Shoot-‘em-ups have always been at the very core of the arcade experience. From the dramatic rise
of Taito’s Space Invaders to today’s modern light gun experiences, this genre has defined the arcade gaming experience more than any other. Shoot-‘em-ups became popular during the Eighties; then, in 1987, came R-Type, the first game in what would become a legendary series. With the first two games now available on our service, join Antstream Arcade for the Secret History Of R-Type!
Blast off and strike the evil Bydo Empire! The horizontal shoot-‘em-up genre received a massive jolt in 1987 with Irem’s R-Type, a rock-hard thriller set against a seemingly-unstoppable alien force. Of course, we had seen similar games before, particularly Konami’s Gradius. That game established the power-up mechanics; R-Type took this concept and bonded it into some of the most iconic level design of all time against some of the most memorable enemies and bosses ever seen. But power-ups aside, it’s the wave cannon that forms the core of R-Type’s tactical play. The R-9A Arrowhead fighter has a rapid-fire laser beam – but hold the fire button down for a few seconds, and it charges into a slower, yet considerably more potent, blast of intensity that destroys most enemies and seriously weakens bosses.
The smash-hit success of R-Type made a sequel inevitable, and Irem did not disappoint, albeit many months later. Eventually released in 1989 (Japan) and 1990 (rest of the world), R-Type II mixes the dynamics that made the original so popular with a new wave of exciting visuals. While there was plenty of stimulation – and familiarity – for fans of the original, R-Type II is a case of ‘if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it’. Running again on Irem’s M72 hardware, the relentless assault of the avenging Bydo empire is even harsher in this game, making it a supreme challenge for even experienced fans of the original.
Next up, Irem curiously opted for a spin-off game entitled Armed Police Unit Gallop, a.k.a. Cosmic
Cop. In this game, the player is in control of an R-11B Peacemaker craft and is on a mission to
eliminate Bydo-infected vehicles, colloquially known as mad cars. Cosmic Cop plays similarly to the previous games, albeit with a more ground-based backdrop that gives the manic shooting action a dystopian feel.
For the next and final arcade appearance for the R-Type series, fans were treated to the
mysteriously familiar-yet-diverse R-Type Leo. Initially conceived as a new game, Irem engineered Leo into another chapter in the R-Type franchise, this time pitching the eponymous spacecraft against a powerful supercomputer hidden deep within a well-defended mechanical planet. Finally,
simultaneous two-player play is possible while the Force device has been transformed into two
smaller weapons called the Psy-Bits. R-Type Leo proved a suitable send-off to the classic series in
arcades, as heinously brutal and relentless as its forebears. The battle against the Bydo would
continue… in our homes.
Skipping past Super R-Type – a partial SNES port of the first two arcade games and several new segments of its own – the title of the first wholly original home game in this series belongs to R-Type III: The Third Lightning debuting on the SNES in 1993. New weapon systems, crisp visuals and some nifty Mode 7 effects gave this game a solid reception upon release, but it would be some time before we saw the name R-Type again.
Finally, in 1999, westerners got to feast their eyes on R-Type Delta, the latest iteration of the classic shoot-‘em-up series, freshly minted into a new display that incorporates 3D elements. Having tested the PlayStation market with R-Types, a compilation of the first two games re-tooled for the Sony console, Irem released this completely new game, albeit one that didn’t stray too far from the original formula. R-Type Delta successfully powered the series onto a new generation with a beautifully clean aesthetic, bolstered by those geometric polygons and innovative power for the Force (it accumulates energy by absorbing enemy fire).
The following Sony PlayStation console, the PS2, received the latest version of R-Type in 2003.
Portentously named R-Type Final, it was indeed intended as a glorious valediction for the series, and there’s a tense and investigative feel to this chapter. The Bydo have been vanquished, but there’s a mysterious entity lurking within a deserted space colony. With its 101 playable spaceships and continually hectic action, there’s no doubting that this is another fine entry in the series. The weaving of human-Bydo technology is a theme that evolves into the next game, R-Type Final II. It would appear that despite the terminality of its latest name, the R-Type legend is set to continue. Now, blast off, and take the fight to the evil Bydo!
You can play R-Type and R-Type II on Antstream Arcade now for free. Stay tuned for another Secret History on Antstream Arcade soon!