Posted on June 9th, 2009 8 comments
Release Date: 3/25/88
Price: 4900 yen
Media: HuCard (2 Mbit)
PC Engine FAN Score: 25.45 / 30.00 (#14 overall)
Kōgien: “An early PC Engine classic. The wave beam, which you fire by charging up force, was rather innovative for the time. The first of what became a two-part release. You can use a password to continue in R-Type II with your power-ups.”
It’s safe to say that the PC Engine, as we know it, wouldn’t have existed if it weren’t for this release.
This is, of course, based off the popular 1987 shooter developed by Irem for arcades. The fact that it’s a “perfect port” was something that attracted a ton of attention for the PCE back when the first previews came out in late 1987. As much as I loooooove THE Kung-Fu and Victory Run, even I have to admit that the PCE had no real killer titles in its library until this sucker came along. The idea that consoles had to launch with a blockbuster must-have piece of software on day one didn’t really mature until the SNES and Super Mario World — a fact you might have discerned for yourself if you’ve noticed that the PC Engine was out for over four months before R-Type I was released.
As nearly every PCE fan (Japanese or English-speaking) who’s started up a webpage on the subject notes, R-Type all but ensured that the console would enjoy a long and prosperous career in Japanese households. Until this title came out, the PC Engine was seen in Japanese gamers’ eyes as a Famicom with a prettier color palette and really big character sprites. The system’s processing power did not have a chance to truly strut its stuff until this hit stores. The simple fact that a home game could look just like the arcade original was amazing to people, this in an era when 16-bit graphics and FM sound were standard in arcades and the Famicom ports already couldn’t keep up. The game itself is brilliant, but its contribution to the console is even greater.
At the time of release, HuCards did not come in any size greater than two megabits (256KB). As a result, Hudson opted to release R-Type as two separate releases in Japan, with R-Type I containing the arcade game’s first four levels. Finish them, and after an ending, you’ll receive a password that you can type into R-Type II to begin Level 5 with the power-ups you earned in the original. This begs the obvious question of why the game isn’t on one HuCard. There were the technological issues, of course (4-megabit HuCards didn’t appear until later this year), but there was also the fact that Hudson wanted an arcade-perfect release, and presumably just couldn’t do it within two megabits. (The TurboGrafx-16 R-Type is on one 4Mbit HuCard, as they were common by the time of the US launch. Irem themselves later released the complete game as a Super CD-ROM in Japan.)