Short series introduction; R-Type

R-Type is a name that should be associated with two things; fine tuned game play and absolutely terrific level of challenge. Next to Konami’s Gradius, R-Type can be argued to be the second pillar of mid-80’s shooting game, the generation that grew from Space Invaders. Its pace, especially compared to modern shooting games and most 1990’s titles, R-Type has a slower scrolling speed and meticulous pace that allows you to absorb the surroundings and the enemies. Secondly, the stage design and enemy positioning is extremely important to the series, as it is one of those that require the player and the designer to put their best. Unlike with Gradius, where you can remove most of the stage hazard elements and such without losing anything from the core mechanics of the game, R-Type requires them. This is due to the core mechanic and game play element that is the Force Pod, an indestructible orb that can attach to the front or back of your ship, or be launched for physical contact with the enemy or use its multiple angle weaponry to at least weaken the incoming volleys of enemies. To control the Force Pod’s position close and afar is essential, as the stages have covers and slots where you can damage and destroy enemies with relative safety, or required to position yourself with the Force Pod in order to keep yourself alive. All stage bosses are also designed to have specific method of weakness how the Force is used, often with the game’s final boss requiring to sacrifice the relative safety the Force Pod gives as a shield.

Outside this core of R-Type, giving the player the feeling of being invincible yet so easily destroyed, other universal elements in the series follow in form of standard weapon upgrades. There are three types of weapons to choose from based on colours; Red for forward directing firepower, Blue for weapons that attack in an angle and sometimes bounce around the stage’s walls and ceilings, and Yellow that functions as air-to-ground most of all, skimming across both ground and ceiling. Upgrading these weapons by collecting more coloured orbs also upgrades the size of the Force Pod. There are also Bits, a semi-Force pod like spinning additional cover that is as indestructible as the Force Pod itself, but is stationary both above and below the player’s ship. They also add to firepower by additional shots. All these power-ups are obtained through POW Armour ships that fly in the stages, and naturally choosing the right weapon for the right stage is highly important. There are also missiles of various kind, but they can only help so much, homing or not. For the first few games, player’s speed was controlled with power-ups as well, though this was later ditched when the series went full console and allowed the player to choose speed at the press of a button. All these are necessary additions to the player’s standard arsenal, which is a rather dinky pellet shooter, that can be turned into a larger charge shot. This Charge shot would later gain new forms and functions as the series goes by. All this compounds to a game where your main mission is less about clearing the screen of all life in an efficient manner with the firepower in your hands, but a game where numerous enemies are thrown at you from multiple angles in closed quarters and trying to survive.

To further understand the series’ popularity despite its low number of entries and effective franchise death with R-Type Final, we have also consider the setting. While R-Type is one of those game series with effectively no bad game in the series, discounting some ports and modifications, the series’ end followed two trends; the death of shooting game genre as a whole in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s as consumer interests moved to other genres after the last vestiges of the arcades were lost to time, and to the parent company’s, IREM’s, falling sales within video game development and publication. In 2011, after the Touhoku Earthquake, IREM effectively stopped video game development and reorganised itself into dedicated pachinko and pachislot company with little other side business. Most of the game staff effectively moved out to create their own independent game company named Granzella, which for example finished Zettai Zetsumei Toshi 4 Plus: Summer Memories that IREM put into ice back in 2011 and are now in charge of developing a new entry for the series with R-Type Final 2. 

We’ll cover the main games in the series, skipping compilations and ports, though the important ones will be mentioned. For now, let’s cast our eyes back to 1987.

I’ve wanted this flyer since forever

When discussing games series with no real weaknesses in entries, R-Type sets an extremely high bar. For its time, and even now, the visual flavour is nothing short of terrific, and even terrifying. While the game’s first stage is a rather drab standard space shooting game stage, the iconic boss Dobkerators, as seen on the flyer on the left, waves its tail while the player slowly creeps in. It is clearly inspired by H.R. Giger’s Alien fame Xenomorph, and the series’ base point of mixing biological and technological points spins itself off from here to somewhat unique direction, albeit something that was relatively common and even popular in the 1990’s Japanese pop-culture. Nothing really makes this point hit home like the second stage, where the first things you see are glass vats filled with something biological, while the ground and ceiling are composed of various creature body parts, mouths, teeth, glowing eyes, flesh, ribs, exposed organs and electronic cables. Live things attack you from these parts, while something that looks like orange flying eyes swim at you en masse. At times fleshy flowers rise from below and above, releasing mushroom-like creatures with green brains and pink tentacles. At the end of the stage, a biomechanical worm with head at each end swims through the screen and leads you to the second boss of the game, Gomander. If we take the Xenomporph, and to some extent Dobkeratops, presenting the fear of rape with all the dick imaginary they have going on, Gomander follows the same line of thinking, being a massive construct of vaginas with protrusions coming out of it, all the while the aforementioned mechanical worm, Outslay, swims in and out while attacking the player. Gomander’s weak spot at the very top, a pearly blue eye among all that pink flesh, that only on occasion reveals itself.

Gomander, another recurring boss in the series

All this is by design, as the series’s antagonist, the Bydo, are a combination of technology and organics, capable of integrating themselves or object into their own being. This makes the third stage in R-Type an interesting battle, as the whole stage is dedicated to a single enemy; a giant battleship. Other shooting games would later adopt this concept, like Darius. Here, the scrolling stage has no other enemies but a large vessel that simply flies near ground and ceiling, constantly shooting at the player and moving up and down. Much like other bosses, it reveals its fleshy weak spot only for a moment. It breaks the monotony of shooting games quite well, better than Gradius’ speed-up zones. The fourth stage ups the ante further, making the environment itself the enemy as enemies weave a green substance the player is required to destroy in order to advance. It would be an easier stage if there weren’t all the other enemy units appearing every which way and trying to shoot the player down.

The rest of the game’s four stages alternate between clear themes of flesh and technology, with sixth stage being a Transport System with electronics inspired background and music, which leads to a City Ruins and ultimately to the heart of the Bydo Empire. All of the stages have their own gimmick that the player has to be aware of, be it enemies that transport materials across the screen or semi-invisible small crafts that fly while a pair of centipedes go around and litter the screen with body parts when shot. The amount of design and care that went into these eight stages doesn’t only make the game rather lengthy, but it makes R-Type stand apart from its contemporaries to a significant degree. While its sound is rather tinny and no tunes really ever became iconic outside the first stage. They’re rather mundane, but work as standard background music. You might find yourself humming the boss battle tune though, mostly because it is so mundane, generic and short. Everything else on the sound department is stellar though.

R-Type was ported to a large number of systems, except the NES. It has a superb PC Engine and Master System port (which was ported by Compile of all people), and mostly never saw NES port due to Nintendo demanding developers to make their NES ports significantly different from other versions. R-Type is one of those few almost perfect games that you can’t really expand or mess with without losing the cohesive whole, unlike what Capcom could do with e.g. Section-Z and their other enhanced arcade-to-NES ports. R-Type doesn’t really bend itself to that.

Remember; when you fight against Subatom at the end of the first stage, shoot its “head” off for something familiar

As much as R-Type was a hit and an extremely significant entry not just in shooting games, but in general video game history overall with its sheer level of design and presentation, 1989’s R-Type II falls flat. While it is more of the same, it is more of the same. If R-Type was a massive success how it stood apart from the rest of the shooters, the second entry in the series mucks itself down by effectively being designed and published to be a sort of master’s version of the first game, intended for those who found the first game too easy and lacking in parts. While the game runs on the same arcade hardware as the first one, the graphics are arguably better with more detailed and interesting spritework, but at the same time everything has a white and beige colours to them and none of the intended colours in the stages pop out at all. Visually R-Type II is a very drab experience,

There are few new things that try to make the game stand apart from its massive predecessor. First, there are new weapon choices, adding two new Las Crystal; Grey for a shotgun effect, and Green, which shoots a beam that turns  45-degrees to hit the closes enemy. While Grey’s shotgun effect sounds fun to use, it ultimately doesn’t work as the enemy placement and stage designs lack any of the touch the first game had. Player could now charge their standard weapon longer, which allowed them to use a wider charge shot effect. Scatter Missile became optional as well next to the first game’s homing, but the fact that they just drop in a 45-degree angle and explode on the ground doesn’t get much used.

Credit where credit is due, the game does have some good moments and elements that would see better use in later games. While the first stage is effectively a repeat of R-Type‘s first stage, the second stage is half submerged with water with an interesting effect here and there. Third stage re-uses the battleship stage design from the first game as well, but this time you fight two of them. Music has a bit more bite to it, but again nothing to write home about.

R-Type II saw less home ports, and even its main console port Super R-Type is a remixed version, with arguably better sound, but due to SNES being shit for fast games, the game’s filled with slowdowns. Furthermore, it was made just stupidly hard by removing all the mid-stage checkpoints. After this, both R-Type and R-Type II have been bundled together as one package in mos cases, mainly in 1998’s R-Types for the PlayStation and latest being R-Type Dimensions. The main reason really why these two get lumped together really is because they’re more of the same, and the second game is a nice add-on next to the first game. It’s not exactly a title you’d want to specifically look for separately, but as a sort of duology the two work together just fine.

Ultimately, the game isn’t really bad, it’s just disappointing, especially in retrospective when we consider the rest of the series.

R-Type Leo (1992) is probably the most player friendly entry in the series, mostly because it doesn’t really play like R-Type game should. It was developed by Nanao, IREM’s parent company. R-Type Leo was title given to an unknown game in development for name recognition, and can be considered bit of a retcon. Thus, it lacks some of R-Type elements seen in the two previous games, mainly the Force Pod and the necessary field design. Visual design is cleaner with less dicks and vagoos around, as the enemy is not stated to be Bydo. The game is a prequel to R-Type II and is set on a planet called Eden, where a bio-computer goes haywire and begins to attack humanity on the planet with its own defence system. Game’s ending states that Paradise Plan was to create a quasi-mechanical Earth by using said bio-computer, the Major. Something went wrong, and the R-9 Leo was thrown in to effectively destroy the whole planet. The cause why Major went haywire is unknown, but considering this is part of R-Type we can infer that the Bydo infiltrated Major’s systems. A good reason to exterminatus a planet.

With Force Pod gone, the game’s main gimmick is with the Bit Devices; a pair of floating orbs that add to firepower, with them swinging towards front or back depending player’s movement. They also function as the game’s charge weapon of sorts. When used, these two Bits would fly out in an overcharged state and cause damage to the enemy as long they were in contact with it and depleting a gauge. If the player summons them back before the gauge is empty, they’ll do it promptly and begin the gauge recovers faster. If they’re allowed to spend all of the gauge, they’ll slowly slump back towards the player. It has a similar three-coloured power-up system to the rest of the series, but one capsule cycles through all colours, making picking up a specific weapon faster and easier. There’s also a co-op mode, first for the series and a very welcome one at that.

In terms of visual design, R-Type Leo is the opposite of drab colours of its predecessor. Leo may run at a lower resolution, but the amount of colours makes the game beautiful. Even if stage designs aren’t exactly inspired and stage hazards are non-existent, the fact that the game looks vibrant and simply looks damn good makes it stand out even with its contemporaries to some extent. Stages themselves run the usual course of desert-forest-space-cave theming you see everywhere, but they’re nice to look at. Enemies may be a bit hit or miss, but bosses have more care. Of course, the R-Type inspired gameplay is solid, it is what you’d expect.

The sound is terrific as well, with sound effects having a good hard hitting edge. Music is very different, mellower at places and upbet in others. It’s a far cry from the previous games and especially the first stage’s theme is absolutely fantastic just to chill to. I admit I have a full blown bias for the song, and it wouldn’t really work in the rest of the series as it becomes more and more gruesome and depressing as it goes on.

It’s a great swan song for the series in the arcades, as from hereon the series would only see home and portable console releases.

It should be noted IREM has a similar loosely connected Science-Fiction universe as Toho had during Showa, where many movies had similar overall motifs and character criss-crossing about. IREM had multiple games that were loosely part of R-Type’s continuity, retroactively or not. These included titles like 1998’s Image Fight and 1991’s Armed Police Unit Gallop. Even games like 1992 Undercover Cops and 1993’s Perfect Soldiers would see some lose connections to IREM’s SF setting.

R-Type III: The Third Lighting is a game that gets a lot of love and hype. Hitting the SNES in 1993, it was developed by IREM’s subsidiary Tamtex, who also handled titles like Metal Storm. Despite R-Type’s development changing hands again, this is probably the best entry in the series thus far, making use of what a game on a console can offer without losing any of the hard-hitting arcade elements that made the first game so phenomenal. Unlike R-Type II, this third entry takes care to bring colour to the game similar how Leo did, but with the same emphasize of stage design as the first game. Second stage is probably a good example how this game challenges the player, showcasing a cave filled with biological elements, acid dropping from the ceiling and eating away floors the player too can at times must destroy in order to advance. Third stage throws in some vertically scrolling sections, which forces the player to adapt a different kind of approach. The stage’s mid-boss is fought in one of these sections. Stage hazards have upped the ante further with flowing magma, huge pressing machines with only few safe spots and spinning obstacles you can’t destroy. Hell, even backwards scrolling is used for a good effect. Maneuvering through these stages is even more challenging than previously, especially with the enemies around, but the game has taken all this into notion and allows the player some new options.

The largest change in player’s selection of weapons comes in form of multiple Force Pod types to choose from. You have the Standard Force, the same piece of equipment from the two first games and is recommended for series veterans. Second option the Shadow Force, which gains a small satellite with each power-up for additional firepower. Its Red Laser Crystal shoots a reverse laser, in which it shoots a beam above and below the fighter straight back. It’s Blue variant shoots two lasers forwards, but each of the satellite shoots to the opposite direction the player has been moving. The Yellow laser shoots two bits forwards, and one above and below, which then skim the surfaces. Third option is the Cyclone Force, a Force with no metallic bits to it. It’s fame is the ability to spin like death dervish for extra damage on impact, hence the name. Its laser options more or less standard, with Red having an arrow shape forwards, Blue having a scattershot effect and Yellow setting a sort of timed bomb you can only have two on screen. Furthermore, the Charge system was overhauled. You can have the usual charged shot, a large one at that , but also enter a Hyper Mode that shoots slightly smaller shots in rapid fire. Both have their use and do more damage than any other weapon in the game, outside the constant damage of the Force Pods. After using the Hyper Mode, the weapon needs to cool down, but in principle you could just spam it, if it would be beneficial.

The music’s the best the series has seen since Leo. While still lacking some of the ear worms you’d want, some old tunes are re-used and all the new ones are simply great. They fit, they drive, they scare and most of all it feels like R-Type soundtrack should. The only problem is that the music is on the SNES, where it sounds like the samples are compressed to hell and played back from an empty tunnel.

Technically the game’s sound, there aren’t really much slowdowns to go around and different display modes have been used for good effect. This is one of those titles on the SNES that uses Mode 7 for a good effect rather than trying to be retarded with it. A lot of visuals pop up nicely, and the mix of organic and technological visualscapes returns with a revenge. All this really makes the game one of the best shooting games on the system next Super Aleste. That’s not much of an honour, seeing SNES’ shooting games were rather poor compared to Mega Drive’s and PC Engines. However, it is one of the best shooting games to date, and that honour doesn’t come easy. It is pretty good starting point for the series, if you’re wondering what to play first. Just skip the GBA port.

 

1998 saw what fans call the best entry in the series; R-Type Delta. It’s somewhat hard to argue against this, as it also serves as a breaking point in the series. Thus far the games have been relatively light in tone despite the visual gruesome stuff and design all over the place. Outside the white drabbiness of R-Type II, things have been pretty colourful too in a good way. Then you have R-Type Delta that reminded the players that what they’re fighting against is effectively cosmic horrors that are able to invade the very human soul and corrupt it. Delta is a dark and depressing game, putting more emphasize on the nature of the Bydo in the same vain as the first game.

There are few major changes to the game once more, first being that the whole thing is now in 3D. With the arcades collapsing after the mid-1990’s, many genres tried to find a new home elsewhere. Street Fighter effectively died and people played Guilty Gear X. Whatever decision lead into making R-Type Delta resulted into a prime example how to take a 2D game and turn it into 3D. While visually its not the top cast to some other PlayStation shooting games, the sheer amount of attention put into new enemies and bosses is nothing short of impressive. None of the stages feel old or recycled from previous titles either, but you do notice certain cues taken from previous games. Underwater sections return from R-Type II to an insanely good effect, with specific challenges and enemies designed just for these sections making their appearance. You even battle a huge walking mechanical menace for one stage, another take on the battleship-as-a-stage concept from the first game. Hell, you might even revisit some familiar landscapes in a completely different form the closer you get to the game’s end in Bydo Dimension. Despite having some of the best stages in the franchise overall, veterans might find some of the elements tiresome already.

Enemies overall have more disturbing look to them, with designs looking back less to Giger and more late 1990’s biomechanical horrors. There’s more splatter, enemies don’t just explode but also visibly bleed as you shoot them. The juxtapose between player’s no-nonsense design compared to some of the convoluted mechanical designs of the Bydo shine, when you remember that this is a life that can simply take over matter to itself. Machines that walk suddenly make more sense. Presentation is top notch too, with GUI being simple but effective, each menu and mid-stage screen conveying the same kind of seriously damaged atmosphere.

Considering R-Type Delta takes place soon after the original game, making it a prequel to R-Type II, these vials make more sense

Delta takes some cues from R-Type III, but instead of allowing the player to choose from Force Pods, the player can choose from three different R-Series crafts, and there’s a POW Armour as a hidden fourth ship as well. You have a standard ship that plays like the R-9 Arrowhead from the first game, the R-9A2 Delta. The second, RX, later renamed as RX-10 Albatross, is visually slightly fattier ship with a Shock Wave Cannon, a charge shot that causes a localised explosion of sorts. Its Force Pod is named Tentacle Force, with straight laser beam being its Red laser. When moved, the tentacles of the Force Bit opens and makes the laser beam wider than the ship. Blue laser similarly shoots a pair of straight beams, but when moved forwards the tentacles open and the beams shoot in an angle. Yellow laser gives a sort of extensions to the Force, which move back and forth as the ship moves. R-13A Cerberus is 1990’s black repaint with red trims. Its Charge Shot is a homing lighting strike, which comes in handy in many ways with all the enemies flying about. It has the Anchor Force, which can anchor into the enemy until it dies. Its Red Laser produces a single steady beam that leaves a shade that causes damage as well. Blue offers a familiar blue lasers that turn 45-degrees with a homing function. Yellow has a 180-sweeping beam, from down to up. Not really as damaging, unless you’re close enough to have the whole sweep hit the target.

As a universal addon to all player crafts, there’s the Delta weapon; a screen clearing super bomb that can only be used with a Force Pod. The series has steered away from the usual bomb mechanics that became popular after Tatsujin showcased it, yet Delta Weapon isn’t exactly that sort of last resort weapon. Instead, you have to collect a full Dose meter of it by absorbing enemy shots with the Force Pod, or have the Force Pod be in contact with the enemy. Because of this method of collecting a full Dose requires different approach and you’re never just outright awarded with it, its usage is relatively rare. The series’ design doesn’t really gain anything from it though, so its existence is one of the weaker parts of the game. Still, nice to have it anyway, just in case.

The music in R-Type Delta is interesting. The soundtrack was by Unlimited Sound Project, a team very few has every heard of. Their electronica score for the game is rather cinematic, specifically fit for the stages and are not any longer than what the stages are. You know when stage ends and so does the song. This means when you continue in the middle of a stage, the stage’s background music will continue from that spot as well rather than looping at the beginning. It’s a very atmospheric at places, very pumping at places like the game’s image song, but also extremely haunting in the last stage of the game. A far cry from the previous entries, even Leo’s, but works very well for the game. Hell, even outside the game the soundtrack works just fine.

Delta‘s visuals and soundtrack re-defined the series. It refined how to use horror with the Bydo, something that would later make an appearance in ‘final’ game.

For numerous years, R-Type FINAL was the last entry in the series. Sadly, in 2003 the shooting genre was more or less dead and arcades were just a memory. Japan had moved away their last bits away from NEC’s PCs and Sega had killed the Dreamcast. FINAL was made to be the final entry in the series, but it doesn’t deliver as much as you’d expect. If one would be generous, it could be described as Delta with more stages and ships. However, sadly FINAL’s stage design is rather lacklustre, with less delicate design decisions and more concentrating on setting pieces. The music follows in suit, insisting on setting the mood like a modern Super Hero movie instead of making memorable tunes or the like. It’s backround wash, elevator music at best. If you’ve played R-Type game, you’ve played this, with one exception; 101 ships to choose from.

FINAL takes Third Lighting’s and Delta’s options to their natural end by allowing the player to unlock and choose 101 ships to use, 12 Bit Device to add, 53 Force Pods to equip, 10 types of missiles to launch and 83 different Wave Cannons to charge. There are also wide variety of Delta weapons, but they’re ship related and have the same screen clearing effect. As you’d expect, there are some overlap within each category, yet the sheer amount of options and ways to approach the game is impressive. No other shooting game, or many other games overall, have this extensive selection of options. It will also take some time to unlock all these ships, as they require certain amount of flight time with each of the ships or certain ships taken into particular stages. Some of the ships are more or less joke ships, but that’s minority at best. Some reference and retrospectively tie a lot of IREM’s old shooting games into the R-Type continuity, making that whole IREM SF setting I mentioned earlier.

All this of course also means a lot of weapons behave completely differently from previous entries, and it’s great to test and see what things can do. The last two ships, R-100 and R-101, are ships that can equip any and all equipment, allowing the player to make their own kind combination. An interesting feature in unlocking the ships relates to the PS2’s internal clock, where each unlocked ships uses the real date, but adds 160 years to set it in-universe link to reality.

Despite the stages having somewhat lacklustre design overall, there is a system of alternative routes in play. Not exactly the first for a shooting game, and its usage is rather lacklustre, but throws an interesting punch how you want to tackle the game in your current run, and next time. In second stage’s boss you are able to see two rods, red and blue. By shooting one or the other, you will either dry up the stage or fill it with more water. This can lead a lush forest like stage to become completely submerged and even frozen, or alternatively make it a desolate wasteland next time you play the stage. If you take a specific ship to the third stage, you’ll jump into a hidden stage that was seen in Delta to see a familiar face, further unlocking ships. The final stages also split into three paths, depending where you want to go and what ending to get. One will see a rather normal ending, where the player’s ship is damaged in a void after defeating the Bydo, another sees the player become a Bydo ship and fight the humans, and third is time travel forwards to stop the creation of the Bydo.

There is also few new additions for the series, like Score Attack mode, which amounts to replaying stages you’ve unlocked, and an A.I Battle mode, where you can equip two ships and watch them fight each other to determine a victory.

R-Type FINAL was a massive send-off to the series, and despite its failings and shortcomings, it is an admirable effort.

R-Type Tactics, or Command if you’re American, is effectively a sort of reboot or re-imagining of the series. As the name implies, gone are the days of shooting, we are in for a serious, story driven strategy that’s honestly stupidly difficult, even more so than the R-Type ever was as a shooting game. Released for PSP in 2007 in Japan, the game didn’t really sell all that well in either Overseas market or in its home market.

If you’re into a hex-grid based fleet-to-fleet strategy with a challenge, this game is for you. It has a slow, meticulous pace that many found a detriment, especially when battle sequences had to load the animations from the UMD. Someone once compared its pacing to a real board game, and I would agree to that. Depending on the size of the stage, and the amount of units in play, a single stage can take up to hour or more if you’re not perfect in your play. 58 stages worth of content also means that this game will take a good chunk out of you.

Main feature are R-Type staples at this point; Force Bit, various kind of weapons, the Bydo and the sheer amount of units directly lifted from FINAL. The narrative plays a large part, as it explores the human Space Corps side of the war, until you unlock the Bydo Empire side and move back against the humans.

Rather than try to explain how the gameplay flows with tons of text, I’d recommend checking SiegfreidZ’s Let’s Play of the game. You can also check the manual Atlus still has up.

A sequel, R-Type Tactics II: Operation Bitter Chocolate was released for PSP in 2009 and never left Japan despite plans otherwise. I guess the low sales affected. It’s one of the more expensive PSP titles that there is, especially if you’re after the soundtrack limited edition package.

The game offers more of the same, a series tradition. It doesn’t exactly rework the orthodox space strategy the first game established, but there are some fine tuned bits here and there. The maps have been expanded as well, and some stages have massive space stations as objects. There is also an additional faction of humans, as the story is centered around conflict within humanity while the Bydo are looming about.

That’s about what I can say about these two, they’re strategy games with varying levels of quality, and mostly for the fans of the series and those who really like strategy games. Both of these games expand the lore in massive leaps, even introducing a new alien civilisation to the game’s setting, as well as exploring more about the reasons why the Bydo attack humanity.

 

 

I haven’t mentioned much about the setting, the Bydo or anything about them, but they are one of the many reasons the games are loved. While the first game in the series doesn’t indulge into t story outside the few sentences here and there, It Begins In Deep Space Warped by Evil Power and the game’s title screen telling the player to Blast off and Strike the Evil Bydo Empire!, the Bydo are not examined or expanded upon until later in the series. For the first game, they appear as utterly evil, horrific creatures that simply continue to assault the player and through him, humanity at large. Later games make a specific point that the player craft, the R-9 Arrowhead, is sent as a lone fighter in a desperate attempt to create a pin-point assault at the core of the Bydo Empire in a way a a fleet could not.

As the opening of R-Types states, in the beginning of the 22nd Century, humanity was at peace. Then, the Bydo appeared, ravaging every planet in their path until they arrived at Earth. They act like parasites to all life forms, minerals and technology, able to assimilated them into their own being. The Bydo are, in fact, a man-made weapon from 2501 AD, from time when humanity was in an interstellar war with an unknown civilisation. The Bydo were made to be a self-replicating creatures using at least parts of human DNA, giving them the same double-helix structure. They have physical mass, yet exhibit properties of wave. A Bydo’s body can diffuse easily, and fill any space it meets, taking over it, converting it and becoming a weapon. While humanity was ready to send the Bydo against their enemy, a miscalculation with the delivery vessel caused them to become active within our solar system, and were dumped into a dimensional void. There the Bydo lived for eons on end, evolving and changing, until they were at the point where they could break dimensional barriers and return. However, they emerged back into our dimension before their birth.

The Wave Cannon can decimate Bydo at their atomic level, as it was originally designed to destroy meteors and other stellar object through harmonics. A Wave Cannon was found to be the only real weapon able to destroy the Bydo. That, and the Force Pod. Force Pod is selective grown Bydo tissue held in stasis with control rods. This gives the Force Pod its adaptability, durability and ability to grow. Were the control rods damaged, the Force Pod could simply become an active Bydo in itself. Many of the games’ ships have something to do how to control or interact with the Force Pod, with some creating psychic link with the Force Pod. This is also why most of games’ climaxes have the player sacrificing the Force Pod; fight monsters, with monsters.

However, the Tactics shed more light how Bydo think. All the Bydo campaigns are done with the player’s human side characters, as they are absorbed, and converted into Bydo themselves. R-Type FINAL has a descriptive log entry from a pilot who was, or was about to me, assimilated; Familiar faces, familiar places, but why? The Bydo can interact and consume human thought, and ultimately only core elements and drives seem to direct their actions. They’re made into weapons, and as weapons they shall act. At the end of Tactics, the Bydo captain simply wished to return home, but not recognising it anymore. His fleet simply loomed over Earth. Perhaps the Bydo, at their core, simply wish to return home after so long, but are twisted and out of time to recognise past Earth. If they’re even the weapon that humanity created. At the final stages of Operation Bitter Chocolate, the Bydo are absolutely terrified against a new faction under the Solar Envoy, which simply can slice and carve the Bydo without any harm, then recycle and spew new Bydo under its control. Perhaps the Solar Envoy was the real weapon humanity made, and the Bydo are simply its “bullets.” Nevertheless, FINAL  hints that the creation of the Bydo was based on the Force Pod the player takes into the future in order to stop their creation, creating a self proofing time loop.

Whatever the Bydo’s true nature is, the games’ visuals make most sense when we take these into notion. Human sexuality plays a large role in the Bydo design, from the usual Giger-eaque designs to flying sperms as enemies, or in case of FINAL, a silhouette of man and woman having sex. Hell, the Bydo are less produced as much as they are birthed. Combination of steel and flesh is what the Bydo are.

As for where the series name comes from, that’s the R-Series, or Round Canopy Series, the ships the player uses.

The series isn’t over yet, as R-Type FINAL 2 is just above the horizon, hopefully bringing the series back to its shooting roots with glory.

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