It’s confusing enough when a game with ‘Final’ in the title gets a sequel and 2021’s R-Type Final 2 certainly was an unexpected turn for the series, especially as it arrived some eighteen years after the previous Final title. But this release is stranger still.
R-Type Final 3 may have reduced the waiting time down from almost twenty years to just two but it’s not really a sequel. If EA can get away with releasing a new FIFA every year, then this doesn’t seem so bad but this game is really just R-Type Final 2 with seven new levels, some (but not all) of the DLC included, along with some new features that don’t necessarily make this feel like a new game at all. Indeed, existing R-Type Final 2 owners will see their existing installed digital copies update, icon and all, to R-Type Final 3. So is this just a DLC update and not, as the title suggests, a new game?
Now we didn’t really like the previous game all that much. It felt like R-Type and, being a Final game, it was loaded with ship options but the lacklustre presentation, dark and muddy visuals and savage difficulty spikes made it feel a little joyless to play. Especially as it commanded a full retail price. Of course, plenty of players out there in the shoot ’em community were able to tame it, even on its hardest difficulty setting but, for us, it relied too much on memorising stages and too often we found ourselves killed instantly by things that either attacked from behind or simply seemed to get us from nowhere. And of course, trying to beat the later levels when you’ve just been stripped of all your power-ups is a futile task.
So what does R-Type Final 3 bring to the table? Well, the original game is there, present and correct. From the start menu you can play through all of Final 2‘s stages and they’re exactly as we remember, including a couple of horrible final stages if you take the worst of the branching paths. The game’s had an upgrade, in terms of actual game engine, from Unreal 4 to Unreal 5, and of course now has a proper PS5 version, but we didn’t really see a huge visual upgrade. Stage three still looks bland and unimpressive for example.
But Granzella have added a whole new set of levels now too and this forms a whole other campaign. What you get is seven PS5 exclusive stages designed by series creator Kazuma Kujo. If you’ve played the previous game over and over, which was sort of the point as that was how you ultimately earned all the extra ships, having seven brand new ones will definitely be welcome and these do a decent job of switching up the setting to more of a planetary one with land, caves and underwater sections.
The new levels are the ones that benefit a bit more from the switch in game engines with the visuals being a bit more interesting and detailed. However, there are still times where you’ll be wondering what hit you. That’s the legacy of the previous game and it’s still annoying when it happens. Also, you’re not always sure what scenery you can touch and what will destroy you instantly. We had similar issues recently with Hyper-5 but that game at least attempted to highlight those areas that were a danger.
The new stages play fairly well though and there’s enough visual interest and interesting gameplay moments to make it worthwhile. Of course, it’s all still rock hard even if you pick a lower difficulty level as the later levels introduce some very tight squeezes for you to navigate through. So even if the game’s never been about bullet hell, all it takes is for a spinning death tunnel to come along and you’ll be hoping your eyes and left thumb have it in them to figure out a way through it all.
Aside from that, this new upgrade promises some multiplayer action (although, typically, it’s all a bit obscure at the moment). There’s the ‘R-Park’ which lets you run around a park looking at various R-Type ships, ‘My Room’ which puts you in what looks like Jeff Bezos’ garage and a competition mode that we think might allow users to come up with their own stages. It’ll all pop into life properly in the next update, so we’ll keep our eyes open for that and will report back.
The main takeaway from R-Type Final 3 though is that right now, this is more of a 2.5 kind of deal. Indeed, the game allowed us to import our previous save, which gave us access to all of the ships we’d previously unlocked. But the seven new stages are welcome and even though all of the old faults are there and the game can be a little impenetrable at times, both in terms of it’s difficulty but also the amount of options, DLC and all those ships to choose from, this does feel like an improvement of sorts over the previous game.
Ultimately, it’ll be the shoot ’em experts out there 1CCing the game on R-Typer 3 difficulty who’ll probably get the most out of it, while casual players will likely struggle to know what ship is best and how to get past some of the game’s nastiest sections on even the easiest difficulty setting. For us in the middle, we’re always happy to have an R-Type game installed and while we’d maybe rather see a port of R-Type III: The Third Lightning (can you imagine?!) or Leo, this is pretty good.
+ The new levels are worthy additions
- The difficulty is still pretty savage
- Visuals can still be dark and muddy