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R-Type Review Rewind

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On 12/24/2013 at 12:00 PM by Jamie Alston

In space, no one can hear you flicker.

For the serious R-Type fan that must have every iteration of this game.

When R-Type showed up on the arcade scene in 1987, it was a force to be reckoned with. Thanks to its razor-sharp graphics and techno-organic alien atmosphere, the game quickly became considered to be one of the best shoot 'em ups (SHMUPs) of its time, rivaling the popularity of the Gradius series. With this arcade gem's success, it was only logical that it should be ported to every major home console, right? In theory, yes, but in reality, it saw a release on only two video game systems compared to being ported to at least eight personal computer systems at the time. Of the scarce home console releases, the Sega Master System saw a port of R-Type in 1988. Although faithful to the arcade version in terms of content, the game takes a nosedive when the action gets heavy.

You pilot the R-9 “arrowhead” on a mission to save humanity from the grip of the alien Bydo Empire. That’s the story in a nutshell. Your weaponry comes in a few forms. First and foremost, your ship comes equipped with the Wave Cannon. Holding down the fire button charges the cannon, which you can use to blast through waves of enemies (hence the name).

You also have the Force unit- the real star of the R-Type series. For the uninitiated, it’s an indestructible energy pod that can be attached to the front or back of your ship. Besides enhancing your firepower, you can detach it and have it fight alongside your craft. Force units allow you to use various strategies to defeat hordes of enemies where firepower alone won’t cut it. You can also use the Force drone as sort of a battering ram against weaker ships or fling it at the weak points of boss enemies. It’s an ingenious way to even the playing field, so to speak, without making the game too easy.

Additionally, you have a few other weapons available to you by collecting a fallen enemy's gem. The power-ups come in three flavors- the reflecting laser (blue gem), the anti-air laser (red gem), and the anti-land laser (yellow gem). My personal favorite is the reflecting laser- a three-way beam that ricochets off walls and other objects. I found that it gave me the most flexibility to fend off enemies from all sides. As is the case with most shooters, each weapon has its strengths and weakness, but all of them can be quite helpful depending on where you are in the game.

There’s no throwaway weapon to speak of. Rounding out your arsenal, you can obtain a homing missile and two small satellites called "bits", which give you added physical protection and can fire additional shots when used in conjunction with the anti-air laser. If all of this sounds like overkill, it isn’t. You’ll need all the firepower you can muster for the opposition ahead.

R-Type is known for its punishing difficulty in the arcade, and such is the case on the Master System- but for the wrong reason. More dangerous than the swarm of enemy bullets and gigantic bosses is the heavy flickering that plague each stage. With the number of objects continually filling the screen, the game has a hard time keeping up with it all. And when the action starts flickering, it becomes far too easy to get clipped by an invisible bullet. This happened to me time and again- especially on the fifth stage, where the enemy bullets blend in with the background. None of this rendered the game unplayable, but it does get in the way of an otherwise beautiful game.


It’s a shame because, when it isn’t bogged down with flicker galore, the game’s visual quality is nothing short of gorgeous- as evidenced in the first stage. The background nicely fades from the infinite starfield into the alien base, complete with blinking lights and rotating sentries encircling your ship. Without question, an effort was made to mimic its arcade equivalent; it’s just hard to appreciate the further you advance in the game because of the flickering.

If you enjoyed the musical score in the arcades, you'd be happy to know that it remains intact as best as possible on the home front. The audio quality shows through in both the soundtrack as well as the sound effects. It all stayed true to the arcade version, as much as could be expected from an 8-bit console anyway.


Overall, R-Type is a serviceable port on the Master System. The unique weapons, colossal alien bosses, and Force unit made R-Type the series the classic it is today. However, the flickering action throughout the game makes this a hard sell to anyone unwilling to grin and bear it, even for the series' fans. The bottom line is, when you consider the fact that it’s much easier to get an arcade-perfect port of this game nowadays, it makes this version even less worthwhile. Unless you’re an R-Type fan or Master System enthusiast, there isn’t much to like with this one. Your money can be better spent elsewhere.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

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Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.




12/24/2013 at 12:16 PM

I missed out on the Sega Master System. I never had the chance to play this one in the arcades either. It looks like fun. Although it seems like a lot of screen flickering would be a serious annoyance in a shmup. Those games are already difficult enough lol.

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

12/24/2013 at 12:41 PM

Yes, the flickering is very annoying. I can't tell you how many times I got clipped by an "invisible" bullet.

Cary Woodham

12/24/2013 at 12:48 PM

Never really liked R-Type.  Just a bit too hard.

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

12/24/2013 at 09:08 PM

You ain't lying Cary.  I tried playing through the arcade version recently.  I could barely make it past stage 1.  I still love the invention of the Force drone.  It can work wonders for you if you know how to use it.


12/24/2013 at 12:56 PM

I liked playing R-Type.  I never played this version though. 

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

12/24/2013 at 09:09 PM

Trust me, you're not missing much.  Don't get me wrong -- it was a goood effort to get on a home console, but it just felt like the Master System hardware just couldn't handle all the action.  I think they should have scaled it back a little.

Angelo Grant Staff Writer

12/28/2013 at 12:34 PM

I love me some R-Type. It was the first time I saw anything like the "force" drone or those biological environments. It completely blue my mind as a kid. I think the SNES ones are my favorites.

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

12/30/2013 at 07:28 AM

Yeah, Super R-Type was the first R-Type game I played.  I remember when my brother brought it home and poped it in the Super NES.  Yeah, I loved the whole idea behind the Force helper.  I felt invincible when I'd have it fully powered up.


12/29/2013 at 02:50 AM

Looks like Irem and Sega tried to do more than the Master System was built for with this one. The best developers during the third gen recognized the strengths and weaknesses of the NES (and Genesis) and worked around them. That's how we got games like Bionic Commando on NES that were actually superior to their arcade counterparts even with the hit in audio and video fidelity.

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

12/30/2013 at 07:30 AM

Yeah, they should have dialed it back a little when porting R-Type to the Master System.

I was thinking the same thing about Capcom's home ports of famous games in the NES days.  The NES version often would turn out to be bettter than the arcade versions.  A true testament to good game design.

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