A World of Games: R-Type

One of the greatest side scrolling shooter series of all time started off in the arcades. One tiny spaceship takes on an entire galaxy’s worth of evil alien entities. Assuming you’ve got enough quarters you can be the hero the galaxy needs!

R-Type wasn’t a game I played in the arcades. Hell, it wasn’t even a game I played on any console until the Playstation’s R-Types came into my possession in 2019. The game is largely a traditional shooter, but with one unique feature: you have a tiny attachment that can be used freely to modify your ship and your guns. Called your “Force”, the little blob can go to the front of your ship to give extra firepower, float around on it’s own shooting occasionally, and can also attach to the rear of your ship for some additional firepower. Other shooters have powerups you can collect and enhance your ship, but R-Type has the freedom to move around powerups on your ship as you please.

I was very curious by the big Nintendo logo on the cabinet art for the game. Doing a bit of research, I found series developer Irem created the game, but outside Japan the arcade cabinet was distributed by Nintendo. It seems odd, then, Nintendo didn’t bring R-Type to it’s home consoles at all, instead only coming out in portable versions on the original Game Boy. Competitors like Life Force and Gradius found homes on the NES, but not R-Type. I think this made the game more alluring to me growing up and seeing it appear on “best of” lists.

I played a few rounds of this game when I saw it, and hot damn is it challenging! You’ve only got one hit before you go down, and everything kills you. I shouldn’t be surprised I suppose, as this is by and large what to expect from just about every game like this from the late 80s and early 90s. I really felt the quarter draining aspect of this machine: even though I kept losing, I did want to keep trying to see what the next challenge would be. I could imaging blowing a lot of coins on this upon original release.

Since I was young, I have always had a spot in my heart for side scrolling shoots such as this. The ability to upgrade your ship to become super powerful was always really attractive to me. I think it’s largely why I enjoy RPGs to this day: seeing my character becomes stronger and decimate the enemy is still satisfying. And all that started with games just like this all those years ago.

*Played at Galloping Ghost Arcade in Brookfield, IL 2019

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– Jason J

Original blue and red Nintendo Switch controllers
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