R-Type II made it into the arcades in 1989 and wasn't quite as successful. After all, you can only redefine a genre on so many occasions. By then there were a welter of blasters to compete with that had built on its elder sibling's influence. This time only Commodore's Amiga saw a home port. That was until Nintendo's Super Famicom was released in Japan. To have the biggest name in shooters grace what became the Super Nintendo in the West was a restatement of the company's supremacy. Nintendo may have lost ground in the overseas markets, but it could still rely on having the platform of choice for arcade manufacturers wishing to port their games to home systems. Super R-Type fit this mold perfectly: the biggest name in shoot 'em ups was hitting the biggest name in video games.
The first time I saw Super R-Type was at the local import gaming emporium, and it looked amazing. The graphics seemed to be carbon copies of the arcade. The action looked frenetic and challenging. But playing it, that was a different matter. There were two chief flaws to this game - one intentional, one not. The first, which is persistently annoying, are the checkpoints or lack thereof. Suppose you battle your way through a tough level only to be smited by the boss at the end, you respawn back at the level's midpoint. That was definitely not cool but a long-established convention whereby difficulty or similar artificial challenges were deliberately deployed by designers to lengthen a game's longevity when, for reasons of technology and memory, there wasn't that much game to play through. The second are the game's technical issues: it is notorious for suffering from slowdown. As an early release, IREM clearly hadn't yet got a handle on the hardware and how to use clever programming to compensate for an almost laughably slow processor. This was all good ammo for the console wars of the time, but the slowdown almost made for a broken game. While it can be used to the player's advantage, such as slowly crawling around a bullet-filled screen, it can be a frightful foe too. Shoot too many opponents and the action ramps up to normal speed, which can see your ship become acquainted with a bullet or the scenery. There must have been hundreds of thousands of SNES owners whose progress through the game was delayed because they fell foul of dodgy programming.
Super R-Type is an important game because of the place it occupied in the early SNES "must-have" pantheon. For collectors it's perhaps a title no collection should go without. But had I splashed out then on a Super Nintendo and forked out a further £44.99 on this cart (for that was its price upon release), I'm sure disappointment would have set in pretty quickly - especially in comparison to the nifty MegaDrive shooters I was used to.