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The Antstream Arcade Archive: R-Type

In our latest Antstream Arcade Archive series, we look at another specific game from the Antstream Arcade Retro vault, giving you the lowdown on its plot, gameplay, tips and more. This month, we proudly present Irem’s R-Type, the famous shoot-‘em-up that blasted into arcades in 1987.

Now this game I remember! Remind me what it’s all about, other than shoot, shoot, shoot?

Of course you remember it – Irem’s R-Type took arcades by storm in the late Eighties and is rightly

renowned as one of the best videogames of all time. In the slimmest of slim plots, an alien race known as the Bydo is attacking our Solar System and threatening to wipe out all of humankind. Fortunately, there’s an experimental space fighter known as the R-9A Arrowhead – the R-Type of the title. Jump into this nippy yet powerful craft and blast off to strike against the evil Bydo Empire!

What makes R-Type such a great example of the shoot-‘em-up genre?

Irem took notice of the success of Konami’s fellow hit, Gradius, incorporating powerups into its game. At pre-set moments throughout each level, small jumping robots appear. Destroy them, and they drop an orb. This grants you the Force Device, a small sphere that attaches to your craft and can be used as a defensive or offensive measure, giving the game a tremendous tactical edge. Blue, orange and red orbs engage specific types of laser, while the missile and speed powerups are self-explanatory. Finally, your R-Type spaceship can boost its rapid-fire laser into a powerful beam that will destroy most enemies and severely weaken bosses. It comes with a price: you cannot fire while charging, leaving the R-9A temporarily vulnerable. The result is a supremely tactical shooter and a famous name in the genre we know and love today.

The alien on that poster looks familiar…

Sci-fi horror sequel Aliens had debuted a year earlier, and it’s clear that the film heavily influenced the Irem designers. Several later levels are full of organic enemies and imagery that can’t help but remind you of the James Cameron flick. They even come out of the walls! The bosses are also incredible in R-Type. From the cover star, Dobkeratops, to the pumping heart at the end of level two and the giant warship that dominates stage three, each boss is unique and a different challenge to the last.

It’s renowned as one of the most brutal games out there. Any help would be appreciated…

The force device is the key to surviving for long in R-Type. It can be attached to either the rear or front of the R-9A Arrowhead, and wherever you have it, it protects you and attacks the Bydo. While it may be tempting, try not to pick up more than two speed powerups – you’ll be crazily zipping around the screen should you gather a third or more. Otherwise, study the alien patterns, don’t forget to launch the force device against bosses and pray!

I’m ready to take the fight to the evil Bydo Empire! But what are my chances of becoming the top alien-killer on the Antstream Arcade leaderboard?

You’ll need lightning reactions, persistence and a ton of luck if you’re to best our top R-Typers on

Antstream Arcade. In third place is OldStyleGaming with 245,800 points, just below the talented

CharlieFar with a score of 277,600. However, take a bow, Weskerumbrella, whose incredible score of 431,500 points, is likely to see him in the top spot for some time.

Outside of the arcade, what else is there to R-Type?

Electric Dreams handled many of R-Type’s home ports, and it was the humble ZX Spectrum that got the most impressive game, courtesy of programmer Bob Pape. Including practically all of the arcade game’s features (including the massive end-of-level bosses), it’s incredible what Bob squeezed into just 48K. R-Type is a legendary arcade licence for the ZX Spectrum with all of the powerups present. You can read all about it in Bob’s book, It’s Behind You, which is available for free on his website.

So the villainous Bydo gets it in the end.

Well, hold on a moment there, chief. The success of R-Type meant a sequel was inevitable, and Irem did not disappoint, producing R-Type II two years later. But if you’re expecting a more leisurely ride this time around, you’d be gravely mistaken. The Bydo are back and even meaner than before. Blast off, again!

Enough chat! I’m off to Antstream Arcade to take on the evil Bydo Empire!

That’s the spirit! Good luck – you’ll need it!

Thank you for reading - watch out for another blast from the Antstream Arcade Archive soon!


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