Set phasers to whatever tickles your fancy.
Alongside the obligatory Super Mario World, Super R-Type was the first game I owned for the Super Nintendo, and the series has held a special place in my heart ever since. Needless to say then, I was excited to see what R-Type Dimensions EX had to offer and whether Irem could successfully preserve R-Type’s hardcore legacy while also broadening the appeal of the franchise.
Let’s not beat around the bush here: the two games in this collection, R-Type and R-Type II, are ridiculously hard. Proudly showing their arcade roots, these are games that were designed to keep you mindlessly pumping coins into the cabinet after each failed attempt. And there will be many, many failed attempts when tackling these remakes, at least when playing in Classic mode. Dodging enemy fire while blasting through the onslaught is pure, white knuckle fun of course, but it’s difficult to the point where if you told me that you’d completed R-Type or its sequel, then I would call you a big fat liar. Or at least mumble it inaudibly.
Thank the gaming gods then for the inclusion of Infinite mode, which allows good, honest humans to see the game through to completion by bestowing you with the gift of eternal life. After each death you’re plonked right back into the action to continue your progress - no starting the level from scratch or any of that old school nonsense - with the only punitive measure being the loss of any weapon upgrades you’d picked up during your previous incarnation. Another helpful inclusion in Infinite mode is the ability to slow down the onscreen action by holding ZL, providing yourself with an extra few nanoseconds of reaction time.
Purists might scoff at this level of mollycoddling and it must be said that most of the adrenaline-pumping tension is lost without the risk of failure, but these options are just that: options. Classic mode is there for the hardcore; Infinite mode is for the rest of us. There’s even score-chasing fun to be had as the game tallies up how many lives you’ve used during an Infinite run, and these stats are posted to online leaderboards. If nothing else, this provides some impetus to at least suck a little less than your friends. For me though, the greatest payoff was in finally seeing the latter levels of two games that had until now remained a mystery.
It’s clear to see that Irem have gone all out to make the R-Type experience more palatable to the modern gamer, and they’ve attempted to perform the same magic on the look and sound. Whether they’ve successfully managed that or not will largely be determined by your personal taste, but again the real genius here is that they’ve provided an option to flick between the original sights and sounds and a cleaner, more modern version. I found myself enjoying both, alternating between them on a whim with a quick tap of the X button. It’s a nifty little feature, and as was the case with Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap, it’s fascinating to compare the two iterations in real time. Personally, I found myself opting for the updated looks and soundtrack more often than not and enjoying the fact that there were now impressive background details where once was an empty black space.
If anything, Irem may have gone slightly overboard with the options available - the “Crazy” angled 3D and arcade cabinet views will probably never be used again, as they don’t really serve a practical purpose beyond fun-for-five-seconds gimmickry. Again though, they’re there for people who want them.
Ultimately, if you like super challenging shmups and especially if you’re old enough to still call them shoot-‘em-ups, then you’ll find a lot to love here. Likewise if you’re a newcomer to the genre then R-Type Dimensions EX is a great place to start and will hold your hand until you’re ready to let go.