If you play games, you've probably played a scrolling shooter before. Maybe it was an oldie like Afterburner on Sega Genesis or at the arcade, perhaps it was Raiden Project on Play Station or you may have played R-Type for SNES, Game Boy, or Play Station. Whatever your experience was with scrolling shooting games, forget about it. R-Type Final blows them all away.
R-Type Final is undoubtedly the best shooter game for the PlayStation 2 platform. Why, you may ask, because the game rates an "A" in just about every category. The controls are easy to master and are customizable. There is a continuous firing button ("Rapid Fire") that allows the player to fire bullets continuously by holding down the button, rather than keep hitting the button to discharge each bullet.
Another aspect is the multiple variables involved in this game. You, as the pilot can to choose the type of fighter ship to use, the type of missile and bit (which provides fire support and shielding for your ship) to set for the ship before the game is started, and the type of laser crystal (which changes your cannon discharge) to grab during the game. In addition, you can get a sidekick, "force", which can be used to attack the enemy or shield your ship from enemy fire. You can also use a special weapon when the charge gauge is full. The result of these options is that the game becomes more about strategy in choosing the right gear to use for a specific stage in the game, and the right moment to use the special weapon; in a way, it is also makes it more challenging for the gamer.
Each stage has a specific theme, and the backgrounds, enemies and bosses revolve around these themes. Furthermore, this game features some of the best graphics and music available on the PS2.
The biggest attraction of R-Type Final is the number of fighter ships available to pilot. You start with three ships, and as you advance through the stages additional ships become unlocked. There is an "R Museum" that shows what ships have been unlocked, and their specifications (type of cannon, special ability, missiles, etc.)
R-Type Final, nonetheless, has some flaws. While there are several difficulty levels in the game, even the easiest level (Baby) is tough. Although I have played this game over two dozen times at the Baby level, I have yet managed to beat the game even once; it's not because I'm a poor fighter pilot, either. The stages later in the game are incredibly difficult to pass, no matter what the difficulty level is. At the more difficult levels, the AI is smarter and the enemies follow you around.
There are some quirky aspects of this game. First, you're required to save the data every time you unlock a new fighter ship. If you forget to save, the shiny new ship you spent 40 minutes to unlock will not be available the next time to you turn on the PS2 console and load up R-Type Final. Second, in the Hangar, there are 8 slots available on the registered fighter list. The way this works is that in order to use an unlocked fighter ship, it has to be listed on this registered list. Sounds reasonable, right? But what happens when you have 20 unlocked ships, and you want to try a new one but your 8 slots are full? You'll have to erase a ship from one of the slots, and add in the one you wish to use. You can't realistically erase all the slots because you'll find that you need to use a different ship for each stage. While you could change your registered list after you finish a stage or when you use a continue, it's still a bother.
Finally, I think the game creators should have provided the option of a Two Player mode for the main game. Two player mode is provided in Raiden Project for Playstation, and the gaming experience for two fighters is a lot different than for one. There's a need for coordination and cooperation between the two players in terms of who takes care of which side of the screen, who gets the power up, etc. Gamers would have benefited tremendously from a two player option in R-Type Final if it was provided.
Despite its few misgivings, R-Type Final is a fun, addictive and challenging shooter. There is a lot to do (including an "AI Vs Mode" and a "Score Attack Mode"), and you'll find yourself blowing an hour or two on this game before you know it.