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  • [I ♥ The PC Engine] R-Type I

    Posted on June 9th, 2009 keving 8 comments

    R-Type IR-Type I

    Maker: Hudson
    Release Date: 3/25/88
    Price:
    4900 yen
    Media:
    HuCard (2 Mbit)
    Genre: Shooting
    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.

    R-Type I

    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.)

    R-Type I

    On to the game itself. There’s the Evil Bydo Empire, home to all manner of weird and sickening creatures, and you have to Blast Off and Strike it with your R-9 battlecraft. It’s your typical “grotesque monster and metallic landscape” shooter, a typical SF theme that Salamander had already done two years previous. (Irem fleshed out the plot a lot by the time R-Type Final rolled around.)

    The background visuals are worthy enough of praise, but when you’re talking about R-Type, your attention’s always going to turn to the huge, rippling bosses. From Dobkeratops, the Level 1 boss (and the guy on the package), to the snakey guy at the end of Level 2 that runs around the entire screen, it’s all a feast for the eyes — and the way the snake’s dull metallic gleam runs (largely) flicker-free on the PCE is amazing. The visual splendor continues with Level 3’s enormous spaceship and the combine/scatter antics of the Level 4 boss. Even by today’s standards, it’s a constant barrage of novelty — experiencing it in the spring of 1988 must have been awe-inspiring, especially when you realize it’s all in this tiny li’l card you can put in your pocket.

    Irem’s arcade staff deserve all the praise they get for R-Type, but the real artisanship here lies with the programmers at Hudson, who (even at this early stage) used every bit of processing power the PC Engine had to all-but recreate the arcade original. Among the many anecdotes Master Takahashi and other Hudson folk bring out during interviews is the fact that the PCE was engineered from the start to be really good at shooters — the dominate genre at arcades in the mid-1980s. There was no better game to show off this engineering with than R-Type; it seems safe to say that Hudson and NEC were literally betting the future of the console on how well this port turned out. (An early-’88 Famicom Tsushin preview casually mentions that the staff were even taking pains to faithfully port over the bugs from the arcade version, arguing amongst themselves when they came across a bug that was apparently too difficult to recreate on the PCE.)

    R-Type’s most notable gameplay feature was the “BEAM” cannon, a shot you charge with the II Button that can pierce through enemies and deal major damage. You also have the Force, a combination shield and Konami-style “option” that sticks to the R-9’s front (or rear) and can be launched outward to attack. The Force itself can be powered up with pick-up items, and it’s an integral part of the game’s strategy.

    The first four levels covered in R-Type I are not difficult…when you compare them to the next four. Level 3 onward is still a pain in the ass for me, however. The battleship’s cannons fill up the already-cramped space with shots, and with Level 4 you have next to no idea where the attack’s going to come from next. If you launch the Force at an inopportune time, you can pretty much kiss your R-9 goodbye. The closer you get to the end, the more important it gets to find a winning pattern and stick to it like Weight Watchers.

    Most people, once they learn the patterns (like I did), can finish R-Type I without too much pain after practice. The game gives you three ships and four continues, with the continues starting you relatively close to where you died (R-Type doesn’t have very long stages in the first place), which at least makes it possible to powerhouse your way through if you’ve got the perseverence for it.

    Finishing this game gives you a little sequence showing the R-9 docking at home base before the password display…which, if you bought the game on day one, you’d have to wait over two months before being able to input it into R-Type II. Rough.

    <a href=”http://www.nicovideo.jp/watch/sm7004740″ mce_href=”http://www.nicovideo.jp/watch/sm7004740″>【ニコニコ動画】【PCE版】R-TYPE I&II TAS 7:08&7:33くらい</a>
    Nicovideo account req’d. How to get one. Click that “…” word balloon on the bottom to turn off scrolly comments.

    I’ll cover R-Type II in more depth when I get to it, but for now, here’s a TAS that covers the entire PCE game and shows the interstitial bits between the two HuCard releases. I wish I could finish off the Level 3 ship the way this TASer does it.


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