R-Type Final 2 adds more finality to the previous final.
I’ll admit that I’m not the most avid of R-Type players. I wasn’t one who played the early games in the arcade or otherwise, but I’m quite aware of its significance in the shoot ‘em up genre and retro gaming as a whole. With that said, I played R-Type Final to death in the mid-2000s on PlayStation 2 thanks to its fairly short playtime, addictive gameplay loop, and slew of unlockable content. Over 15 years later, I find myself playing a wholly unexpected sequel on Xbox Series X with the hopes of losing just as much time to it.
R-Type Final 2 follows a similar pattern to the previous game, with a handful of ships to choose from to play through the brutally difficult campaign. The dreaded Bydo forces have returned, and only you and your ship of choice can repel them over the course of seven stages. That’s about all the story you’re getting in spite of a fairly well presented intro cinematic at the start of each run, but the plot isn’t what anyone would be here for. You’re here to shoot aliens.
Stages play out with you moving from left to right, simply trying to survive long enough to confront and defeat the boss whilst taking out as many enemies as you can along the way. You have a standard rapid fire attack that can be charged into a super powerful beam attack, as well as collectible ‘bits’ that add a little extra firepower, and a missile attack if you collect a powerup for it. There are also ‘Force’ that you can pick up and attach to the front or back of your ship that can attack forwards, diagonally, or downwards, as well as having their own super attack. If you aren’t familiar with the series, this can seem fairly daunting, but it doesn’t take long to get the hang of things.
But no matter how quickly you get to grips with your ship’s powerups and abilities, you will die very quickly once you’re past that opening level. R-Type Final 2 doesn’t pull any punches once it’s into the swing of things with swathes of enemies and bullets flying at you. Sure, you can shoot down enemies, destroy bullets, and weave through gaps with your adjustable speed, but you are going to be destroyed over and over before you get to the end credits. Thankfully, death doesn’t set you back too far, and there are continues — although not many — should you run out of lives. Which you will. A lot.
As you try, and fail, to reach the conclusion, you’ll earn various resources that can be used to unlock more ships, and this is where R-Type Final 2 and its predecessor shine. There are nearly 100 ships to unlock and try out, and they all have enough differences to make them feel unique. From different combinations of beam attacks and Force, to a variety of bits and missiles that can really change up how you’ll play. After a while you’ll find a ship that really works for you — it was the Morning Star for me — and you’ll start to make more progress, learn the stages, and find more success.
The downside of this is that it can feel a bit grindy, as some of the later ships take a lot of resources to unlock. Unless you’re hammering out the levels you’ll find yourself needing to play through a few times to get enough for some of those later ships. Luckily there are several routes through the final stages of the game. Levels six and seven will be different depending on a choice you make at the end of the fifth stage, so at least there’s some variety there to keep things fresh enough. You’ll need to complete these different routes to even be allowed to unlock some specific ships. The variety of difficulty levels helps here too if you’re struggling, but even Kids mode is no joke.
Another advantage is just how snappy the gameplay is most of the time. Your ship moves smoothly and quickly in response to your input depending on your speed setting, and you’ll find yourself timing your charge attack to maximise destruction as you learn the level layouts. It’s all very satisfying apart from at certain points that crop up towards the end of the game where there are some inexplicable frame drops. These come seemingly out of nowhere at very specific points and I can’t for the life of me figure out what’s causing them. The action on screen is no more intense than at other points, so these occurrences make no sense, and in a game like this, you need a smooth framerate to get through unscathed. I suppose the fact they’re predictable helps you prepare for them, but you shouldn’t need to.
Whilst R-Type Final 2 looks pretty enough, it’s not so Earth-shatteringly beautiful to cause these hiccups. The visual effects are good enough by today’s standards, and I did like the ability to walk around the hangar and look at the various ships you’ve unlocked in first person. The music and sounds stand out quite well — I particularly enjoyed the soundtrack which was nicely varied throughout the campaign. The general presentation is solid, although there was the utterly baffling fact that the main menu was presented in Japanese when I first launched the game. If it weren’t for the fact that I could guess my way around the menus to the language options I’d still be unsure of what I was selecting.
In spite of some utterly bizarre design decisions and errors, R-Type Final 2’s minute to minute gameplay is as solid as it was a decade-and-a-half ago. I enjoyed the campaign in spite of my ever growing frustration as I tried to find a way through a particularly challenging section. The constant promise of fresh ships to try out kept me interested, and the stages themselves were fun to learn their way around as they offered up their surprises — one of the stage seven variants offers a fun twist in its entirety should you choose that path. If you can overlook those few irritations, you can have a great time here.