What is it with AI and hating on practice?
It seems fair to assume that a series would actually listen to itself when it calls a game “Final,” and for more than a decade it was true for R-Type. The shooter series wound down apart from re-releases in 2004 when R-Type Final launched by Irem, only for their successor developer Granzella to crowdfund a revival that came to Switch at the end of April 2021. The Kickstarter produced a decently designed game in R-Type Final 2 that nonetheless had me setting national records in the Pro Controller throw event.
Much like the PlayStation 2 original, R-Type Final 2 features your named (for no readily explainable reason) pilot taking out the Bydo, a race of aliens who have been menacing Earth for decades. Armed with three ships at the beginning and the ability to unlock scores more, you have to finish the fight with the Bydo. Final 2 is structured as an old-school scrolling shooter with a series of stages and most frustratingly, instantly lethal enemy fire. Touch or even graze an enemy or a bullet and you lose a life; three lives lost means a Game Over screen, with a limited number of opportunities to continue depending on the difficulty level. The “Practice” difficulty, which one would think is the easiest since it’s listed first, starts out at three lives but increases to ten and then thirty over multiple playthroughs. The next level down, called “Kids,” gives 99 continues, and by the time I walked away from my final run ready to walk out into a rainstorm and scream myself hoarse, I had used more than half of that number. I definitely don’t have the reflexes to survive long on the other three difficulties: “Normal”, “Bydo,” and “R-Typer.”
Blasting item ships (which can kill you) unlocks different power-ups, and the first one you get also brings with it a bit that can fire in multiple directions depending on the number of items you pick up and also absorbs some fire. Getting hit once brings you back to the basic gun, which can lead to a downward spiral of enjoyment if you can’t even make it to the point of getting the first item because there’s that many enemies firing at once. It’s not quite bullet hell, but sometimes I wonder. There are branching paths in the story, but I never could find out what changes: I suspect there’s one in the third stage if I could beat the boss (a giant capital ship who alternates between exposing the weak point, massive lasers, or a wave of bullets - I “timed out” the boss every time), but I’m not sure how to get to stages 6-A or 6-B. Even getting more than the basic three ships for use in combat is complicated: you have to use the game’s Museum mode to unlock one of the 99 options, then select the ship and hit Y. Unlocking the ships can happen in multiple ways: they can be built with materials earned for stage completion, unlocked after beating stages, or even via passwords (try “granzella” or “loveandpeace”). The museum does also indicate more ships are coming in updates with a neat excuse (“under development by the Granzella Corporation”).
I’m not sure if the Switch was the main target platform for R-Type Final 2, but I’m assuming not based on some of its technical issues. Even a digital version still had 7 to 10-second loads between fade out and fade in for the next ship; the Game Over screen was quick to appear, though. There are also some major framerate hits in the late stages, especially in 7-1 which has capital ships flying every which way but loose and I swear the framerate dropped into the single digits; it wasn’t for dramatic effect, either. Again, the devs are planning updates, so hopefully these bumps can be smoothed out. Handheld mode is also somewhat suboptimal as some of the fire is small bullets that become even harder to see on the smaller screen.
The backgrounds in Final 2 are a bit busy, which might be contributing to the slowdown? They’re nice enough, but they fade out to keep the focus on the enemies and your ship + the bit: The enemy designs are interesting and varied, and if you get bored with the ship you’re using there are plenty of options for swapping it out. Musically, the game is fine, but the explosion of yet another stupid death will get a bit annoying after a while.
I didn’t understand what R-Type Final 2 was doing with its Practice difficulty—you’d think it’d be easy with unlimited continues. I mean, we’re talking about PRACTICE. It took me several days to get the idea of what the game was doing, so I’m probably going to bounce off it. It’s only really recommended for those with way better reflexes than me—which to be fair, is probably everyone reading this.