From the first time I saw R-Type at my local game room, I was as intimidated as I was impressed. The game looked hard as hell, and its graphics were downright creepy. Everything had teeth and oozed around the screen, and the background pulsated and glowed in the most eerie fashion. Instead of the fast and loud FM synth soundtracks I was used to, R-Type’s was full of resolve, desperation, and urgency. The whole affair was a lot more stressful than a typical shmup, but you know what? I loved it.
Soon afterward, Irem’s classic R-Type came home in many fashions, most notably on the TurboGrafx-16 and the Master System (which is a great port!), and sequels abounded on the SNES and PlayStation. The years went by though, and Genesis owners never got the chance to fight the Bydo Empire in any form. It was the one franchise that the Genesis never had, and that console seemed to have every shmup series ever made. It was strange that not even the later games made an appearance.
Now, thanks to the amazing work of indie game developer Andrea Baldiraghi, better known as TheRoboz, that’s about to change. The team is currently hard at work at porting the original R-Type to the Genesis, with all the great visuals, music, and gameplay of the original but also with some new perks. This conversions will offer options from other versions of the game, like R-Type Dimensions and the PC-Engine game.
The project began in 2022, and a demo was slated for earlier this year. The complications of life delayed things, but development has started up again, and things seem to be moving at a great pace. By summer, great progress had been made, and The Roboz even hinted that a secret stage not present in the arcade original (but included by developer Compile in the Master System version) would be added.
A demo was recently released in which players can try three different stages (one, five, and the secret stage). There are plenty of customization options as well, including different ships to use (including a prototype Leo sans Force Pod that can shoot power-up crystals to change their color), arcade and remixed soundtracks, two different difficulty levels, a sound test, and three different screen sizes (PC-Engine’s vertical scrolling, Dimensions with the HUD on top, or full-screen with HUD on bottom).
After spending a good chunk of time with the demo, I can say that this is going to be an impressive piece of work once it’s finished. Gameplay is buttery smooth, with no slowdown or flicker. Enemies swarm the screen and the bosses are as huge as menacing as you remember. There are some things that still need some work. For instance, I don’t recall the ring in stage one still firing after all of its segments have been destroyed. Also, shooting the Force Pod into bosses so that it will remain there while firing doesn’t seem to work as well as it did in the arcade and Master System versions. The pod keeps pulling back towards your ship instead of staying put. In fairness, this is still an early demo, so these wrinkles will likely be ironed out before the game is finalized.
TheRoboz has done an excellent job porting Irem’s legendary shmup to the Genesis, and we can’t wait to see the final product. Expect a full review when it lands.
Update (11-01-2023): TheRoboz has informed us that as of version 1.1 of the demo, the ring in stage one has been fixed to make it arcade accurate. The Force Pod has also been tweaked. “The way the Force Pod works for the first boss is just a little tougher, as it won’t exactly stick to it,” he told us, “but you can still shoot it in the head and damage it in place; it just requires a precise positioning and avoiding the tail to slap it back. I did this since most bosses are just ‘shoot the pod in,’ so I added a bit more strategy.”