Larry SonntagLarry Sonntag

Shoot-em-up games have come a long way since societal rejects poured a mint of quarters into “Space Invaders.” “R-Type Final” shows just how far game development has come. It’s the most complete, well-designed and all-around polished game in its genre.

At first glance, “R-Type’s” game play seems standard fare – a ship flies around and blasts aliens. Every ship has a basic rapid-fire peashooter and a wave cannon that can unleash a powerful blast. By picking up power ups, the ship can dock with a “force” which is a detachable node that can fire powerful lasers and absorb bullets.

However, there are 101 truly unique ships to choose from, and therein lies the real meat of the game. Only a handful of ships are available from the outset – more can be unlocked by completing certain goals.

Each ship has an individual look, force and wave cannon, which can range from useful to funny to downright bizarre. The Carnival Wave Cannon shoots a giant firecracker, while the Bydo Wave Cannon emits an ephemeral alien that crawls around on the screen.

Because each ship is so different, it makes the process of replaying levels a fresh experience every time. Game play is still interesting through the 20th hour and beyond.

R-Type Final packs a basic seven levels, with eight more that are unlockable. The levels are lengthy and incredibly well designed. For example, the third stage is an attack run on a giant battleship flying in between the buildings of a large city. At one point the camera rotates to an overhead view, and shows debris falling to the crowded streets below, causing me to shout “Suck it, cars!” Detailed backgrounds like this are a nice touch.

Speaking of level and ship design, some of the things in “R-Type” can be rather… anatomic in nature. For instance, one of the bosses projects a giant glowing phallus while emitting several small spermish-like tadpoles. The last level even shows a silhouette of a man and woman in the background, first embracing, and then taking it to the floor – though it’s not explicit. With ships named the “Sexy Dynamite” and “Plutonic Love,” I wondered just what was on the developers’ minds at the time.

Graphics give plenty for the eyes to marvel at, with sparklies and explosions at every turn. The bigger wave cannons and lasers are impressively modeled. The music suits the game extremely well, featuring a techno sound track fitting for a future alien war.

All that and at 30 clams, it’s an bargain as well. This game is a definite must-have for any fans of the genre, and an incredible deal for anyone looking for a game with tons of depth and replay value.