(GB / Game Boy)

R-Type (GB / Game Boy)

Game Review

R-Type Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Dave Frear

R-Lite: cut-down, but still a cracker

Following its original 1987 arcade release, Irem's highly regarded R-Type was ported to numerous home systems, with this Game Boy version appearing in 1991. For those not in the know (estimates range from 2-5 people living under a rock) the aim of the game is to take your space fighter and blast your way through waves of fiendish foes, spread across several tricky levels on your way to a final showdown with the big Bydo boss and a rather underwhelming ending. But hey, the journey there is challenging and a lot of fun.

As fantastic a game as R-Type is, porting it to the Game Boy could have been disastrous. After all, this is a system with a 2.6 inch (often blurry) monochrome screen that lacks any in-built illumination – not ideal for the frantic weaving and blasting required for the game. However, the developers were wise enough to make some changes to accommodate the move to the green and black wonder. Despite these alterations (and some omissions), it's surprising just how close it remains to the coin-op original.

The controls are responsive, meaning your ship will do everything you ask, when you ask it. The D-pad is used to move your 'Arrowhead' fighter around the screen and B fires your weapon. Hold the button to charge, then release to unleash a devastating blast. Right from the get-go you'll find yourself using both forms of attack as some enemies can be dispatched with a quick blast whilst others are somewhat tougher to slay. Upgrades are available including protective shield orbs and the legendary 'Force' pod, which can be attached to either end of your ship or left to float about independently. The A button is used to push away or pull the pod towards your ship as the situation dictates.

This portable conversion moves a little slower than the original game and there are a few less enemies on screen. However, the sprites that are there take up a larger percentage of the playing area than they did in the arcade, meaning you will still find yourself manoeuvring through narrow spaces between enemy fire as you try to loop back and take them out. Make no mistake, this is an easier version of the game, but it's no pushover - even with the 3 credits given to you in addition to your regular stock of lives. There are plenty of ways for your craft to explode, from swarms of relentless alien attackers to many an awkwardly placed obstacle. Some moments allow you to weave about the screen however you like, whilst others will see you destroyed unless you've been savvy enough to learn a safe route through the level.

The amount of upgrades attached to your ship also effects the difficulty of the game. You might find it easy going one moment thanks to your Force pod upgrade and intense fire-power, but a momentary lapse of concentration could see you lose a life and then have to face the Bydo hordes again, this time sans-upgrades.

Visually, R-Type boasts accurate (if somewhat simplified) enemy designs which move exactly as they should. The locations include a variety of constructed areas and organic looking ones, whilst space is represented with crosses and swirly visuals. Dark tones are generally avoided, and the larger sprites allows the action to be clearly visible on the chunky handheld's less-than-perfect display.

Things change with level 3 - famous for its gargantuan battleship. To begin with the music is the same as the first level - apart from the boss music and brief end of level victory piece, it seems the developers could only fit two tracks in to the game which alternate between levels. It's disappointing, but luckily the tracks that are there work well. The music is understandably simpler than the original, but it is recognisable and adds to the atmosphere with a combination of mystery and adventure. Sound effects are fairly basic but work well, particularly when an enemy blinks out of existence. The one exception is the painful ringing that accompanies your bonus being awarded at the end of a level.

The third level is also noticeably simpler than in its original incarnation, with less things to blast off the battleship and no danger of being crushed against the rocks. Indeed, should you have sufficient weaponry, it's the easiest level in the game. Having cleared the third level, players who are familiar with R-Type will notice something very odd about level 4 as it doesn't seem at all like the original. In fact, with those blocks sliding around it actually resembles level 6...and then it dawns on you. Unfortunately, music wasn't the only omission, as two levels have been unceremoniously hacked out of the game.

As disappointing as this is, it's not a deal-breaker. Of course the Game Boy edition of R-Type would have been better with all of its levels present, but with no ability to save, a complete play-through of a six-level game is a lot more manageable than an eight-level one. New players will be kept occupied for quite some time trying to master the challenge but for those more familiar with it, the difficulty is understandably lower. If you do manage to breeze through the game, tapping select on the title screen will allow you to select a slightly harder mode. Alternatively you could keep playing to try and get a new high score, or just because it's R-Type and R-Type is ruddy brilliant.


There have been unfortunate cuts, but this still delivers an authentic R-Type experience. A slower speed, fewer enemies on screen and the omission of two levels make for an easier version of the game. However, this port still manages to provide a challenge and it works well on the hardware it was designed for, with good controls and clear visuals. It may be a shorter gaming experience on the Game Boy, but it's still a very good one.

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User Comments (23)



StarBoy91 said:

Good review. Sounds like a decent conversion of the arcade game.
But, I have the PC-Engine version on the Virtual Console.



LuWiiGi said:

Interesting, never heard of this before but I'd love to see this come to 3DS VC. Thanks for the review. @StarBoy I love the avatars you make!



Rarewarefan7495 said:

This is definitely one of the best shmups for the GB. R Type DX is better but this still has excellent playability and definitely worth your time. It's understandable that 2 levels were stripped because it was an early GB title. Great Review and yeah LuWiiGi, I hope that it gets a rerelease for the 3DS VC.



StuffyStuff said:

The GB is awesome because it took games like this and made them good despite it's limitations. Length of GB aren't a big issue for me because when I was a kid I played mine mainly in the car. My GB collection is the best out of all of my systems.



Slapshot said:

Great review!
I loved this game back in the day. I really need to find another copy of this and add it back to my Gameboy collection.



Rarewarefan7495 said:

But if you haven't played the original R-Type, then you need to stop and go download the port R-Type Dimensions on XBLA. Seriously, there's a reason the Guiness Book Of World Records put R-Type at No. 1 on their List of Shmups Worth Playing. It's because the game is freaking awesome.



SwerdMurd said:

I still have the DX version for GBC (has this, the second game, and a mix mode that plays all the levels of both). Great game--definitely not the best shmup ever...or the best series...but a solid, old shoot em up.

Guiness...number 1...really? I wonder if they've even scratched the surface of the genre play-wise....not that there's anything wrong with R-Type....but come on. Absolutely idiotic difficulty in a few places..unnecessarily punishing like a lot of old games were just for the sake of being obtuse. Cold respawn was and will forever be a terrible implementation in this genre.

Given the over 2 decades of substantial improvements in all facets of shoot em up gameplay...well, I suppose that's why the category is "Worth Playing". Probably more a "see where it started" award than a "one of the genre's best" award. Plus it's Guiness.... I trust their video game recommendations like I trust a blind guy to pilot my aircraft.

That said--better than most everything that came out around its time, and better than the original Gradius imo. This game (GB R-Type) was a TON better than the GB Gradius too...



JamieO said:

I bought Nemesis instead of this for my Game Boy originally, because I was always much better at it than R-Type, I still only get onto the fourth level of arcade R-Type when playing the PSone version today. Perhaps if Game Boy R-Type is a bit slower, and as Dave says it is consequently easier, I may make more progress by playing this cart.

I figure that you can't have too many versions of this game, it is a true classic, although like @Swerd_Murd says I am more tempted to pick up the extras in R-Type DX on Game Boy Colour. I imagine that R-Type DX would look ace on my SNES's Super Game Boy, presuming that it is compatible with it.

Brilliant review, Dave.



moosa said:

@13 Different people have different tastes in shmups. Just because it's not your favorite series or favorite type of shmup gameplay doesn't mean its not worthy of respect, even today. Yes, R-Type is very old now, and that only makes it all the more meaningful that many out there, including myself, still see the original game as a masterful piece of shmup gaming. Shmup gaming has certainly evolved, but I think you're exaggerating on how much it's "improved" since the 16 bit era. Yes, shmup developers have figured out some of the potential weaknesses in common shmup design and found ways to work around them, but a fun shmup is always a fun shmup. I still have more fun playing the original Star Soldier than I do most more recent shmups I've played. The shmup genre is not trendy where everyone's just waiting for the next big thing to start playing; on the rare occasion when a true shmup classic is born, it remains a classic forever.



SeniorDingDong said:

I think R-Type on the Game Boy is one of the best 8-bit ports of Irems classic.

The C64 version is rushed and buggy, the Master System one suffers from heavy sprite flickering, the ZX Spectrum is ... limited, but okay for its system, the Amstrad one is just a bad port of the Spectrum version....

So, leaving two levels and some tracks out is a fair trade for a very playable (and beatable ) version of R-Type.



Omega said:

I still have both, R-Type for the GB and R-Type DX for the GB/GBC. It's a long time since I last played them. I like the DX version more because it's much easier than the first Game Boy appearance of the R9 fighter.

When I remember correctly, in R-Type DX you could even save your progress after each level to the battery backed up memory and continue later. That makes it very accessible even for the most bloody beginners. The first Game Boy game unfortunately lacks this feature.



EdEN said:

Currently playing R-Type Command on PSP which is a turn based strategy take on the franchise.



Kafei2006 said:

I remember playing this through a friend's cart back in the days. But later on, I bought the DX version, which is so much better a game overall =). This one suffers from too much flickering. DX has the same issue, but at least the colour makes the flickering sprites still viewable while in B&W, they tend to become nearly invisible, in grey against a yellow/greenish background.



KDR_11k said:

Ah yes, the first game I bought for the Game Boy. It was funny how the sprite flickering made the Gladiator (first boss) easier because his tail would glitch out instead of colliding with you. I think Bomba and the battleship boss were much harder than in the original though because they could only be beaten by force-cheesing them and Bydo never enters the instakill phase (in the arcade version those indestructible balls start homing in on you after a fixed amount of time and Bydo stops opening his weak point).

The freaking Baldo Gardens (level 4 in this version) were brutal. Took me forever to memorize all the patterns.

Also there's a cheat to play Conway's Game of Life, something like up+B+select when the highscore table is shown. The Game Guide mistakenly called it a drawing program...



Rarewarefan7495 said:

Well SeniorDingDong, if you count the Turbo Grafx 16/PC Engine as an 8 bit console then that console has the best port of R Type on an 8 bit console. And yeah Swerd_Murd it's not the best shmup IMO (I'd give that to Gate of Thunder), but I still think it's better than Ikaruga and Radiant Silvergun or any of the other bullet hell shmups like Dodonpachi.

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