honestly, how much trouble would it have been for the designers to leave the arcade game's restart points in? I can't imagine the code to do it was terribly large, and the fact that they aren't there completely ruins the game for me. Stupidity springs eternal, it seems...

If not for the unfortunate business with the restart points, Super R-Type would be a true SNES classic. There's never been a home version of R-Type that looks as good as this one (the TG16 one was nice, but not this nice), and the game is great to play as well....until you die, that is. Between the difficulty and the unforgiving (to put it mildly) restart system, I can't possibly recommend SRT to anyone that isn't an insanely devoted R-Type fan already, and even those probably won't like it all that much. Funcoland's only asking five bucks for it at the moment though, so you might want to give it a shot anyway, if only to see how good your reflexes (and temper) really are.