Played through R-Type III [Super Famicom].
This wasn’t a legitimate clear because I used save states (bookmarks that aren’t natively built into the game), but R-Type III is just too challenging for me to finish otherwise. In spite of the punishing difficulty, though, this is one of the best space-shooters I’ve ever played.
R-Type is the quintessential “strategy shoot-em-up” franchise, where the focus is on stage-memorization and route-planning rather than reflex. This is my personal favorite flavor of space-shooter, as my reflexes are awful and these games are essentially puzzles with lasers. Attempt. Get killed. Adjust your strategy. Progress a little further. Get killed again. Repeat.
R-Type III in particular is a masterpiece among its ilk. The weapon-system is refined and versatile without being overwhelming (employing the standard cannon with upgrades, 2 variations of charge-shots, and the series’ signature “Force Pod” that can be attached to your ship as a shield and shot-upgrade, or dispatched as an offensive device). Each stage is varied and full of unique elements - from laser-mazes that must be navigated both forward and backward, to rotating corridors that capitalize on the Super Nintendo’s “Mode 7” scaling effects, to a floating interdimensional tunnel which spews enemies at you while conversely providing the only safe passage through barricades. And if the gameplay wasn’t enough to satisfy, the visuals are equally impressive. I love the biomechanical aesthetic, combining facets of Japanese mech design with Giger-esque monsters that would be perfectly at home in Ridley Scott’s Alien. The audio doesn’t disappoint, either, with the Super Nintendo’s signature bassey sound effects and chiptunes tailored to match the atmosphere of each level and boss-encounter.
The greatest fault of this title, in my opinion, is that it lacks a “novice” mode like its 16-bit predecessor Super R-Type. The default difficulty of the game is just too insurmountable for casual players like myself, which hinders replay-value. It’s undoubtedly a fantastic shoot-em-up, though, and it was worth the 3 weeks I invested in finishing it (even if I cheated a bit with those save-states…)