You’ve had one drink too many, forgotten all your training and it’s Earth’s doomsday tomorrow – welcome to The Fear…

R-Type III

R-Type III: The Third Lightning (1994)

I ain’t exactly the memory man. I’ve been starting to get mild blackouts when drinking now, or brownouts as I call them, which is pretty worrying. After all, I could be out there battering folks three times my size and taking home their moll girlfriends afterwards, and I wouldn’t even remember any of it. Actually that kind of thing only happens in my wilder dreams, that special kind of feverish dream that you get when you go to bed drunk.

Then you wake up the next morning, and depending on how big that porcupine in your head is, you’ll either forget more and more of the divilment that occurred the previous night, or worse than that, you’ll remember some of the more questionable stuff you’re guilty of. You’re afraid to check your phone and you know that casting your mind back will only incriminate you. You’ve ended up with that terrible feeling that they call The Fear.

This Fear later segues into existential dread, compounded by the fact that it’s Monday tomorrow and you’ve got work or college, or school if you’re proper hard. This is why I always go out on Friday nights if I can. That gives you three more sleeps – and that makes all the difference. You can have that little top tip for nowt.

Who needs a memory anyway? If you remember every little detail of your life, then you’re not living it hard enough. I recently learned that Ozzy Osbourne has an autobiography, entitled I Am Ozzy. Now I haven’t read it, nor would I want to, because the title’s probably the only accurate part of the whole work – and even that’s shaky, because it turns out his real name is John.

But how on earth could someone like him be expected to recant his life story? It’s the biographers I feel sorry for, or those talking heads who get given the unenviable task of telling Ozzy’s life story on some wretched Discovery channel programme. It felt like you could have turned on MTV at any point in the early 2000s and seen, not any music obviously, but The Osbournes with Ozzy on camera, slurring some nonsense at you before going off to be that embarrassing drunk that makes everyone uncomfortable. What kind of Fear would Ozzy have?

Well, that’s his lookout – but you’d better lay off the turps, the snow and the dope if you’re going to get anywhere near tackling R-Type III for the Super Nintendo, because you’ll have an awful lot to remember. Even if arcade shooters were never your thing, you probably know that R-Type and its ilk are a byword for nigh-impossible games. It’s bullets flying at you from all angles, and if that ain’t spiteful enough then the level’s architecture will smash you to pieces as well. And you’ve got a whopping one hit before you get crumpled into space-dust as well, naturally.

Now, when the game is a scrolling shooter and there’s a slightly disappointing six levels (I prefer seven as a number, it’s a bit more biblical), then it’s not going to take you very long to defeat – unless it’s tough enough to make you get stuck on one section again and again. Thankfully you don’t have limited continues in this instalment, so at least even a pillock like me has a chance of getting to the end, while R-Type Delta has usually spat me back out by the end of Stage 5.

And in actual fact, once you’ve got your eye in and you’ve given it a slight bit of practice, you’ll actually find the first three levels of R-Type III to be fairly doable. There’s a bit of customisation on your ship too, and this whole game is quite an upgrade on the likes of R-Type II and Super R-Type, which only had one ship, one wave cannon and one Force Device – not to mention they guys at Irem have sorted the wretched slowdown from Super R-Type.

In III, you’ve got an appropriate three Force Devices (itty bitty things where your lasers come out of), and you can also charge a Hyper Cannon Shooty Laser Gun that causes mega damage to bosses, but you need to time it right to ensure you don’t get caught with your pants down during its cooldown phase. You don’t wanna get found in the spaceship wreckage with your pants down, do you?

Anyway, then you hit the fourth level and it’s as if the game realises that you’ve gone past the halfway point, so it’d better not even pretend to be nice to you anymore. You could not possibly complete this level via skill, or a nice bit of dumb luck that gets you through on your very first try, no sir. It’ll be rote memorisation for you.

Don’t think there’s gonna be any time for you to consult your notes though, as you quite literally pilot your fragile ship backwards through a steel foundry, with plumes of lava snaking this way and that, at incredible speeds too, along with other unseen enemies and lumps of metal smashing into you from offscreen. You’ll die a zillion times and lose whatever meagre powerups you’d built back up. But at least you can keep trying until you make some sort of mental breakthrough.

Even if you get past this and make it to the end of the game, beating the final boss rewards you with… a second loop of the game, except even harder. You can probably just turn the game off at this point, it’s not like you’re getting locked out of any ending text. It’s meant as a bonus too, so there’s not any spite behind it, like you’d get in Super Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts. I can only wonder why they didn’t just let you do the Hard Mode right from the off – I’m sure the Japanese players would have appreciated that one.

I must mention the bloody woegeous GBA port; a Blue Peter badge for you if you knew about that one. Actually, woegeous undersells it. ‘Poxy’ would be a lot closer. The original R-Type III release was one of those games that really nailed the SNES electric guitar instrumentation, and not very many games did that. Battletoads in Battlemaniacs did, and the intro to Killer Instinct had a nice riff too. Mega Man X3’s flying V never sounded right. And as for the Bohemian Rhapsody scene in Wayne’s World SNES, well…

But the hard work on the SNES OST all goes flying out the window with the Game Boy Advance release, which isn’t even chiptune. It’s honestly not even 2-bit, let alone 8-bit. No dedicated sound chip in the GBA meant the system didn’t have much in its trousers to produce good music – some of the instrumentation in Sonic Advance is a joke, for example – but R-Type III GBA is a sin against mankind.

You might think I’m focusing too much on the music of a long forgotten port of an already obscure game, but this sort of thing is one of the easiest ways to determine the product’s value: if the music and sound effects are bad, so is the game. It teaches you to look out for those examples where a bad game actually has good music, and you’ll enjoy them all the more.

It should be noted that this game had a female composer. Now, the last thing I want to do is get all simp-ish on you, but why is it that the best game composers are female? Pound for pound, that is. Kondo-sama, Uematsu-chan and even our man Kirkhope-san are the heavyweights, but you mustn’t forget that it was a woman who composed Guile’s theme. A woman put together the incredible Symphony of the Night soundtrack. And a woman got a convincing electric guitar out of the SNES for R-Type III, an OST that’s almost worth the price of entry by itself.

But even if you play the game without music or sound, you’ve still got the best shmup on the Super Nintendo, bar none. I don’t personally recommend using that mute button though. After all, when you’ve had a hell of a night the previous night, and you may or may not have fallen foul of your girlfriend, your best friends and the local constabulary, it helps to have a rocking soundtrack to drown those Fearsome inner voices out.

14 August 2020

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