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.

Natsuki Chronicles Review – PS4/PS5

The shoot ’em up is still alive and well and flying guns-blazing out of bullet hell.

It’s time to go back in time to an era where sweaty teenagers were jammed into dimly-lit arcades. To a simpler time of basic controls, where a joystick and a couple of buttons was really all you needed. When depleting credits either meant you scrounged for more coins, gave up, or faced the odds through an onslaught of bullets.

This was the age of the shoot ’em up (affectionally termed the shmup). A truly iconic genre and a classic staple of The Golden Age of Video Games. Games that feature the player facing off against waves of enemies, screens littered with bullets, an array of ship upgrades, weapon enhancements, and massive boss battles.

Shoot Em Up Gradius 1942 Ikaruga
Left to right: Gradius III, 1942, Ikaruga.

You’ll probably be familiar with games like the classic Gradius or 1942, or more recent titles like Geometry Wars and the critically-acclaimed Ikaruga. It’s a genre that spans decades, with the highly-influential Space Invaders being considered one of the earliest titles in the genre.

Though shmups aren’t quite as popular as they once were, there are still games that are keeping the genre alive, and today I’m writing about one that completely took me by surprise: Natsuki Chronicles. The developers, Qute Corporation (what a cute name), are quite experienced in creating games of this genre, and this game occurs in parallel to their previous title, Ginga Force.

Natsuki Chronicles PS4 PS5 Boss Fight
Yep, you’re supposed to dodge those. Good luck!

PLOT

You play as budding pilot young Natsuki Sugiura aboard a ship by the name of Dominator and is a new member of the planet’s Rapid Defence Force (RDF). The game follows a story linked to its predecessor and is scattered with character dialogue and short cutscenes at the beginning of each mission. Although the story feels somewhat tacked on and certainly is one of the weaker parts of the game, that’s perfectly fine, because nobody plays a shmup for the story. It’s all about the gameplay. Thankfully this is where Natsuki Chronicles goes above and beyond.

GAMEPLAY

The game has two modes: story and arcade mode. Both take you through 10 main levels, each in a distinct environment with set patterns of enemies, plenty of hazards, and a challenging boss fight at the end. During the story mode you start each stage only being allowed to take 3 hits (which slowly recharge), but as you progress further through the stage this contributes towards stage XP, overall XP, and credit points which you can spend on weapons and upgrades.

With each failure your stage XP increases and unlocks additional shields to use during the level. Every additional shield will allow you to progress slightly further through the level until you reach the perfect point where you have just enough to take down the boss. Some bosses are brutal and will require a full set of shields, but never felt unfair or overly difficult. It’s a perfect way to adapt the difficulty based on the player’s proficiency.

Natsuki Chronicles PS4 PS5 Boss Fight
You’re gonna need every shield you can get.

Over the course of the game you’ll begin to level up and unlock an array of armaments. You can choose to change your main weapon, sub weapon and special weapon with an almost limitless number of combinations. Whether you have a play-style that best suits a hard-hitting focused beam, bullets that spread out and cover the entire screen, or a homing attack so you can focus on dodging instead. There’s something for everyone! Certain weapons are also suited for particular stages: a level with lots of walls requires a weapon that can fire through them, or a level with lots of enemies approaching from behind requires weapons that can fire backwards.

Natsuki Chronicles PS4 PS5 Ship Customisation Equipment
The equipment screen, which allows you to change your weapons prior to the level.

VISUALS

Playing on PS5, the game runs at 4K and maintains a consistently smooth framerate, and as such is highly responsive and looks detailed and clean. Though the game is far from a visual marvel, the environments of each level are a pleasure to look at and the enemies have a distinct cartoonish appearance allowing them to stand against the background. The same goes for your ship: the Dominator; even when the screen is jam-packed with bullets you’ll rarely lose track of yourself. The game also aides you with warning lines to mark the trajectory of incoming bullets, which comes in handy during particularly difficult sections of the game.

Natsuki Chronicles PS4 PS5 Boss Fight Visuals
At least this boss is an easy target!

EXTRAS

During the story mode there are also extra “training missions” and certain levels that allow you to pilot a much larger ship that launches a literal wall of bullets. Each level in the game can also be played on one of four difficulties; I played through the entire game on Normal and felt this was a reasonable challenge. If you’re a bullet hell maniac then by all means play on Hard and above, but I would not recommend this for the regular player.

Natsuki Chronicles PS4 PS5 Boss Fight Extras Arcade Mode
Try throwing dollar coins at the screen during arcade mode for an authentic experience.

Arcade mode also offers a more challenging version of the game, as you collect power-ups while progressing through each level. Getting hit forces you to lose a power-up instead of a shield, meaning that dodging bullets is even more important. Once you aim for the hi-score you’ll be able to upload it onto the global leaderboard in order to gloat to your friends. I got #100 globally after a few tries which was satisfying, so fans of arcade gameplay are likely to get decent replay value out of this mode.

The soundtrack by composer Yousuke Yasui is also one of the game’s best features. Its fast-paced beats, retro style and funky bass lines feel straight out of the ’80s and are incredibly fitting alongside the frantic gameplay. He’s no stranger to shmups, as the composer has created music for a massive list of games including the previous Qute games, multiple Touhou series games, Under Defeat HD, and outside of the genre even 3D Dot Game Heroes! It’s well worth a listen even after having finished the game.

CONCLUSION

Overall the campaign took about 8 hours to complete (with many deaths along the way), and during this I ended up unlocking a majority of the weapons and trophies along the way. It’s quite a lengthy campaign for a shmup game and felt like good value for the time that I committed. The vast options for weaponry along with a clever level-up system and adaptable difficulty make it one of the best modern shmups I’ve encountered. If you’re a fan of the genre you’d be a fool to go past Natsuki Chronicles.

So why should I play it?

  • You enjoy the shoot ’em up genre.
  • Lengthy games are too time-consuming – something quick and engaging is more suitable.
  • Space ships, guns and bullets (lots of them) are your thing.
  • Arcade gaming is a fond memory for you.

But why shouldn’t I play it?

  • You dislike repetition and would rather not play through the same levels repeatedly.
  • Hundreds of bullets on screen at once would give you a heart attack.

Thanks to Rising Star Games and Plan of Attack for providing a PS4 review code for the purpose of this review. The game was played on a PS5 console.

Scott Pilgrim vs The World: The Game – Complete Edition Review (PC)

A pilgrimage back to an iconic modern beat ’em up.

The year is 2010. A simpler time.

Books are overrated and don’t have enough pictures, so you’re flipping through a graphic novel:
…it’s Scott Pilgrim.
You’re at the cinema, purchasing overpriced popcorn to eat during a new movie starring an awkward Michael Cera:
…it’s Scott Pilgrim.
You get home and turn on your Xbox 360 and log onto Xbox Live, and what’s on the home screen?
…it’s Scott Pilgrim.

It was the series of graphic novels that for a brief moment in time seemed to spawn a phenomenon, and then after a year or so in the limelight almost vanished completely. The series is less about teenager Scott Pilgrim and more about his struggles against his newfound love’s Seven Evil Exes, who he must defeat in order to date her. It’s a quirky plot packed full of silly humour and pop-culture references, and became popular enough not only to justify a movie, but a tie-in videogame, and now 10 years later an enhanced version of that same game! But is it worth revisiting?

One ex to rule them all.

If you’ve played the original game, you’ll know exactly what to expect from Complete Edition, as not much has changed. It’s a port of the original game with all added DLC, along with some minor additions and quality-of-life changes, available on PS4/Xbox One/Nintendo Switch/PC and… Google Stadia (I feel dirty typing that). For those that haven’t played it, it’s a retro-style beat ’em with simple controls, gorgeous pixel art, and a banger of a soundtrack. But is it worth playing considering it’s pretty much the same game?

Gameplay

In typical beat ’em up style, the gameplay is very simple: choose from a roster of characters from the series, fight swarms of enemies through seven distinct levels, and defeat one of the evil exes at the end of each level. It’s a game that’s easy to pick up and play, either through single player, local co-op, or now in Complete Edition through online co-op (which is how I played majority of the game). There’s not really much that stands out about its gameplay – characters have slightly different play styles, can be levelled up to unlock new attacks and abilities, and by spending in-game currency you can purchase food and other items to improve the characters’ stats.

Can’t put your feet up on the train seats, but fighting is perfectly fine.

Combat initially can be quite a challenge (especially if you’re a rookie to the genre like myself), as enemies easily stun-lock and swarm you without giving you a chance to fight back. Bosses are the same, but follow more of a pattern that allows you to predict and dodge their attacks. Thankfully over the course of the game you’ll have access to shops, weapons and abilities that allow you to dispatch enemies more efficiently, but it took me the majority of the game before I truly had a hang of the combat. If you have the option, I’d recommend playing the game with a friend. Not only is it significantly more fun and less gruelling than single player mode, but you also have the ability to revive allies on screen by mashing a button over their lifeless corpse.

Oh, and on the topic of lifeless corpses, at the end of every level you’re rewarded with a scene of Scott and Ramona making out (much to the disgust of their friends). And sometimes on the top of a pile of lifeless corpses is just the most romantic place.

Gross. The kissing, not the corpses.

Visuals and Style

Its style is hands down the best aspect of the game. The pixel art is vibrant and detailed, with heavy character outlines and intricate backgrounds. In reflecting the style of art from the graphic novels, the game achieves an eye-catching visual aesthetic that works incredibly well and makes the characters, enemies, and environments all stand out against each other. Although sometimes the screen can become quite busy, you’ll rarely lose track of your character thanks to this design.

Each level also has a distinct design themed around the evil ex and their hideout, with matching enemies many of which have very amusing outfits and attacks. You’ll fight through the snowy streets of downtown Toronto, defend against katana-wielding ninjas in a flaming teppanyaki restaurant, and of course fight a giant robot boss on top of a skyscraper. Many times throughout the game I found myself stopping to admire the designs of not only the levels, but some of the animations which are incredibly detailed and impressive (see below).

There are also many visual homages to other series/games, and plenty of pop culture references. For example in one of the later stages a boss battle starts with a Guitar Hero sequence. You can also purchase an Energy Tank to restore your health, and the logo looks like it’s directly ripped from Mega Man. The overworld too is a nice touch, as its retro design is clearly a throwback to the SNES classic, Super Mario World.

The overworld, or should I say, Super Mario Overworld.

Audio and Soundtrack

There’s no way I could write this review without mentioning the killer soundtrack that features in the Scott Pilgrim game. As you fight through the game’s levels and boss battles you’ll notice an intense, fast-paced blend of chiptunes and pop/rock with heaps of catchy licks. That’s thanks to New York-based chiptune rock band: Anamanaguchi. Like other bands in the Nintendcore genre of music (yep, that’s a thing) they use hardware like a Gameboy and NES to play alongside guitar, bass and drums. It’s a sound that seems to fit perfectly in the setting of the Scott Pilgrim game, and a creative way to modernise chiptunes.

To celebrate the launch of Complete Edition, the band even played the entire soundtrack live!
You can find it here: Anamanaguchi – Scott Pilgrim vs the World: The Game Soundtrack

What else?

In addition to the main gameplay which can be completed by yourself or with a friend, there are four other game modes. First is a boss rush mode in which you face off against every single boss in a row to challenge yourself – I found this was an easy way to revisit some of the cool moments from each boss. There are also three minigames that were introduced as part of the original game’s DLC:

Survival Horror – an endless fight against constantly-spawning zombie enemies.
Battle Royale – no, it’s not 1 v 100. It’s basically PvP and has you fighting against each other in a small arena.
Dodgeball – no weapons this time, your only attack is throwing a small ball at your opponents. Just like real life.

The DLC characters, Knives and Wallace, from the original game are also made available from the start, and there’s an added secret character that unlocks once you beat the game with the four main characters. Though unless you’re a completionist I probably wouldn’t bother with this.

So why should I play it?

  • You haven’t played the original game.
  • Cool pixel art always catches your eye.
  • You’re wanting a simple game to play with friends.
  • Chiptunes and game soundtracks are your jam.

But why shouldn’t I play it?

  • There’s nobody else for you to play the game with. 😦
  • You’ve already played the original game to completion.
  • Lengthy games are more your thing, as this can be finished in a couple hours.
  • You don’t want to download the Ubisoft PC client (if playing on PC).

A download code was provided for the purpose of this review, which was played on PC.