Old musty ownage.
A fair amount of effort has been put into polishing up the looks of this old game, moving from the flat original 2D to 3D models on a 2D plain. There is even a Zaxxon like ‘extreme’ camera angle that is momentarily amusing but adds no actual depth to how anything works. If bright colors, polygons and anti-aliasing are just not your thing there is also the option to toggle between the new fangled look and the original at any time. This should prove a nice bonus to purists who insist that a game must look terrible to play well, but jumping backwards over 20 years at the push of a button is more than a little jarring for anyone else. I checked it once just to see if it still flickered like every other sprite heavy game of the era did, it didn’t, and I never looked at the emulated 8-bit eye sore again.
Most of the issues with R Type Dimensions are directly a consequence of its subjects age. R Type and R Type 2 were originally arcade titles designed to eat quarters as quickly as possible in the same way Sinistar and Defender did: they are incredibly difficult. The enemies are bad enough, often spawning directly behind the ship, but the levels themselves are just as capable of pulling cheap shots with unexpected dead ends. Having to memorize a level to play through it is not bad in and of itself; more recent shooters like Ikaruga have the same exact mechanic. In R Type, however, dying means losing every weapon and power up that has been collected. It means being dropped into the mid-point of the level with a slow moving ship and pea shooter trying to get past enemies that just killed a fully loading weapon of mass destruction. Dying once usually means starting the whole game over, reacquiring all the weapons, then being destroyed one more screen to the right. These are not new complaints, I remember having the same frustrations when I played R Type on my TurboGraphix 16 in the early 90’s, but there are so many alternatives now that putting up with it is no longer worth it.
If you have a PS2 or backwards compatible PS3 dig up a copy of R Type Final. It can be had for less than ten dollars and is a better product in every way. XBLA itself has superior offers, Ikaruga and Omega Five being good examples. Just because a game is a classic doesn’t mean that it is still worth playing. A new coat of paint isn’t going to cover up underlying game play issues that have been resolved by the ensuing decades of game development. It’s still R Type. It’s still to maddeningly difficult for any normal person. It was nice to be given the option to fail my way right on through to the end of the games, but when bosses are so hard that I couldn’t kill them even with unlimited lives there is something wrong. The final boss of R Type got tired of killing me and did itself in out of boredom. I know how he feels.