I’ve spent a couple of days getting my production pipeline in order and trying to finally ditch my SingStar microphones (it didn’t happen) and am ready to start posting my new playthrough series. What’s the game? It’s R-Type Command on PSP! I’ve been thinking about replaying it a lot lately and figured if I was going to do it, why not hook it up to the TV and share the embarrassment with the Internet for posterity? Here’s Episode 00 in which I remember what the hell this game even is. I’ll try to do a new one once a week as the missions aren’t terribly long but there sure are a lot of them.
I was excited about the PSP’s Carpenter Story just from the looks of it, but the full import game was a reminder of why IREM has stuck with shooters all these years. The gameplay is clever but oh-so-stiff and really frustrating, but I’m willing to give the upcoming U.S. version (dubbed Hammerin’ Hero) a chance. I’m not, however, willing to give GameStop any more of my money so I won’t be pre-ordering the game and will miss out on Atlus’ latest “Spoils”, a set of two mini figures of the game’s hero and heroine.
You, Mr. Obsessive Collector, should head to your closest GameStop store or to their website and plunk down some cash as supplies of these figures are limited and there’s a good long wait before the game’s April 7th release date.
Let’s just skip the recap because you can go back and read my initial impressions for that, and get right to the point. R-Type Command is the most addictive and enjoyable strategy game I’ve ever played. Part of what makes it so great is that it cuts out all the tired cliches and gets you right into the action. There are no unconvincing A.I. characters to send you on frivolous side quests. There’s no overarching philosophy that the game uses to make itself seem intellectual. There’s no intricate system of item and weapon alchemy that you have to master in order to succeed.
It’s simply select your ships, try your best, read a couple paragraphs about your success, and repeat. The game has a few more intricacies than that like scouring for resources during battles and keeping a lazy eye on which units need to beef up their skill rating, but it’s essentially strategy, streamlined. This streamlining does take some of the edge off of the game’s challenge but the shear number and length of missions kept me playing for months. And it wasn’t simply a grind-a-thon either.
Each map presents a unique challenge whether playing as the Humans or Bydo. Several missions require a delicate strategy to balance the limited number of turns with your limited number of ships. Things get so tense at times that I frequently broke a sweat as units were picked off and the enemy battleship drew closer. All of this happening at a blistering minutes-long, turn-based speed.
Capping each mission is just a wee little bit of text in the form of your character’s diary entries Captain’s Log, the culmination of which has forever changed the way I think about R-Type games. It’s really beautiful in its simplicity and the promise of a revelation kept me hurtling through the menu screen to get into the next hour-long skirmish.
Sadly though, I’m finished. Unlike other games that I whittle away at just to reach the ending, I could keep playing R-Type Command seemingly indefinitely. The final mission was a great climax and an epic battle but even after three months of playing I wish it could go on and on. And that’s why I have to recommend that anyone who still owns a PSP at least check out the demo. I’m not a hardcore strategy fan or even a hardcore R-Type fan and I was sucked into the most rewarding experience I’ve paid for in years. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to load up R-Type Final and whimper every time I kill another Bydo.
Ok, now I’m really done playing. After about six more tries I’ve finally finished off the Dobkeratops seen above, and believe me it wasn’t easy. That’s actually why I’m writing about this game again; I’m concerned. Instead of developing a strategy as the game played out I found the only successful plan was to memorize what enemies appear where and what they’re capable of. You’ve got an AWACS-type ship that extends your visible range but even it didn’t prove to be enough help. Since a unit’s turn is interrupted when an enemy is revealed my radar guys usually get cut off and destroyed by the first wave of enemies they find. Then it’s a game of leapfrogging one unit at a time to slowly reveal the enemies again after they’ve disappeared back into the ‘fog of war’ while trying to reach the end without running out of turns.
Since there aren’t any “magic points” involved in using your Charge attacks the game limits how many turns you can take to finish a mission. If they didn’t you could endlessly charge up, attack, fall back and repeat. I agree with the limit but until I had the enemy positions down pat I kept running out of time to take down ol’ Dobkeratops up there. Hopefully being able to save will eliminate this prolonged play time, I only hope that saving is unlimited and loading is fast.
I suppose a prolonged experience isn’t necessarily a bad thing but if half a dozen missions take as many retries and memorization as the one in the demo, well, my time with R-Type Command may be cut short. Having finally finished the demo, though, I’m even more excited to get the full game in May. Any demo that lasts for a week and holds my interest, even with pattern memorization, is definitely worth picking up. I just wish it weren’t a $40 release.
When IREM said they were going to stop the R-Type franchise I was disheartened. When they announced they were going to adapt the storied shooter into a turn-based strategy game I was worried. Having played the demo, however, I can’t imagine any series outside of an RPG that would make for a better fit. I’ve played several R-Type games but never finished a single one and didn’t realized how epic the series has become over the years. Hundreds of ships, support craft, and enemies have crawled across the screen through the series’ eight titles, each capable of being expanded with attacks and stats to fit perfectly into a strategy game.
For starters, it’s refreshing to see a strategy game that doesn’t revolve around cute fantasy characters with big eyes decked out in neon outfits shooting magic at one another. The gameplay is hex-based all the way and the majority of the visuals are 2D. Tiny explosions and trademark weapons fire (who else could come up with a ring laser?) are the highlights, although like many strategy games nowadays there are fancy attack cutscenes. These can thankfully be turned off because while they look slick and flashy (all units and attacks are rendered in 3D) they take forever to load and just slow things down even more.
And believe me, you do not wanna drag this game out any more. I have yet to complete the third demo mission even after devoting my entire hour-long lunch break to it. Where the original shooters are fast and frantic R-Type Command is slow, methodical, and crushing. It also doesn’t help that the Save feature is disabled in the demo. Harrowing play times aside I’m really enthralled with the game. All the famous ships, enemies, and weapons bring a smile to my face in much the same way that seeing R.O.B. the Video Robot appear in Super Smash Bros. Brawl does. The big difference here is that I’m actually enjoying R-Type Command’s gameplay and its approach to the strategy genre. Come May 6th this may be the first PSP game I buy that isn’t on clearance.