R-Type Command brings the world of R-Type together with some tactics. R-Type Command (UK name: R-Type Tactics) is a fifty-plus level extravaganza that attempts to add some depth to the side-scrolling series and revitalise it. Rather than soaring through levels as a one-ship army like the earlier games in the series, you will instead be asked to strategically work your way through turn-based missions (yes, turn-based) in two separate campaigns – one for the forces of Earth, and one for their enemy, the Bydo. You get to play as both good and evil. That’s a popular idea nowadays, isn’t it?
Think Final Fantasy Tactics in space and you’ve pretty much got this. Your wizards and warriors are now spaceships. And what an impressive pack of wizards and warriors we have here – assisting you in your waged wars are the R-Type units, of which you have a literal army. There are enough models of ship here to make the geekiest of sci-fi vehicle fans moist in the armpits with pleasure. There are over 100 types of R-Type available for your blastin’ pleasure – fighters, warships, bombers carriers, supply vehicles – each of which are obviously good for different things. With your squad of R-Types, you are tasked with taking down the Bydo Empire, one move at a time. Success brings with it the chance to play as the enemy, if you can be bothered.
Ignoring the difference in genre, the game looks very similar to every R-Type game to have preceded it. Graphically, it doesn’t seem to have grown very far, if at all. The graphics are pretty enough though, if a little old-looking, and it’s not too much of a pain to keep on looking at them while you’re busy fuelling, flying and fixing a half-dozen spaceships. Music is atmospheric – it’s quite probably what space would sound like – and adds, rather than detracts, from the mission in hand.
There’s no need to mention that R-Type fans will absolutely adore this. If you’re a dude who’s been following the series since day one, you’ll probably have grown to appreciate the various vehicles involved and have somewhat of a soft spot for them. The opportunities that this game offers, then, should simply not be passed up – you can control the enemy forces. You can customise and even make your own craft (based on what you find on the battlefield). There are secret missions and, if you last the distance, massive bosses for you to bombard with Force weapons. The world of the Typers lends itself well to this genre, so fans will be happy.
For the rest of the non-R-Type crazed, this is a competent tactical RPG that, despite its clever futuristic approach, doesn’t really develop into anything more than that. Of course, this is fine if that’s what you want. Combining old school rapid-fire gaming with modern details-obsessed role-playing isn’t an easy task, and for the Millennium Falcon model kit owners and Warhammer 40K loving wargamers amongst us, there can’t be much better an idea for a game that this. This is a specialised market though.
I found the whole setting tedious. Fair enough, this is because I don’t have much love for the genre or the space war idea, but again we go back to this very much being for a specialist group and not the casual gamer. Anyone outside of that group may have trouble with the difficulty level. I’m all for games being tough, but only when it’s fair, and sometimes this game just isn’t fair. It’s cheap. I don’t just mean this in the traditional way – I mean the way the campaign is made is cheap. There could have a lot more to do here, but instead challenge is milked by flattening levels of difficulty rather than strategy. A lot of time will be spent slamming buttons in frustrated repetition, the other half spent dying.
Like a fast food milkshake, R-Type Tactics is thick, dense and not at all good for you, but still great for a few moments of idiotic indulgement. There are worse games on the market – definitely worse ideas than this gem of a design – and the multiplayer is a great way to spend your days. Looking on the sunny side here, this is a budget release which packs a lot of bang and smarts for its low price tag. An R-Type or general sci-fi fan would probably love it, and it’s definitely worth a try if you like to kill things like a real space marine. Give it a rent, because while it’s not the best this genre is going to get, it’s a fun experience that is by no means a waste of time and scores a blasting 7 out of 10.