Wonderland Game
THE MIDNIGHT POST * December 2007
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Classic Game Spotlight:

Side-scrolling spaceship shoot-em-ups (or “Shmups”, as they are often called) saw a gradual evolution through the 1980s with such classic titles as Scramble, Vanguard, and Gradius. In 1987, Japanese video game maker IREM gave the genre a quantum leap with the release of R-Type.

R-Type was innovative in a number of ways. Its graphical style was unlike anything seen before. Its many enemies and game stages incorporated bio-mechanical designs that were clearly influenced by Swiss artist H.R. Giger. R-Type also boasted intricate levels and gigantic boss monsters. Rather than just throwing wave after wave of enemy fighters at the player, R-Type’s levels required careful study and repeated play to learn the best route through them. Finally, R-Type’s most famous innovation was the “Force” weapon, a detachable satellite that could change its form and be maneuvered independently from your main ship.

The game’s title refers to the r/K theory in ecology. K-Type organisms (such a humans) produce few offspring and care well for them, R-Type organisms (such as insects, and the game’s enemy creatures) produce many (and, in this case, very many) offspring but leave their well-being to chance.

R-Type was ported to most home game systems of the time (from the Commodore 64 and Amiga to the Nintendo Gameboy and Sony Playstation) and received four official sequels: R-Type II (1989, Arcade), R-Type The Third Lightning (1994, Super Nintendo), R-Type Delta (1998, Sony Playstation) and R-Type Final (2003, Sony PS2). This year, some of the original games have also made their appearance on the Nintendo Wii's Virtual Console, where you can revisit these classics if you don't own the original game consoles.

One of the best recognized boss monsters, the Dobkeratops, makes an appearance in every one of the five official R-Type games.

Beyond R-Type

* A sixth game, R-Type Leo (1992, Arcade), was also released, but it did not contain the same core elements as the other games. Most notably, the Force weapon is absent. Nonetheless, R-Type Leo is a very fun arcade blaster.

* If you've ever played Pulstar (1995, Neo Geo) you might be forgiven for thinking that this game plays very much like R-Type. Much of the development team for this release did, in fact, work on the original R-Type. Many gamers consider Pulstar to be an un-official sequel (or, if you will, spiritual successor) to the R-Type series.

* R-Type has influenced many indie games. Our own Intensity XS and Intensity XS ReCharge pay homage to R-Type in a number of subtle (and not so subtle) ways. For a recent game very closely related to R-Type, check out Prototype II, a game so good (and free!) that it basically was our 11th choice for our Top Ten Freeware games of 2007.

* Finally, while IREM has stated that R-Type Final is, truly, the final classic R-Type release, a new game R-Type Tactics has just been released for the Sony PSP. Tactics is, in fact, a turn-based strategic game set in the R-Type world. However, we wouldn't be surprised if the evil Bydo empire rises one more time and R-Type blasts off again in the future.

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