Wandering along in the usual gaming daydream comfortably wondering why games seem to be getting easier and easier R-type Final appears from out of nowhere shattering the serenity. In a single moment your eyes explode as your brain melts only to dribble out of your nose. Yes ladies and gentleman, R-type Final really is that hard.
We are not wimps when it comes to the R-type series - indeed it has been known to reach the last level of Super R-type on a single life. Yet time after time we came away from an engagement with R-type Final in a state that could best be described as "beat to living hell." With this in mind the return journey into a world threatened by the Baido begins again.
From the start there is ample evidence that this game has been made by people who really care about their product. The detail and options exhibit exceptional depth. For starters there is the collection of 99 un-lockable craft, all of which are unique. Picking the right craft is essential if you are going to make any progress. Select one not suited to your style and you're in big trouble from the word go. Each of these craft can then be modified to an obsessive degree allowing R-type geeks plenty of opportunity to test out their grand designs on an unsuspecting world. A rather nice picture gallery and seemingly endless library of un-lockable information about enemies, levels and just about everything else completes the package.
After choosing a ship you are thrown right into the action - a lone warrior against the whole Baido Empire. Far from being your bog standard shooter, the R-type series always offered more of a tactical affair. Success (or failure) boils down to effectively using the Force, a pod-type attachment to your ship that is completely indestructible. The Force can be sent off to attack vulnerable parts of bosses or used as a sort of space aged battering ram come shield.
Once you come to grips with how to use the various functions of your ship you may actually get half a second to notice how lovely the levels look. Truly, there are few shoot 'em ups that bring this level of subtle colouring and mass explosions to the table. The underlying beauty of the graphics is complimented nicely by an ambient sound track that seems to try and lull the player into a near drug-induced melancholy while the action unleashes some beasts the size of an original Xbox upon you.
Bosses, when they appear (a frequent occurrence), tend to fill about two thirds of the screen, pinning you into a tiny corner. The last third of the screen is then filled with bullets, lasers and missiles. Somehow you have to dodge these and hit the boss in its weak spot over and over again - and thats just level one. However, although it's difficult, R-type Final is rarely unfair. If you are skilled enough there is nothing here that is going to kill you cheaply.
Hidden pathways through levels that open only with the completion of certain, unknown, criteria add another layer of depth to the game. It is not uncommon for each level to have three or four different versions. These are complete with different enemies and graphics to depict various stages of how far the Baido infection has taken hold. Seeing them all is yet another of the many reasons to play through the game over and over again (that is should you ever finish it in the first place).Yes, the game is hard. In fact, even with the difficulty set to very easy it will test you. But though difficult, few games offer such a feeling of exhilaration and addiction. The bug that just blew you away may have been unthreatening looking, but you can bet you'll want to go back and kill the thing. Everything about the game becomes personal and please do not attempt to play it if you have any form of heart problem.
Overall, R-type Final is the definitive version of an all-time classic. There is nothing else that could have been added to make this title feel any more complete or (pardon the pun) Final. It makes a fitting end to a great series of games, and one that should be taken-on by anybody who thinks they can play. Truly trying to beat R-type is once again the sport of gaming kings. All you need to do is take a deep breath and ask yourself, "am I truly ready for what is about to hit me?"