R-Type Dimensions comes with an “infinite lives” mode for a reason – because games were harder in the late 80s, and no genre exemplifies that quarter-eating mentality that carried over to console releases better than R-Type. You are tasked with saving the Earth from the evil Bydo Empire using only one small ship and what few shmup skills you still have from 15 years ago. Matters are complicated by the Bydo having literal swarms of enemies that take multiple hits to kill. They’re also all really good at aiming shots at your poor little ship.
R-Type Dimensions, like R-Types (PSX) and R-Type DX (GB) before it, combines R-Type and R-Type II to satisfy your frustration needs. SouthEnd added a couple of neat features to R-Type Dimensions that bring it nicely into the HD era and make it more accessible to today’s audience. First, the graphics – although gorgeous and richly detailed for the time – have been made over, and the ability to switch between classic graphics and HD graphics on the fly just by pressing the Y button. It’s a neat little feature that really makes the upgrades stand out. Second, R-Type Dimensions features “Infinite Mode” where you have unlimited lives and your score is based on the number of ships lost. In this mode there are no checkpoints – you’ll pick up right where you left off which can be both a blessing and a curse during boss fights as you’ll have a hard time picking up new power-ups.
HD graphics and wuss (read: me) mode aside, R-Type Dimensions is a true remake. Enemies are in the same places, they have the same attacks, bosses follow the same patterns, and if you just mastered R-Type three days ago then you’ll breeze right through the updated game since R-Type Dimensions is a shot-for-shot remake of R-Type and R-Type II. The only thing that SouthEnd has done wrong with this conversion is a problem with console games as a whole so it’s hard to fault them for it – non-customizable controls. It doesn’t matter if the developer thinks A should be shoot and B should be rapid fire. If, for whatever crackpot reason I come up with, I would like those button assignments reversed then I should be able to reverse them.
The last sticking point is price, and this is a symptom of a larger problem with the XBLA service. A year ago R-Type Dimensions would have sold for 800 points, and I’m just not seeing the requisite upgrade to warrant a perceived 50% price increase. Microsoft used to have it right, XBLA is an impulse buy outlet, and $10 is about my ceiling for impulse buys. If I’m going to pay $15 or $20 for a downloadable game it had better be as large and polished as Insomniac’s Ratchet & Clank Future: Quest for Booty. No matter how polished it is, a port of a 20 year old game just isn’t worth $15. R-Type is just as fun now as it was when I first played it though, and price can’t change that.
Plays Like: R-Type, R-Type II, R-Types, R-Type DX
ESRB: E for mild fantasy violence – there’s shooting without gore, and you’re fighting to save the world
Pros: Exact layout you remember, great graphical update, infinite mode is great for those of us who are rusty
Cons: too expensive, non-customizable controls