Super R-Type was my introduction to the series. Where most had the fortune of playing versions on the Master System, Turbo Grafx or the original arcade game I was not as fortunate. That is one hell of an introduction to what is one of the most challenging shooter series of all time. I’m sure most would have been turned off by the high difficulty but the series still unique mechanics grabbed me. While it has its flaws Super R-Type is a pretty good game overall.
Despite the Super in the title this is more of a remixed port of R-Type II. Super R-Type borrows four levels from the arcade with three of its own new exclusives. As an overall package it’s a pretty good game with a fantastic soundtrack to boot. However it also suffers from its launch window status and features some of the worst slowdown on the system. Together with its maddening difficulty the game isn’t as great as it should have been but still worth owning with a few caveats.
A large cache of weaponry is not what the series is known for and this installment is no different. The list of weapons has been significantly expanded. The Counter air laser, rebound laser, spread laser, shotgun bomb, and counter ground laser all vary in their use and are not present in every stage. Actually the game can be pretty stingy with power-ups. Joining them are two kinds of missiles and bits, options which attack to the top and bottom of your ship. The biggest addition is the charge beam. The longer you charge it up the bigger the shot; two full charges provide big screen clearing burst of fire. The meter charges reasonably quickly, making this an awesome addition to the game.
The addition of the charge beam is interesting for a few reasons. Playing around with the Force pod remains the best part of the game. Normally you’ll want to keep the force pod attached to make use of your special weapon. But the excellent level design provides plenty of tight spaces that entice you into separating it for maximum effect. The charge beam means your ship isn’t completely helpless in the process. The size of the shot changes with depending on how long the bar is charged and can be a life saver. A fully charged beam can eliminate most of the bosses in one well timed shot as well.
The series is known for its ball busting difficulty and Super R-Type is no different. The game’s slow pace lulls you into a false sense of security as it is brutal from start to finish. Enemies spawn in every direction with no warning and it can get hectic at times. The game is an expert at herding you in one direction while ignoring danger from another. Part of what makes the game seem so unfair is its lack of checkpoints. Whether it is the end level boss or mid-stage, death sends you back to the beginning of the level. The levels are pretty long making this a frustrating design decision, one that might turn off players.
In terms of its presentation Super R-Type is very uneven. Irem has done a decent job of porting over the levels from the arcade although some elements are missing. The water is completely absent from stage three which added to its atmosphere while its boss has been redesigned. R-Type II had a very muted brown color palette and this game suffers from that. At the same time the original stages do a lot to liven up the game’s presentation and are generally excellent. The music is fantastic, bettering the arcade’s OST in every way.
The game suffers from some of the worst first generation SNES slowdown, to the point it is embarrassing. If you could point to one title that gave the system its bad reputation for shooters this would be the one. The game frequently slows to a crawl that is beyond embarrassing, it is flat out sad. Stage four, a cool battle against a capital ship inspired by the first game runs almost entirely in slow motion. You can (and should) take advantage of this to escape some of the game’s trickier moments but it should not run this bad.
As much as I like it this is a hard one to recommend. The series great gameplay is intact but the performance issues and unforgiving lack of checkpoints make it incredibly frustrating. If you must play a game in the series the far superior R-Type III is the way to go.