So video games have now officially adopted the womanly ritual that is “the makeover”. Just as girl friends from Malibu are prone to freak out with joy at the prospect of getting their hair, nails, toe nails and facials done with the most exotic-yet-excessive of lotion treatments (for my friend reading this, that line was for you!) so too will nostalgic geeks salivate over the prospect of an old game getting its polygons done. Ergo, we have R-Type Dimensions, an Xbox Live Arcade game that exfoliates R-Type 1 and 2 with moisturizing 3D graphics.
Shooters like R-Type populated arcades in the early 90s, in part thanks to gameplay so challenging that the resulting anger causes wrinkles. I remember seeing arcade pamphlets that Midway would send to arcade owners, advertising games so difficult that players would pump a continuous stream of quarters in the name of reaching the end, or at least posting a high score with their three-letter signature of pride. I can imagine R-Type being just as easy of a sell; a vertical space shooter where you’d manipulate a tiny spaceship and open fire (but usually have fire opened on you) against an overwhelming fleet of screen-filling enemies and obstacles that would never make sense in a real-life space army. In fact it often feels as if the evil BYDO empire modeled their military not around intergalactic domination but for the sole purpose of destroying your one little vessel.
Those same triple-initialed arcade gamers will probably freak out the most over R-Type Dimension’s new online leaderboards, among other new features. These shooter freaks will also freak over the ability to play co-operatively online with a fellow R-Type freak. Yes, they would indeed freak out.
Oh and there’s those newfangled three-dimensional graphics. In fact, the game gives a… different kind of facial to old-school gamers with the press of the Y button. By pressing that yellow circle, the game changes from shiny new graphics to dirty nostalgic graphics and back again. To my surprise, I found myself favoring the visuals of the original version over the remake. Maybe it’s the contrast to all of the pixilated NES games I’ve played as of late, but seeing those flat-coloured spaceships with a surprising amount of detail almost wowed and shocked me more than the plastic looking 3D worlds and vehicles. Plus the bosses that are meant to look grotesque feel more grotesque in comparison. One of the early bosses is a giant worm that flies in and out of the valves of a giant, mountainous heart-like structure. This boss felt more alive as a pixilation than the 3D version, which resembled the kind of plastic organ model seen in Biology class.
You can also play the games in two different modes. Infinite Mode gives the player unlimited lives and will instantly resume a player where his ship last fell. Therefore, beating the game becomes more a formality than an accomplishment, and only your final score matters in the Xbox Live Grand Scheme of Things. Though that said, the number of deaths will affect your score, and you will have many deaths! A single death for every Microsoft point spent on this game, it seemed. Your spaceship is a slow hunk of junk that would annoy Han Solo, and many levels will throw you against nonstop barrage of enemies and walls designed to blast your ship into oblivion faster than any elder scroll. Also, one of R-Type’s defining attributes is a floating ball-thingy that you can attach either in front of or behind your ship, the latter you’ll often find necessary, for many bosses have weak spots in weird spots that are outside the reach of a standard laser. Hence, these bosses will require you to rear-end their big glowing spots with your lower-body ball. And just like in real driving, you’ll probably lose a lot of bumpers and take a lot of lives doing so.
And all I could think of while I was playing these games and dying a lot, using the brief period of post-death invulnerability to spam attack bosses was “how the hell did people beat this game without infinite lives?” For those people, there’s Classic Mode, where you play a level with three lives and each death sets you back to a checkpoint. This mode is obviously aimed at the real R-Type fans, of which I don’t know whether or not to salute for their skills. There were points in these games where I was simply dying more than I was inhaling, so like hell am I even going to spend time on Classic mode.
Playing with infinite lives, the games take about a combined 90 minutes to complete. The only difference I noticed between the two R-Types was that R-Type 2 was shorter and had less interesting stages and bosses than the sheer monstrosities that littered the first game. As for who should buy R-Type Dimensions, well, there are two kinds of people. Obviously, fans of the original games who feel motivated to prove themselves as the finest in the world at this shooter of little cultural relevance. The other kind? People who derive masochistic pleasure from seeing a spaceship blow up faster than they can eat single M&Ms. As for the rest of the world, bother not.