Until this point, I've neglected covering consoles and hardware from the fifth generation onward for a couple of reasons. I got into PC gaming circa 1994 and wouldn't purchase another console until I acquired a Sega Dreamcast in 1999, so the PS1 and N64 really passed me by. I think it's the fact that, because the PS1 wasn't part of my own childhood, I've not really had the inclination to cover the system.
However, I've learned that whenever I'm struggling for inspiration for what to play/review next, it's not a bad idea to try something a bit different. That leads me to today's review and video, which is that of R-Type Delta, a continuation of the "hard-as-nails" shoot 'em up series from Irem. The game was the first in the series to use 3D polygon graphics, rather than traditional sprite-based artwork. Despite the change in visual style, the game remains true to it's origins as a hardcore, horizontally scrolling shoot 'em up that will require plenty of patience, practice and perseverance to beat.
Once again, the player is fighting to defend Earth from the evil machinations of the Bydo Empire. This time, the foe has managed to take control of a weapons platform with the capability of annihilating the planet and it has every intention of eradicating human life from the Universe.
From the main menu, the player can register their pilot and configure a save-slot on an associated memory card in order to track statistics, play-time and save progress. The ability to save stats is important since new ships and bonus content is unlocked the more time you spend playing the game.
Initially, the player can choose from one of two different R-Types with which to fight the Bydo Empire. For traditionalists, there's the R-9A2, equipped with a standard Force and front-facing wave cannon (this ship will be most familiar to those who have played previous games in the series). For those who fancy something a little different, there's RX-Albatross; the ship comes equipped with a "tentacle"-style force, resulting in different weapons when collecting power-up capsules in the game itself.
One of the things that first struck me about the game is just how amazing it looks. Polygonal 3D games age considerably quicker than traditional, sprite-based games, but I think that R-Type Delta still looks an absolute peach! The PS1 hardware supports a 24-bit colour depth and coloured lighting sources, which result in some simply gorgeous visuals; I reckon that this game would look even better on a modern OLED display!
The 3D geometry isn't just for looks, however. The extra dimension means that players must be even more alert if they hope to beat game, with objects and enemies moving between the background and foreground layers. For example, the fourth level features a section where pillars rise up into the foreground, blocking certain paths and altering how the player navigates around the level; it's great to see how small touches such as these can be used to spice up a genre so well-trodden.
Destroying certain enemies will reveal weapon capsules that can be collected, granting your ship new combat abilities. The first power-up collected will bestow your ship with it's Force module, an external module that can attach itself to the fore or aft of your ship, granting protection from most (but not all) enemy projectiles, as well as damaging enemies that come into contact with it. The Force module can be temporarily jettisoned from the craft, allowing it to be used as direct impact weapon, as well as affording strategic options by locating it in position best-suited to inflicting maximum damage on enemy craft.
Prominence in the the use of the Force as a weapon is amplified in R-Type Delta, thanks to the inclusion of the "Delta Weapon" system. Enemies damaged by the Force module directly will charge up your craft's "Dose" meter (bottom left) - once fully charged, the Delta weapon can be unleashed, inflicting immense damage on any enemy unfortunate to be present on-screen. Personally, I found the Dose meter slow to charge, so use of the Delta weapon should be reserved for scenarios that call for it, particularly end-of-level bosses.
Once change that I was pleasantly surprised with was the ability to change my ship's speed on fly. Previous games in the series required the player to collect capsules from enemies to increase movement speed, but this was something of a double-edged sword since the extra movement speed came at the cost of control and fine-grained control. Now, it's possible to speed up or slow down as required through use of L1 and L2 buttons on your controller; you'll need to perform some seriously fancy flying to beat the game, so this is a handy change.
The R-Type series has long had a tradition with featuring levels and enemy designs that combine the biological with the cybernetic and R-Type Delta is no different. The opening levels feature large, Anime-inspired mechs and spacecraft, but these gradually give way to increasingly organic foes as the game progresses.
The final level, in particular, deserves special mention, as you pilot your craft through what I can only describe as some nightmare-fuelled, Dadaist aberration, complete with glowing chemical compounds, occult symbols and floating wreckage (the only thing missing was a clock with hands spinning counter-clockwise!). There is a strong use of iconography and symbolism relating to the creation of life and reproduction, as you fight through waves of evil spermatozoa, floating fetuses and double-helix structures. The level culminates in a showdown against an unfertilised egg cell, with you using your ships Force module to "fertilise" egg, destroying it from the inside. The accompanying music and general atmosphere of this level, with the inky blackness of space broken by a random solar flare, is genuinely brilliant; it's just a shame you'll be to too busy avoiding the chaos unfolding around you to really take it all in.
Naturally, the game's sound and music is excellent (as you would expect for a CD-based platform). The game features a soundtrack with a variety of genres, from guitar-heavy rock, to creepy, ambient synth music that really compliments the creepy, bio-organic levels later in the game. There's also some very cool use of positional stereo, as your ship's gunfire transitions between left and right channels in relation to it's location on screen.
In summary, R-Type Delta is a great addition to the franchise, leveraging the PS1 hardware to deliver some impressive visuals, whilst using the extra dimension in subtle ways to prevent the game from feeling too familiar. Sure, the game is as hard as they come, but complaining about an R-Type game being difficult is somewhat akin to complaining that rain is wet; you don't play an R-Type game if you're looking for an easy ride. If, however, you're looking for an edge-of-your seat shooter with fantastic visuals and a rocking soundtrack, then R-Type Delta should be high on your list.