Lesson one of chatting girls up – don’t lose your bottles

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Super R-Type (1992)

In any of life’s endeavours, you can make bundles of progress and be just about to seal the deal when one little mistake, one tiny spanner in the wrench, causes the whole enterprise to blow up in your face in spectacular fashion and leave you with naught. I know this feeling only too well.

At the risk of alienating myself from my missus and buying myself, oh, about nine years on the sofa, I tried to chat up girls once upon a time. I wasn’t much good at it. I’d only do it when I was near catatonic with drink, and at that stage anything coming out of my mouth more closely resembled a tortured hyena trying to scream bible verses in Afrikaans. But sometimes, it might only happen once or twice in your life, a golden and almost unbelievable opportunity falls into your lap. And in a darkened corner of that night’s den of iniquity, hovering just at the periphery of our round table full of drinks, there she was.

God, was she a vision. I had the old beer goggles on of course, or beer coke bottles, but is every girl in every nightclub you’ve ever been to a 10/10 or what? To make proceedings even more high-stakes, it was she who began talking to me. I swear I whipped round and had a quick look over my shoulder to see if she was addressing an incoming Chad, about to smash me out of the way, but not a bit of it. Voice already stretched to breaking point – I swear, a tiny bit of necessary nightclub shouting and it’s gone – I yelled some reply to her advance and the old two-way conversation began from there. Heaven knows what I saying, but I can only assume I was playing it as cool as the other side of the pillow.

Still, that ain’t really my scene, you know? I’d much rather your James Bond swanky dinnerparty setting, where I can get stuck into Pussy Galore. Actually I’d be more like the boys from Dumb ‘n’ Dumber in such a scenario, but I’m really just saying that I’d like a place where the volume is low enough for the one-liners to just fall out of my mouth, and she’s chewing through them like the tenderest piece of lamb you ever ate. My best lines lose effectiveness somewhat when I’m screaming them aggressively over Rage Against the Machine, you know. Despite all of this though, I was well in with her.

Then it happened – from stage left, from some angle I neglected to cover off, my pal came back to the table after a bout of getting pushed like a ragdoll around the dancefloor-cum-moshpit (steady now). He gave me his trademark drunken grin, the left side of his face almost completely numbed by the drink.

Then, without warning but at least with a smile, he brought a decisive fist down on the table with thunderous certainty, and it was plastic cups and more than a few glass bottles of beer going flying. Result, she got maybe just a tiny bit drenched in booze, and so did I for that matter, and she rose in a huff and left sharply. That was that, and I’ve been licking my wounds since.

Was I angry with him? Not really. For ten seconds, maybe. I was just aghast at how quickly and spectacularly the whole gig had been blown to bits. After that, I just had to laugh. Really, deep down, I found myself reflecting on possibly the saddest words in the English language: ‘I’m used to it’. Yes indeed, I’m used to a sudden annihilation of all hope, with loss of all progress, because I’m a veteran of Super R-Type on – where else – the Super Nintendo.

You die an awful lot in space shooters like the R-Type series, but at least checkpoints are there to hold your interest and tell you that, while you may have been squashed underfoot by a humungous enemy for the thousandth time in a row, you’re only a few light-feet away from making it to a checkpoint and a fresh new bout of torture. That’s what makes even the most ridiculously difficult bits of its SNES brother R-Type III palatable – at least on that game, you can keep going and try to put together that solid minute of not getting your goose cooked so you can finally hit that blessed checkpoint.

Super R-Type, any one mistake, even the tiniest hint of whack-a-mole being played at your table when there’s models nearby, and it’s back to the beginning of that level for you. Even if the boss is a fly-on-the-windscreen away from blowing up, any cock-ups will send you all the way back. The masochists out there might rub their hands at that, but it gets just a tad annoying.

The framerate is none too clever either. This, believe it or not, is not automatically a bad thing in a shmup. Maybe the diehards hate it, but slowing the action down when things get hectic is always welcome and anything you can do, even incrementally, to strip away a further few frames all helps your cause. I’d even call it a ‘tactical necessity’ when the bullets really start flying at you from impossible angles.

But Super R-Type tends to cross over into dog slow territory at times, unfortunately. Now, some of this could be down to the PAL conversion. Playing shooters in PAL format is on par with blaring tunes from your phone on the back of the bus – it is simply not socially acceptable. I try to give both PAL and NTSC formats a go in action games where possible, but being a filthy emulation thief can bite me here.

For example, I was going on about how I’m very partial to a bit of R-Type Delta, but merely three days after I released that piece I finally bought a PAL version of the game. While still greatly playable, the action is light-years behind the NTSC versions. In these Types of games you can often use the music as audio cues to know what’s coming next. But when the background music has almost finished and is just about to repeat while the level is still in motion, this gets pretty jarring.

Speaking of music, that’s definitely an area where Super R-Type excels at – some proper early 90s dance in there. The game borrows a lot of elements from the arcade originals R-Type and R-Type II, including some music cues, while adding some of its own stages and accompanying ditties. The soundtrack is great, although you’ll be dying so often that it can end up a little bit like repeating a song halfway through, over and over again. Maybe stick to YouTubing the soundtrack instead, but I definitely advise you to check it out, because it really was an early exhibition of what the SNES sound-chip could do.

As it turns out, the game was mass-produced in the extreme, the world over. It’s part of seemingly every SNES job lot in the world on eBay. By itself, it’s worth an absolute pittance, and crafty shoppers can have Super R-Type for even less than that pittance. I’d wager that it’ll cost you less than just about any alcoholic drink available on sale in Dublin. Just take a lesson from me and make sure you don’t volley that drink towards the nearest object of your desires, or you’ll be left with nothing.

28 February 2020

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