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BeardedSonOfNel 10-09-2019 10:30 AM

One Quarter One Play - R-Type

This week I borrowed Mr. Peabody’s WABAC machine, and traveled to the year 1987.
Music wise; Billboard’s top pop hits were “Walk Like an Egyptian” by The Bangles, “Alone” by Heart, “Shake You Down” by Gregory Abbott, and “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” by Whitney Houston.

It was a good year for movies. In 1987 I caught Lethal Weapon, Predator, Throw Momma From the Train, The Running Man, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3, and Robocop.

This is also the year that IREM released their first 16-bit arcade game, R-Type. So, click the headline to learn more about this game, and see how far I get on one quarter with no prior practice rounds.

BeardedSonOfNel 10-09-2019 10:30 AM

This week I play one of my favorite arcade games of all time, R-Type. R-Type was developed, and published to arcades in Japan by IREM. Nintendo of America did the publishing for the U.S. arcade release.

IREM had just completed work on a new 16-bit arcade board named the IREM M72. The M72 could display many sprites on screen and had a fast processor. So, team leader Kinte thought an STG game (shooting game AKA SHMUP) would be good fit for it.

R-Type is a horizontal shooter. The player controls a star ship named the R-9 Arrowhead. Like many shooters the player can collect power ups known as Ray weapons. The “R” in R-type stands for Ray. The first power up is always the Force. The Force started out as a joke. Abiko the game’s designer talked about the force in an interview…

ABIKO (Designer): It started out as a joke, but our idea for the Force came from the dung beetle. We were thinking of a system where you wouldn’t power up your own ship, but would instead power up the ball of dung. We wanted something where two players could play simultaneously within the same screen and fight together, basically. Our programmer AKIO is a hardcore Gradius player, so we were very conscious of the existence of Gradius. If we were going to make a horizontal STG, we knew it would get compared to Gradius, so we were thinking about what we could do differently.
By the time we were asked to start coding, there had been many revisions and changes to the original game design. For example, we originally wanted to make the Force capable of deployment in 4 positions on your ship: front, back, top, and bottom. But it turned out to be too difficult to program, so we left it only front and back. The powerups changed almost completely too. At first we had typical STG weapons like a 3-way shot, but we felt that this wouldn’t distinguish our game enough from Gradius, so we added the reflecting laser. That was a real pain to code. (laughs)

In the finished game the Force can be attached to the front or back of the R-9. It can also free float out on it’s own. The Force can also shield the player from most enemy fire.

The story is straight forward. There is a powerful alien race called the Bydo. For some reason they are hell bent on destroying the human race. It’s up to you in your single star ship to save all of mankind.

Sound And Music
The audio designer of the game is known as Scrap. I found this interview with him talking about R-Type’s sound design.

SCRAP (Sound): For the sound, I got many requests from the planning staff. The main thing was for it to be serious in tone. There were a lot of little, particular requests as well. One of those was to add sounds of an actual battleship, for the huge battleship you fight in stage 3. I actually couldn’t come up with anything for the sound of a battleship moving, and of course there are no “huge battleships” in real life. Sounds that don’t actually exist are quite difficult to make. (laughs)
The planning and design staff would give ideas for the rhythm of certain sounds. “It should be like, don, ta ta ta!” and so on. Their ideas were really vague, but I did my best to match them. It was really difficult. I was told “that won’t work at all” many times. For every successful sound, I had double the number of failures.
Another thing we tried to be conscious of for all of the R-Type development was film music. In film music the impact of a scene is conveyed to you in the space of 2-3 seconds, and we tried to keep that in mind as we went along. I also thought PSG sound might be better suited for this game. FM sound is very pretty, but it can sound too “natural” and be hard to hear in a game center. Well, in the end both have their drawbacks I guess.

R-Type was ported to everything, from the Commodore 64 to the ZX Spectrum, and all of the consoles in between. One of the most notable ports was done by Hudson Soft for the PC Engine and TurboGrafx 16. The game is almost a perfect port of the arcade. Hudson also did a version for the PC Engine’s CD-ROM called R-Type Complete CD. The CD version is my favorite of all the ports, but the Xbox 360 version follows very closely.

CPU : V30 @ 8 MHz
Sound CPU : Z80 @ 3.579545 MHz
Sound Chip : YM2151 @ 3.579545 MHz

The main CPU (V30) was made by NEC. I got this little nugget from CPU-World
It is a 16-bit CMOS microprocessor, object-code compatible and pin-compatible with Intel 8086. The V30 runs at the same speed as the 8086, but it's 10% - 30% faster (depending on application) due to internal improvements - dual internal 16-bit data bus, faster effective address calculation, faster integer multiplication and some others. The V30 includes Intel 8080 emulation mode, in which it can execute all of the 8080 instructions. Native V30 instruction set includes all 8086/8088 instructions, new instructions from the 80186/80188 microprocessor, and instructions unique to V30 - bit processing, packed BCD instructions and special instructions for switching the processor to 8080 emulation mode and back.

The Z80 is used to control the YM2151 sound chip.

The hardware in R-Type would go on to power many more IREM games including Air Duel, Image Fight, Legend of Hero Tonma, and X Multiply to name a few.

Here is my One Quarter One Play of R-Type

Here is a 3-D model of the third stage, that I just couldn’t beat when filming the video. The 3rd stage is actually the hardest stage for me.

R-Type is my favorite arcade shooters, and is in my top 3 for all time favorite arcade games. It’s not for everyone, and is considered to be one of the hardest SHMUPs around. R-Type would go on to spawn many sequels, and spin offs such as R-Type II, and the very cool X Multiply just to name a couple.

Terran 10-09-2019 02:17 PM

LOVE R-Type and love the shmup genre as well. Awesome!

MusicToEat 10-09-2019 04:02 PM

Loved this game back in the day, thanks for the stroll down memory lane

BeardedSonOfNel 10-09-2019 07:17 PM

Thanks guys!
SHMUPs are currently my favorite genre. When I was younger I hated them, but a few years ago I gave them another shot, and for whatever reason I fell in love with them. They relax me. On top of that I don't have a ton of time to play games anymore, and I love how I can just pick them up and play.

Inkabodcrane 10-11-2019 01:43 AM

Look awesome! I hope to start collecting at least a few arcade machines in the near future, and a SHMUP would be a requirement (as well as a Mortal Kombat 2 and/or 3 cabinet).

1987 was an awesome year. I was only 6, but Predator alone makes it a national holiday for life!

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