R-Type Final 2 Review – Nintendo Switch

This one’s for you if classic shoot ’em ups R your Type of game.

Originally released in 1987 into arcades across the globe, the original R-Type is widely celebrated and often referred to as one the best shoot ’em up games ever made. This quintessential title featured addictive side-scrolling gameplay, advanced graphics for the time with huge, detailed bosses, and punishingly-difficult gameplay designed to chew through your spare change. In fact, the original game became so popular that it has since been ported to over 15 different platforms!

Left to right: R-Type (arcade), R-Type (Gameboy), R-Type: Dimensions (PC)

It should come as no surprise that such a successful game would spawn a multitude of sequels, spin-offs and compilations. During the ’80s and ’90s the genre was booming, and the R-Type series saw three direct sequels during this time. However, with advances in gameplay and home gaming consoles, focus for shooting games turned from the humble shmup to the now massively-popular FPS. As one last hurrah, the developer Irem decided to release the series’ swansong on PlayStation 2: R-Type Final. Released in 2003, this was intended to be the “final” game in the series and featured a massive roster of 101 unlockable ships.

R-Type Final Playstation 2
The critically-acclaimed R-Type Final on PlayStation 2.

Plot twist: R-Type Final was not the final R-Type (much like Final Fantasy is not the final Final Fantasy).

Almost two decades later, a Twitter post surfaced on April Fool’s Day 2019, showing off a teaser trailer for the ironically-named R-Type Final 2. Much to the surprise of fans across the globe, this was no April Fool’s joke at all! Later that year a Kickstarter was launched touting the return of the iconic shmup, raising over $1,000,000USD thus reviving this beloved series. Now almost 18 years since the last main title, it’s time to once again blast your way through swarms of galactic aliens in R-Type Final 2 for Nintendo Switch, PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, and PlayStation 4.

Premise

As a direct sequel to 2003’s R-Type Final, you take on the role of a lone pilot in an endless war against the Bydo, a mysterious galactic race waging war against humanity. Having struck the source of the Bydo in Final, humanity has been able to develop more advanced anti-Bydo weaponry in order to retaliate. With a vast array of aircraft and artillery now at your disposal, you’re tasked with recovering the remaining war records from the initial conflict and to put an end to the Bydo once and for all.

The story is paper thin, as is the case for most games that focus almost entirely on gameplay. At the beginning of the game you’ll be presented with brief interactions between characters to set the scene, but outside of this any aspects of the story are delivered through simple bonus descriptions that are found in the game’s gallery and manual.

Gameplay

This is where any shoot ’em up truly shines, and R-Type Final 2 is no exception. If you’ve played any other shmup game, you’ll immediately be familiar with the majority of the gameplay, which involves piloting a spacecraft through multiple levels, fending off hordes of enemies, and confronting a large boss at the end. It’s simple gameplay that has been refined over decades, but the basic concept is mostly unchanged. Each level is scattered with power-ups that will enhance your weaponry or provide unique weapons that are more powerful but focused, or weaker with the ability to clear the screen. There are also stereotypical charged attacks, which can be devastating but leave you open and vulnerable while charging.

R-Type Final 2 Nintendo Switch Laser
The laser is slow but powerful, and useful against larger enemies.

R-Type, however, manages to set its gameplay apart from other shmups through its use of the Force (no Star Wars copyright infringement intended), a small independent ship that can be attached/detached which pilots and fires autonomously. Effectively utilising the Force is essential if you want to progress through R-Type, as without it you’ll quickly find yourself overwhelmed by enemies with no hope of clearing the screen. Power-ups to your ship will also transfer to the Force, and produce some unique attacks depending on whether it becomes attached to either the front of the rear of your ship. Some circumstances require quick management of this, as you’ll have enemies approaching from both sides of the screen.

R-Type Final 2 Nintendo Switch Boss Fight
Using the Force to fire backwards is a vital tactic.

Difficulty is undoubtedly punishing, as is the case for most games in this genre, made more challenging in R-Type as your ship can only take a single hit and screens are often littered with bullets and hazards. You’ll most likely find yourself having to play through levels ad nauseum before finally gaining a grasp on patterns of attacks; though it is satisfying to pass through a level unscathed once you’ve had enough practice. There are also several different difficulty levels, which sadly I had to resort to playing on “Kids” difficulty for part of the game (this destroyed my fragile masculinity).

Visuals/Performance

Having played entirely on the Nintendo Switch, I started R-Type Final 2 with the expectation that the game’s visuals would be dumbed down in order to accommodate the handheld. Although this is partly the case, as this version of the game is not quite as visually-detailed, it is barely noticeable. The game’s cheesey sci-fi cutscenes are a pleasure to watch and environments retain an attractive sci-fi aesthetic befitting of the game’s tone.

R-Type Final 2 Nintendo Switch Cutscene Visuals
The CGI cutscene at the beginning of the game looks excellent.

With detailed environments, particle effects aplenty, and a busy screen sometimes packed with projectiles, the game manages to perform incredibly well with very few drops in framerate. My gameplay was 50/50 handheld and docked during which I noticed very little difference in terms of performance. It’s a pleasant surprise to play a game with so much going on while having no compromise to the handheld mode.

Music

Composed by Yuki “Sato” Iwai, the soundtrack to R-Type Final 2 accompanies your journey through space and features the typical electronic beats that tend to be heard in shmup games. Having worked on several previous titles in the series (as well as quite a number of Mega Man games too!), Iwai creates tracks with a soundscape that are fitting for the aesthetic of each level. Although most are immemorable and none are particularly catchy, the songs will at least not get on your nerves after being heard repeatedly after each death.

Extra Features

Are you a completionist? If so, R-Type Final 2 is your dream. There is an absolute plethora of unlockable content for those that chase that elusive 100%. Completing levels will award you with currency that can be spent in the shop: unlocking decals for your ship, modifications to your space suit, or buying resources that can be spent on upgrades. There are 99 (probably even more!) different ships that can be developed in the museum and will likely keep completionists busy for hours on end. I managed to finish the game by unlocking only 17, as you’ll generally be able to find a model of ship that suits your style of gameplay.

R-Type Final 2 Nintendo Switch Museum
You’ll spend quite a bit of time in the Museum upgrading your aircraft.

Strangely there has also been a photo mode added to the game, where you can dress up your pilot in different outfits, purchase silly poses, and stand alongside your spacecraft taking pictures with it. Photo modes are mostly suited to games with vast worlds and gorgeous, detailed environments (like Horizon Zero Dawn or Ghost of Tsushima), so this is an odd addition and feels incredibly out of place. Out of curiosity I briefly decided to give it a go and would likely never touch it again.

R-Type Final 2 Nintendo Switch Photo Mode
Not something I ever imagined I’d do in a shmup game.

Amusingly, you’ll also unlock the option to customise the game’s name from a set of chosen words upon completing the game. It’s simple, but I had far more fun messing around with this than the photo mode.

R-Type final 2 Nintendo Switch Custom Name
That’s the shmup where you play as a cloud, right?

Conclusion

With its classic gameplay, punishing difficulty, and enough content to keep you coming back for more, R-Type Final 2 is a modern shoot ’em up that successfully carries on the legacy of this iconic series. Fans of the genre will be elated to play R-Type Final 2, especially those who supported the Kickstarter and have been eagerly awaiting the release of the game. Though if you’re not a die-hard R-Type fan and instead just looking for an excellent shmup experience to play on the go, this should be at the top of your list. Be warned though, as this game is not for the faint of heart and may instead be a trial by fire for those unfamiliar with the genre.

So, why should you play it?

  • If you’re a fan of shoot ’em ups, you’d be mad to pass up on this.
  • One of the best arcade-style shooters on the Switch.
  • Completionists will be overjoyed at the amount of unlockable content.
  • An excellent challenge to test your gaming skills.

But why shouldn’t you play it?

  • If you’re completely new to shoot ’em ups, try one that is more forgiving.
  • Poor reaction times? Not the game for you, as your ship only takes a single hit.
  • Those not fond of playing the same stages numerous times should avoid this game.

A review code on Nintendo Switch was provided for the purpose of this review.

TASOMACHI: Behind the Twilight Review – PC

nocras is a name in the gaming industry you may not know, but one that deserves to be known. This individual is an environmental artist that has worked on the likes of Final Fantasy XIV, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and much more. Notable for grand-scale creations, nocras is an artist that 47k Twitter users follow closely, across language barriers and more.

nocras’ latest venture is TASOMACHI: Behind the Twilight. One look at screenshots and one may be in awe at the vibrant, elaborate environments broadcast straight from nocras’ vision. Thankfully, there’s more to it than just that, as TASOMACHI serves as a platformer/collectathon in the vein of Super Mario Odyssey and the like.

I could have screenshot any moment of the game and it would prove to be a looker.

GAMEPLAY/PLOT

TASOMACHI tasks the player with navigating towns and collecting Sources of Earth to repair their airship. These are hidden in bushes, the ground, and in other hard-to-reach places, demanding the player to platform their way across town. Along the way, they will encounter shrines in the towns with four platforming challenges each. Once completed, the towns’ mysterious fog disappears and the cat-like villagers return.

VISUALS

Some of the gorgeous environments you’ll explore, scattered with Chinese-style architecture.

Likely the most significant aspect of why TASOMACHI is moving copies is thanks to the mind of nocras. Together with developer Orbital Express, the atmosphere, inspired by a Chinese imperial aesthetic, is eye candy. It feels worthwhile to complete the shrines and make the towns look abuzz with no obfuscation from the fog, a true night-and-day difference. While architecture gets a bit redundant, the color scheme between towns sets them apart enough thanks to varying level design.

AUDIO

Another big draw that I didn’t realize until I took a gander at the Steam page was that Ujico/Snail’s House provided the music for the game. This musical artist is near and dear to me, as they provided the backdrop for some hilarious TF2 SFM videos, and can stretch from quirky bops to scenic jams across their discography. They delivered a standup job in TASOMACHI, providing ambient grace in exploration sections and upbeat tracks during platform dungeons.

CASUAL

Those looking for a relaxed time, look no further. There’s no combat in TASOMACHI: Behind the Twilight, and you’ll only lose a few seconds if you fall during a platform challenge. This laid-back pace will make it welcoming for casual players seeking pretty sights and sounds.

Towns are shrouded in fog until you clear platforming challenges within shrines.

CONS

Unfortunately, there are still some pain points within this game. The movement is fairly tight, a necessity for platformers, but requires some getting used to since it’s so floaty. One ability you unlock, “boost”, feels miniscule and nothing like a dash you may see in games within the genre. Text and animation feels similar to some that I’ve seen in early-access/shovelware titles, but not jarring enough to be more than a nitpick. Worse off, I encountered a crash every time I attempted to load the third town. This occurred within a mere 2 hours of gameplay and near to game completion, so it truly hampered the mood. Here’s hoping this gets patched soon.

CONCLUSION

Nevertheless, there’s potential to be had with TASOMACHI: Behind the Twilight. It’s undoubtedly gorgeous, an aural pleasure, and a strong first solo effort for nocras. Perhaps the $20 price tag is a bit steep for the state the game’s in, as it currently sits with a “mixed” rating on Steam, but with updates, this could become something great.

So, why should you play it?

  • Relaxed, casual game to experience at your own pace.
  • Bangin’ soundtrack from Ujico/Snail House.
  • Unreal environments.

But why shouldn’t you play it?

  • Game-breaking bug in my build.
  • Some platform challenges are a bit too tough, and need to be skipped.
One of several moments I had to stop and stare. And screenshot.

A PC code was provided for the purpose of this review.

Project Triangle Strategy Demo Impressions

It has been over thirteen years since the last Final Fantasy Tactics game, and 10 years since the highly-praised Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together – two Square Enix games that together helped define the tactical role-playing game genre. For the last decade there has been a lull in the genre from the acclaimed developer. That was until last week’s Nintendo Direct, which included the surprise announcement of the next game in the HD-2D series: Project Triangle Strategy for Nintendo Switch. Though it may have a bland and boring name, the game is anything but.

As an avid fan of the tactical RPG genre and having previously played Octopath Traveller, this announcement piqued my interest, and to my delight an extensive demo was made available on the Switch eShop immediately after the Direct. In this article I’ll be discussing some of the most important features of Triangle Strategy, some interesting aspects of the demo, and what to expect from the full game when it releases in 2022.

First impression:
Immediately upon booting up the demo, you’re greeted with a sequence that shows off the game’s distinct HD-2D art-style: 2D character sprites combined with high-definition pixel art environments jam-packed with beautiful lighting and particle effects. If you’ve played Octopath Traveler, this game will certainly look familiar. Though don’t be mistaken, this is no follow-up to Octopath, as it is set in a brand new continent, Norzelia, with an entirely new cast of characters. There’s no messing around once you press New Game either, as you’re immediately thrown right into the middle of the story, starting at Chapter 6 of the game.

The main menu, showcasing the game’s distinct HD-2D art style.

Plot & Characters:
The player assumes the role of young protagonist Serenoa Wolffort, heir to House Wolffort, who is caught in the midst of a struggle between three warring nations: Glenbrook, Aesfroste, and Hyzante. Each nation has control over a specific resource, and as such they compete for each other’s materials, known as The Saltiron War. Alongside him fight a band of companions, childhood friends, warriors, and his betrothed who hails from the opposing nation of Aesfrost. The story which is spread across two chapters taken from the game, is highly political, and allows the player to view each nation’s perspective during event sequences scattered throughout the world map. The tone of the game feels very similar to that of Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, as it feels quite real and gritty as opposed to a whimsical high fantasy setting.

Below are a few of the game’s main characters, represented in character cards that appear when you press X during any line of their dialogue. A nice touch that allows you to keep track of who’s who.

Gameplay:
At approximately 3 – 4 hours in length, the demo provides a surprising amount of content and allows an adequate amount of time to get a feel for the gameplay, which is divided into three separate areas: exploration, persuasion, and combat
Exploration: allows the player to walk around a particular area, interacting with NPCs, finding items, entering houses, and gaining more insight into the region. This is integral to the combat phase, as you may discover insightful snippets of knowledge or environmental aspects that aide you during battle.

Project Triangle Strategy Nintendo Switch Final Fantasy Tactics Exploration
The exploration phase, where you can move freely around towns.

Persuasion: during the course of the demo you will have to make quite an important decision that affects the gameplay. The characters vote on the “Scales of Conviction” – casting their vote for a particular plan, and your dialogue as the protagonist will influence which side of the scale is tipped. This sequence is highly important, and directly influences the story through the choices you make.

Project Triangle Strategy Nintendo Switch Final Fantasy Tactics Voting
The climax of the persuasion phase, which ends in a vote using the Scales of Conviction.

Combat: the most important, strategic aspect of the game. If you’ve played any previous tactical JRPG, you’ll feel right at home with Triangle Strategy’s combat. Characters are assigned a spot in a queue based on their speed, and move a number of tiles followed by an attack with a weapon, an ability, or use of an item. This simple combat becomes increasingly complex when aspects such as terrain, height, and environmental traps and weapons are added into the mix.

Project Triangle Strategy Nintendo Switch Final Fantasy Tactics Combat
The combat phase, laid out like a grid, will feel familiar to those who have played previous tactical RPGs.

Controlling an entire party against a formidable foe is incredibly satisfying, and easily the best aspect of the game. On multiple occasions I had to stop and plan my following moves, particularly during the last mission of the demo, which poses a challenge for new and veteran players alike. The visuals too are fitting to the style of gameplay, as during combat you can rotate the battlefield and observe it from any angle to plan your attack. I found the only drawback to this was some slight framerate drop when the screen was particularly busy. It’s a very attractive game in both handheld and docked mode, and the environments are particularly gorgeous in the HD-2D style.

One of the maps with detailed HD-2D visuals, which you can rotate 360 degrees.

Soundtrack:
And finally, what JRPG would be complete without a brilliant soundtrack?
As a follow-up to Octopath Traveler, I expected the return of its composer, Yasunori Nishiki, who created some of the most gorgeous music I’ve heard in a modern JRPG. Sadly this is not the case, but do not despair! Instead the composer this time is Akira Senju, best known for composing many anime soundtracks, notably the critically-acclaimed Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (a personal favourite of mine). There is a certain epic quality to his music, which utilises heavy orchestral pieces filled with blaring brass that feel as if even the music itself is taking you into battle. Impressively there is almost 3 hours of music in the demo alone!

So should you download it?
This is easily one of the best demos available, and an insightful experience into Square Enix’s next foray into the tactical RPG genre. Whether you’re a die-hard Final Fantasy Tactics fan like myself, or even just curious and want to dip into the genre, and would highly recommend downloading this free demo and trying it for yourself. Project Triangle Strategy currently has a release date of 2022, and this demo though only a few hours long, will leave you hungry for more.