Fans of the R-Type series have had a long dry spell. After R-Type Final 2004 (PS2), originally intended as the final installment of the series, and numerous remakes and compilations, the Kickstarter campaign for a new game in mid-2019 was a ray of hope. Now the time has finally come and Granzella’s R-Type Final 2 will be released for Switch, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X | S and PC. We started with the Switch version.
After reaching the start menu, you can either jump straight into the fight or watch the tutorial video. As a newcomer to the series, you should definitely do this so that you know how to use the various power-ups and special abilities. A playable tutorial would have been fun, but the creators have clearly chosen to stay true to its arcade origins.
In fact, nothing has changed in the R-Type formula. You steer a spaceship through space, space bases or organic structures and shoot your way through defending hordes of enemies, this time the Bydo Empire. You will be attacked from all sides and you must properly place your shield aka Force in front or behind you to be protected in all directions. Most of these elements and the individual upgrades are already known from the previous games and there are no surprises.
From the first laser upgrade, which is available in three variants (horizontal, diagonal and vertical), you can fall back on the aforementioned Force. Once docked, it can be fired in the appropriate direction and then recalled. Any contact with the enemy causes damage. It also serves as a protective shield against shots and eventually, by catching the shots and touching opponents it charges a special bar for a special attack that destroys everything. There are also missile upgrades, which add missiles to the normal shot, and so-called bits that can fly above and below the spaceship to intercept shots and deal some damage to enemies that are too close.
The gameplay is relatively slow and divided into sections with checkpoints in between, which is quite typical of the series. As a result, some sections sometimes look like little puzzles that need to be solved. The controls are precise and you can use the joystick or the buttons on the left joycon. Depending on the situation, the left shoulder buttons can be used to switch between four different speeds. The buttons on the right joycon, on the other hand, are reserved for continuous fire (A), charging the main weapon (Y), firing and summoning the Force (B), and the special weapon (X). That’s about it. In addition, it is especially important not to be affected.
Because, as is often the case in such games, one hit means death and the loss of all power-ups. After respawning at the checkpoint, you have to go through the section again without using brute force. This increases the importance of the route and the need for precise maneuvering. In situations like this, you need to show persistence if you want to push for higher difficulty levels.
A certain tolerance for frustration certainly helps here and you will no doubt have to try several times to get through certain levels. Knowing that all opponents spawn the same and that the game has few random elements helps a lot. As soon as you have found your way, you will usually be successful the following times.
In any case, the game gives you the opportunity to try almost endlessly and it rarely seems unfair. You also get more and more lives when you have to start all over again and if you are really bad you can just eventually start with 99 lives. You can also adjust the equipment to have a better chance. Once you have passed a level, you can also select the same individually, for example to achieve a new high score or to re-practice a certain part.
The levels in R-Type Final 2 are short and clear. However, there are really only seven levels, plus two additional variants of levels 6 and 7. It should also be mentioned that the whole campaign and Score Attack are the only two game modes. However, with five different difficulty levels and unlockable ships, you have plenty to do. In total you can collect 99 ships that form a family tree of all ships from the previous games.
To unlock ships you have to fulfill all kinds of conditions, such as continuing to play certain levels or entering a correct password. The ships have different combinations of weapons, power, bits and missiles. This makes them all play in a different way and you can also decorate them to make them look a bit different. To select a ship, it must be assigned to one of the twelve slots. If you want a thirteenth, you have to deregister another ship. If all of this isn’t enough for you, you can of course try the real goal of many Shmup players: the 1cc run (play the entire game without dieing).
What is absolutely mediocre is the soundtrack. The driving beats of the SNES variant, for example, have long since disappeared. From our point of view, a little more intensity would have been good here, but there will certainly be players who can taste the more spherical soundtrack.
The port on Switch has a lot of trouble with the frame rate, loading times and stutters. That is especially disappointing in a game that requires high precision. With every death, the screen freezes and you noticeably wait for your respawn. Regardless of the platform, graphically, the Unreal Engine could probably have done more with effects. Full-screen explosions would have been a nice reward, especially when defeating level-end opponents. Instead, there is a fanfare, a maximum of small explosions and a blue aura around the ship.
Opinions will also differ on the level of difficulty. As mentioned, the game is very demanding and requires a high level of persistence. Old-school gamers and veterans won’t be surprised, but non-genre and casual gamers will be tested for frustration tolerance here.
As you can imagine, R-Type Final 2 is definitely aimed at fans of the series and genre. Anyone who likes rock-hard horizontal shooting action and has patience, precision and time to learn the optimal routes will be served here. In this case, you can ignore technical weaknesses and possibly stick to the PS4, XBox or PC variants, which run smoother than the version on Switch. That said, R-Type Final 2 is certainly a good game for the “shmup” fans.