The ZX Spectrum conversion of Irem‘s classic arcade game R-Type is considered by many to be one of the best games ever made for Sir Clive‘s classic 8-bit home computer.
R-Type on the Spectrum is a riot of colour (and bullets) and contains pretty much every feature from the original, including all the levels, power-ups and bosses. The only real downside is that it is multi-load, meaning that the individual levels have to be loaded in one by one as you progress, but that at least gave the programmers some leeway in terms of memory restrictions and allowed them to fit much more in than they otherwise would have been able to in a single load.
It wouldn’t be unfair to say that R-Type on the Spectrum is a little slow by today’s standards, but all considered it is also a bit of a technical miracle. The game seems to use a mixture of pixel and character-based movement to avoid colour clash and this also helps make the game playable as the movement of the ship (the R-9) is fast enough to create some fairly exciting gameplay situations.
Like a lot of progressive weapons shooters you’re well advised to hang on to certain weapons at specific points in the game and to also learn how to use the charge beam and the nose pod. The pod can be acquired fairly early into the game and it can be ejected into enemies and also manoeuvred onto the back of the R-9 craft. This proves useful when the primary threat comes from behind, which it does at certain points in the game. The charge beam can fire more powerful shots if you hold down fire and release it after the blue bar at the bottom of the screen is filled. There are also protective spheres that can be added above and below the R-9 by picking up certain power-ups.
Overall, considering the ZX Spectrum‘s limitations, R-Type is superb game on the system and puts many other side-scrolling shooters on the Speccy to shame.
An interesting historical note about the original release of the game: a mastering error on the initial 48K version release meant that level eight didn’t appear on the tape (level seven was accidentally recorded twice instead), meaning that players who managed to make it through the first seven levels didn’t get to see the last one! Ouch. This was fixed for the budget reissue and the 128K version though.
The screenshots here are from the enhanced 128K version. R-Type was developed by Software Studios and published by Electric Dreams in 1988.
More: R-Type on Wikipedia