Super NES Works dies horribly in Super R-Type

The retrospective series returns to its regularly scheduled updates with a bone-crushing shooter.

The Video Chronicles project has taken a few timely detours lately into new Super NES releases, Nintendo 64 games relevant to new Switch games, and patron requests. But today, it's back, baby, back! We resume our chronological march through the Super NES's library by setting our sights on 1991 and Irem's Super NES debut with Super R-Type. It's like R-Type — well, R-Type II — but it's on Super Nintendo, see.

I've always found Super R-Type to be somewhat vexing for a few different reasons. As I mention in the video, the original R-Type ended up becoming a sort of white whale for me, as a friend owned the excellent Master System conversion and the game somehow never came out for NES. This, despite Irem's extremely close relationship to Nintendo in the U.S.: As explored in NES Works, the only two third-party titles available at the NES's American launch were Irem titles that Nintendo helped co-develop. Weirder still, Nintendo distributed the arcade version of R-Type! I remember the first time I saw R-Type in the arcades, a couple years after having become familiar with it at my friend's house; I was convinced the Nintendo logo on the arcade marquee meant Nintendo had decided to pick it up for U.S. release and an NES port would be forthcoming any day now.

That never happened, though. In fact, until Virtual Console came along, the original R-Type never appeared on a Nintendo home console — only on portables. Nearly 20 years is a long time to wait, and Super R-Type wasn't quite the placebo one might have hoped. Again, this Super NES shooter is based on R-Type II, which is (1) way harder than the original game but also (2) considerably less imaginative. Sure, there are some neat touches, like the way the iconic Dobkeratops boss from R-Type's first stage reappears here in a Guyver-like armor suit (presumably a life support system after you blasted the almightty hell out of it in the original game), but nothing lands with the same impact as the previous game's most startling set pieces.

Anyway… it's not a bad game, but it turns out to be incredibly unforgiving. And it has that nagging slowdown you associate with early Super NES action games. Even at the time, Super R-Type felt like a little bit of a letdown, and these days there's really nothing to recommend it; you can find arcade and console conversions of both R-Type and R-Type II anywhere you look. About all this port has going for it is the way it remixes some stages, but that's the sort of thing only completists care about. For us shooter civilians, this is one you can easily skip without feeling wracked by hopeless FOMO.