I’m not going to lie to you and say that I legit beat R-Type III. I am pretty crappy at shmups and R-Type III is dang tough. Still, I persevered and exploited the crap out of saves states to see all that the game has to offer. Even that way it wasn’t easy. Difficulty aside, there is a lot to like about this game.
One thing that stands out about this game is that it is designed for the SNES. R-Type III is not, like many shmups, based on an arcade game. The SNES tended to struggle with those, chugging along with massive slowdown. That was usually caused by all the moving sprites on the screen. The SNES just wasn’t fast enough. R-Type III, though, was designed around the limitations of the system. It has larger but relatively few obstacles and moves along a something of a slow pace anyway. The end result is a game that both looks good and plays good. Those large obstacles tend to be big, lush sprites. And the slower pace lets the player always feel in control.
Another thing that makes R-Type III stand out is its level design. Most shmups I’ve played (and let me be clear that I am far from an expert) would feature some background hazards and mostly a lot of enemies the same size as the player’s ship to deal with. R-Type III is all about the levels. It gives the whole game something of a puzzle feel. Using the SNES’s special mode 7 rotating effects, among other tricks, the game’s environments become the highlights. They rotate around player and change dynamically as the player progress. Foreknowledge isn’t exactly required, but big portions are reliant on know where to be. The first level starts with a highlight, the player fighting a big mech that crashes into the background. It gives the game a distinct feel, much like Super Castlevania 4 and its use of similar effects. It isn’t perfect, though. While they look great, the moving backgrounds can really make the game feel cramped.
It does have plenty of replay value. The big upgrade tool on the R-Type series is the force pod, a pod that sits at the front or back of the player’s ship and fires for them. R-Type III has three different types of Force Pods, chosen at the beginning of the game. They have different uses for the three kinds of weapon upgrades the player can get. None are strictly better than the others (or at least I am not skilled enough to tell which are better) but some are better in certain situations. You can also move the pod from the front of the ship to the back, changing the direction your powerful shots go. It again make for a slightly more strategic take than the usual pure twitchiness of a shmup.
There is just no getting around that difficulty. Without abusing save states I doubt I could have cleared the second stage. The game is quite short, so the difficulty helps to keep interest in a game the otherwise be just a blip. The SNES isn’t exactly known for its shmups, that once important genre was better served on the Genesis and TG16, but R-Type III is an excellent, exclusive title for the system. It is just the kind of game I am doing this project to experience.