Thanks to NIS AMERICA for the review code
Title: R-TYPE FINAL 2
System: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 04/30/2021
In this sequel to R-TYPE FINAL, released back in 2003, you take control of the R-9 and other spacecrafts as you go out on yet another mission to defeat the Bydo invasion! There are lots of interesting lore tidbits and backstories in the game’s gallery, but in terms of the main game, there’s little story at all, just good shooting action like the retro days!
Having played this a lot on Xbox Series X, I was originally going to strictly cover that version of the game. However, I ended up getting a review copy for the Switch version of the game in the middle of the writing process, which thus means the following will be regarding that port of the game, with the Series X version used as an occasional comparison piece.
In general, the game looks pretty decent, with well-designed 3D models that fit in line with the rest of the series, including a bunch of old and new enemies. Not much else to really say about that, since R-Type enemies are usually forgettable to begin with, but I did notice the occasional cute touch such as how the power-up enemy will swim with its feet during the underwater stage.
In regards to the backgrounds of the stages in general, they get the job mostly done, but the earlier stages definitely feel pretty generic, with Stage 5 being the only one of the pre-final levels that I felt had decently made backgrounds. It’s a rather disappointing sight, especially considering how iconic a lot of R-TYPE stages have been over the years. At the very least, the final stages when the game diverts into multiple routes always offer interesting eye-candy, so it does end on a high note.
Unfortunately, this is where the Switch comes into play, as this OK visual design is made a lot worse on the Switch, due to the resolution changing often and lowering to the point of being blurry at times, especially when a lot of action happens on screen or during a transitional cutscene. It’s tolerable in handheld mode, but in docked mode it becomes incredibly annoying, especially when combined with inconsistent framerate that ranges from above 30 to 60, instead of the locked 60 of the XSX version. It’s not the worst feeling or looking switch port I played, but it definitively could have had a lot more polish put into the performance aspect.
Last but not least, the OST for Final 2 is a bit on the disappointing front too, with none of the stage or boss themes remaining memorable to me whatsoever, a big contrast from the legendary score the series is known for. Yet oddly enough, there are still some super good tracks in the game, and they come from the menus of all places.
The main menu is really good, pushing a hopeful theme to prepare you for the next mission ahead, and the best song in the game by far goes to the R-Museum, where you create all the aircraft. The somber nature of this theme is just so good that I’ve idled on the menus here just to listen to this on loop as I focus on writing other things, and it’s pretty surprising this wasn’t one of the songs included in the sampler CD. Big shoutouts to the ending theme too, which sounds absolutely incredible when the Japanese lyrics are enabled.
R-Type Final 2 plays just like you’d expect a game in the series to: the main goal being to take your ship across seven different levels in order to stop the Bydo Empire’s latest attack! It’s a strictly horizontal shooter, and the controls are near identical to the original R-Type, with the new additions being the option to speed up and slow down your ship between four levels, and a devastating special weapon that you can use when your force pod absorbs enough energy. Otherwise, it’s super easy to jump into even if you’ve only played the original R-Type beforehand, or none at all!
After choosing from one of several difficulties, it’s off to the first stage, as you’re sent on a gauntlet of stages just like the old days. There’s tons of fun shooting involved, and once again powerups work on a familiar progression scale, where you can obtain Red, Blue, or Yellow orbs in order to perform differing attacks once your force pod is fully powered, along with side weapons such as missiles and the rarely seen bit items (for some really weird reason, these bits feel like they do not exist in the game at all despite every other powerup being showered upon you during the adventure). Memorize and navigate to the end of the stage, beat the boss, and repeat until you reach the end of stage 5, where an event will cause a split route to take shape, leading to two different ending stages!
All in all, it’s fairly standard, and I found the hitboxes to be pretty decent, the controls to be super tight, and the game to be an immense amount of fun. You do start out with limited continues, but not unlike Gradius V, multiple attempts will eventually lead to more continues being awarded, and you’ll need those for the final stages, since even the easiest setting will put up a fierce fight! Yet I didn’t feel the game was cheap or impossible at any points either, and memorization was key to this big-time, so eventually you’ll be able to reach an ending if you put some dedication to it, leading to a fantastic main game experience.
However, there is one huge gripe I have with the Switch version in particular, since it can be a horrendous pace-killer, and that is the loading times. Normally I don’t get bothered by loading times in a game unless they’re absurd, and honestly, they aren’t absurd even on this version of the game in general. Yet there’s one aspect where even a little bit of time can become infuriating, and that’s the respawning.
Like older R-Types, you get sent back to a checkpoint upon death, which makes sense. But in Final 2, there’s a loading screen between dying and going back to the checkpoint. On Series X, this lasts around 2-3 seconds and isn’t a problem in the slightest, but on Switch I’ve waited 5-10 seconds, usually in the latter, and it can make difficult sections of the game even more annoying to play, since there’s just tons and tons of waiting involved between each life, and it all adds up ludicrously fast, hurting the pacing of this Switch port immensely.
Along with that, the aforementioned performance issues can be annoying at points too, though at the very least, the controls are still rock solid, and thankfully I didn’t find the framedips to be nearly as annoying as the load times. So in this version’s case, it definitively has some bumps in the road.
Outside of the main campaign, you have the biggest thing that the original final was known for, and that’s the R-Museum, where a whole bunch of differing ships can be unlocked to play as, each with their own unique abilities, weapons, and special moves to pull off! While the same colored powerups will fly at you, they each provide a different take on the traditional laser/beam/fire triangle, leading to a lot of customization options to mess with, and even the option to create your own ship where you can mix and match aspects from anything you have unlocked! However, there is one disappointing aspect to this, and that comes from how there aren’t nearly as many ships as in the original Final. You have 99 slots, sure, but most of them eventually end at either a roadblock with a password required to open up the next branch, or it just outright tells you that Granzella is in the middle of manufacturing the next ones. It’s pretty disappointing and is the one aspect of the game that feels the most incomplete by far, especially considering how Final 1 had tons of stuff from the getgo and even let you play as cameo ships from other Irem games, a trait I hope continues in updates here.
Besides that, you also need to build these ships with resources dropped from completing stages, which means that yes, you will end up having to grind in order to get everything currently available. While you can buy packs of the rarer resources with the normal currency, those are finite, and once you run out of them, you’re stuck having to rely on repeat playthroughs to get the amount you need. Yet the dumbest part of all this isn’t the fact that the resources are repetitive, but rather than some of them are obscenely rare. The green materials in particular feel like an engima you barely got any of after clearing a stage, and the fact you need hundreds of them to unlock the later ships, means that you would eventually have to throw yourself at the game dozens of times to afford one ship. Definitely some rebalancing is needed to make the currency more fun to obtain without feeling soul sucking, especially since the other resources aren’t nearly as hair pulling.
Outside of the ships, you can even customize some other aspects, from sticking decals on your ship, giving your pilot a cool animation pose, editing the loading and title screen images, to even outright changing the name of the game once you complete it. No, I am not kidding with that last one. There’s even a score attack mode so you can replay your favorite stages to your hearts content for better high scores, though depressingly, there are no leaderboards of any kind, either local or online, so it’s just your top score that gets saved per stage/general run.
In conclusion, R-TYPE FINAL 2 is a great shump and a worthy series revival, but definitively feels like a WIP in some points with balancing that still needs to be done. It’s incredibly accessible though with the multiple difficulties, and it offers tight controls and fun levels to play through, along with a bunch of ships to unlock and mess with, even if the irritating material grinding makes it nowhere near as impressive as the original Final in that regard.
However, the lack of any leaderboards stings quite a bit, and this Switch version is easily the worst of all the ports of the game due to the loading times between lives alone. If you try out the demo and end up not minding that aspect, then this is still a decent port that could be ironed out with better framerate overtime, but otherwise, play this gem on any other system, less you want to play on the go.
I give R-TYPE FINAL 2 for Switch a 7 out of 10. If you’re considering the Series X version I talked about in passing, I’d give that a 9 due to not having the main gripes I had with this port, save for the irritating lack of bits, low ship count, and grinding for ship resources, that are still indeed an issue in all versions.