Gradius V = Slick but Sterile R-Type Final = Organic and Soulful
Gradius V is your more 'typical' side scrolling space shooter. For something a little more alternative, ambient and atmospheric go for R-Type final.
The amount of ships you can unlock is unbelievable - and they are all very unique from each other (they differ in looks and special abilities/guns). You end up falling in love with some of these ships as they have distinct character, are very well designed and have very cool names.
The music is quite ambient and sets a fantastic mood. The whole tone of this game is very organic, the graphics and the art style, the bosses and enemies etc. Thats what I particularly like over Gradius V - there are rough edges in the best possible way (no rough edges in gameplay or programming) making it feel the opposite of sterile.
Graphics are very mood setting, like the music. Most importantly I think all aspects of this game work together to create a specific mood and feel. This makes the game feel very solid.
When playing a shooter, I expect to get blown up.. alot. Thats just the way it is and I find with some games, dying really hurts and makes you feel bad. In R-Type Final, dying makes me laugh or shout "AWWWW!" but I'm still having fun and its not too punishing when you die (your guns lose one level).
It feels like the developers have poured every last bit of R-type in their soul into this 'Final' bow out. Highly recommended to any fans of the genre, any sentimental folk. New comers may have a hard time enjoying it, but if you have an open mind and appreciate a good piece of art with alot of soul, I also recommend this.