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Developer: Irem
Publisher: Nintendo
Release date: 1987
Genre: Shoot 'em up
Game modes: Up to 2 players, alternating turns
Cabinet: Standard
Controls: Joystick; 2 buttons
Orientation: Horizontal
Type: Raster, standard resolution (Used: 384 x 256)
Very influential for the genre; Invented the Force/Satellite

R-Type is a horizontally-scrolling shoot-em-up arcade game produced by Irem in 1987.



R-Type is one of the most famous of scrolling shooters. Its impressive graphics, detailed animation, inventive features and simple yet surprisingly involved gameplay made it a huge success for Irem.

The player flies a futuristic fighter craft called the R9, which is supposedly called because it is, at the time, the ninth model in the 'R' series of fighter craft. The player's mission is to 'blast off and strike the evil Bydo Empire'.

The gameplay of R-Type is noticeably distinct among shoot 'em ups. Invariably the player will lose not because of an inequality in firepower, but because of the design of the levels themselves. There is usually a 'correct' way to get through a level, but players must learn these by experience - ie. by losing and restarting from earlier in the level.


The Force

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The original Force. It consists of a living core surrounded by four control rods. The core is made from scraps of Bydo organisms; the control rods convert the energy from it into weapon energy.

The Force is R-Type 's most famous and unique innovation. Described as "an indestructible living weapon", it is a glowing, spherical pod that can be attached to the player's ship. Players of R-Type may also variously refer to this device as a Force Pod, Force Unit, Force Device, Force Orb, or Force Satellite.

To obtain the Force, the player must collect a weapon power-up. When this is done, the Force arrives onscreen from behind. To attach the Force to the ship, the player simply flies into it. It can be attached either to the front or back, and will fire in whatever direction it is facing.

When the Force is attached, it acts as a weapons system for the player. The weapon it uses depends on what power-up the player has collected. There are three different weapon power-ups:

  • Red - Counter-air Laser - at full power, this is a powerful, horizontal double transverse wave.
  • Blue - Rebound Laser - fires three thin beams; one horizontal, two at 45 diagonals. These beams can rebound off walls.
  • Yellow - Counter-ground Laser - fires two flamelike beams vertically upward and downward. These can travel along the ground and walls.

The Force also, importantly, acts as a shield. It is indestructible and can block normal enemy weapons. It can also damage or destroy enemies by collision.

The player has a single button with which to control the Force. By pressing the button when the Force is attached to the ship, it is rocket-ejected away in whatever direction it is facing.

When detached, the Force can be made to fire, but it uses an array of simple blasters rather than the weapons it supplies to the ship.

By pressing the button again, the Force can be called back to the ship. Because it homes in on the player's ship, the player can control it in a limited manner by moving the ship as it is returning.

The Force can be powered up two times. It is at its least powerful when it first appears, but increases in power whenever the player collects a new weapon power-up. The Force's visual appearance is different for each power level, and becomes more sophisticated as this increases.

Wave Cannon

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The Wave Cannon at full beam strength.

The Wave Cannon, also known as the Beam, is a special weapon integrated into the R9 craft. By simply holding the fire button down, the player can build up energy in their ship, drawing in tiny, glowing particles through the ship's nose. A 'BEAM' bar at the bottom of the screen indicates how much energy the ship is charged with. Releasing the fire button then discharges this energy as a destructive beam, which at full power can tear through waves of enemies. This is very reminiscent of anime-style energy attacks, and resembles the Kamehameha Wave attack from the Dragon Ball Z anime.

The Wave Cannon is a powerful weapon, but has the disadvantage that the player cannot fire whilst charging the cannon. In addition, it can only fire forwards.


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A Bit, hovering above the R9.

Bits are small, floating orbs, resembling miniature Forces in appearance. The player can acquire up to two Bits at once; they hover a short distance above and below the fighter.

Bits can shield the ship in the same manner as a Force; also, when used in conjunction with the Counter-air Laser, they can fire small projectiles. This trend continues in later R-Type games - some Bits have the ability to use a miniature version of the Red weapon of some Forces.


The R9 can be equipped with two missiles, which home in on enemies.


R-Type was followed by a huge series of sequels and spin-offs. Note that most of the nomenclature below (such as the names of wave cannons and so forth) is taken from R-Type Final, which has a museum of every fighter ever featured in the R-Type series. However, the nomenclature has been revised by every new release and thus may differ from game to game.

R-Type II

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R-Type II

The sequel R-Type II was released in 1989. It expanded upon the original game by introducing some more weapons and upgraded the Wave Cannon to the Diffusion Wave Cannon, which had an extra level of power. If the player continued to charge beyond full beam strength, eventually the ship would become supercharged and capable of releasing a storm of energy waves, capable of wiping out every enemy on the screen.

New weapons in R-Type II

  • Green - Search Laser - fires semi-homing lasers that can bend at 45 angles.
  • Grey - Shotgun Laser - fires large shells that explode powerfully after a short distance.
  • Scatter bomb - drops bombs to the ground; when these explode, the explosion scatters forward along the ground for a short distance. This is a supporting weapon that can be equipped instead of missiles.

R-Type III

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R-Type III on the SNES

Released only on the SNES in 1993 but later ported to the Game Boy Advance, R-Type III was the first game in the series to introduce new Forces. As well as the original Force (which was now named the Round Force, later named as the Standard Force in R-Type Final), the player could choose from two other Forces: the Shadow Force and the Cyclone Force. These both had new, different weapon sets and special enhancements.

R-Type III also refined the weapons and charging system somewhat. It reverted to the original Red-Blue-Yellow weapon system, and gave the player two buttons for firing: one for rapid-fire, and the other for single-shot with wave cannon charge.

The wave cannon, too, was changed - the Diffusion Wave Cannon from R-Type II was removed, and replaced with a more standard wave cannon. Charging this cannon beyond full beam strength results in a massive, powerful beam that can travel through walls.

A new weapon called the Hyper Wave Cannon was also added to the ship, which the player could use instead of the normal wave cannon if they desired. By switching to Hyper mode and supercharging the wave cannon, the ship temporarily gains the ability to use the Hyper Wave Cannon, which is unique among wave cannons in having a rapid fire capability. However, this causes the ship to overheat after a short while, and it must subsequently spend seconds cooling down, during which time the wave cannon is inoperative.

The fighter in R-Type III is identified in R-Type Final as the R-9 Ragnarok. The wave cannon is not identified, but it strongly resembles the Mega Wave Cannon from R-Type Final. Additionally, the R9-2 Ragnarok II uses the Giga Wave Cannon, which is essentially a highly powered up Mega Wave Cannon.

Shadow Force Weaponry

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The Shadow Force - the first totally human-made Force, with no Bydo component whatsoever. The two dark green spheres are the Shadow Units - multidirectional turrets that change direction based on the movement of the player's ship. When the Shadow Force is detached, the Shadow Units attach themselves to it.
  • Red - Reverse Laser - fires two beams forward and two that angle back in the opposite direction.
  • Blue - All-Range Laser - fires two beams forward and up to two in a direction controlled by the player.
  • Yellow - Guide Laser - fires four beams - two forward, one up, and one down - which travel along the ground and walls.

Shadow Force Functions

  • High Speed Return System - the Shadow Force can be retracted to the player's ship very quickly.
  • All-Range Shadow Blaster - the Shadow Force possesses up to two Shadow Units - small, ghostly floating turrets which change direction based on the player's position in relation to them, and can thus be aimed. These are normally equipped with blasters, but are also used in conjunction with the All-Range Laser to provide directional fire.

Cyclone Force Weaponry

The Cyclone Force, a prototype, as it appears in docked mode (left) and detached mode (right). Visual evidence suggests that the blue and orange spheres are Cyclonic Bits.
The Cyclone Force, a prototype, as it appears in docked mode (left) and detached mode (right). Visual evidence suggests that the blue and orange spheres are Cyclonic Bits.
  • Red - Passing Laser - a powerful shot that looks like a sideways V.
  • Blue - Splash Laser - a shot that fires up to five blue lasers at once in different directions.
  • Yellow - Capsule Laser - generates up to two pulsating orbs that continue to fire a rapid stream of lasers even after the player has moved or stopped firing.

Cyclone Force Functions

  • Active Control System - the Cyclone Force's forward/backward motion can be reversed at any time, thus allowing some degree of control over it. This enables the player to guide the Cyclone Force into enemies.
  • Cyclone Power Attack - the Cyclone Force carries two small, revolving spheres called Cyclonic Bits. When the Cyclone Force is detached, these whirl around the Force's core at enormous speed, giving it a large effective radius.

R-Type Leo

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R-Type Leo. The Psy Bits can be seen hovering above and below the player's ship.

Released only in Japanese arcades, R-Type Leo deviates from the normal R-Type style by removing the use of both the Force and the Wave Cannon. The new weapons are Force Bits (later identified in R-Type Final as "Psy Bits") which carry similar firepower to the main ship. The ship weapons are:

  • Red - Claw Laser - a powerful horizontal laser beam
  • Blue - Mirror Laser - fires multiple, ricocheting lasers.
  • Green - Search Laser LRG - fires semi-homing lasers that can bend at 90 angles.

Unlike previous Bit Devices, the Psy Bits are capable of firing forward or backwards (the direction is controlled by movement of the ship itself). Finally, the Wave Cannon is replaced by a "Bit Shot", where the Psy Bits detach from the ship and collide with the nearest enemy at high velocity. The Bits can only do this for so long before running out of energy, and must be recalled to the ship to recharge.

The R-Type timeline indicates that the events of R-Type Leo occur before those of all the other games in the series. This could explain why the game lacks a Force, as this is a relatively new invention in R-Type.

R-Type Final has a ship called the R9Leo Leo, which can use the Psy Bits and has a Force (the Leo Force) which has the same weapons as the ship in this game.

R-Type Delta

Released only on the PlayStation, this is the first R-Type series game offering different fighters, with different Force and Wave Cannon combinations for the player to choose from. This title is also the first game in the R-Type series in full 3D graphics.

This game introduced the 'Dose System', which allows Forces to absorb energy through collisions with projectiles or enemies. Every Force has a 'Dose Gauge', and when the Dosage becomes 100%, a 'Dose Break' occurs. When this happens, the firepower of the Force will increase and the player can trigger a 'Dose Attack', which destroys all projectiles on screen and damages all enemies.

New fighters in R-Type Delta

  • R-9aII Delta: A slight refinement of the original R9. Uses the Standard Force and the Shock Wave Cannon, which was renamed the Diffusion Wave Cannon in R-Type Final.
  • R-X Albatross: A violet-canopied fighter with prominent wings. The Albatross uses the Tentacle Force, which has two extendable tentacles on either side and is equipped with powerful beam weapons. The tentacles respond to the movement of the player, which allows the intensity or direction of beams to be controlled. In addition, the Force, when detached, will seek out enemies on screen. The Albatross is also fitted with the Burst Shock Wave Cannon, which is capable of detonating enemies from within. (In R-Type Final, the ship's designation is RX-10, and the Burst Shock Wave Cannon is renamed the Shock Wave Cannon.)
  • R-13 Cerberus: A squat black-and-red fighter. The Cerberus uses the Anchor Force, which is physically linked to the ship by a cable. This Force sports three sharp prongs which can embed themselves in enemies, causing continuous damage. The Cerberus is also fitted with the Lightning Wave Cannon, which emits a fast electrical discharge that home in on enemies. (In R-Type Final, the ship's designation is R-13A.)

R-Type Final

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The R Museum from R-Type Final. From here, any ship that the player has so far unlocked can be viewed. The museum provides information and history on every ship, and details the wave cannons, Forces, Bits and missiles that they use. It also contains empty spaces for ships that the player has to acquire, and details the conditions for obtaining them.

R-Type Final is, according to Irem, the last R-Type game that they will make, thus retiring the R-Type franchise (at least according to Irem's standards). It was released on the PlayStation 2, and expands massively on the earlier games by offering 99 different ships, including every single ship appearing in the previous R-Type games, together with many original ones. This forms a complete roadmap, which can be unlocked through the course of the game. Every ship has a different combination of Forces, Wave Cannons, and other features; there are, in total:

  • 53 Forces with three weapons each, as well as various detached-mode weapons and functions;
  • 83 Wave Cannons, ranging from laser beams and explosive blasts to pile driver spikes and acid sprays;
  • 12 Bit types, including cameras and blaster-equipped pods;

There is also a VS AI mode, which allows the player to specify attack strategies and pit their ships in a duel with computer-controlled opponent fighters.

Homages to other Irem games in R-Type Final

As well as featuring many elements of the previous R-Type games, Irem incorporated aspects of and homages to some of their other titles.

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Image Fight

Image Fight

Image Fight was released in the arcades in 1988, a year after R-Type. It is a vertically-scrolling shoot 'em up, and is notable for the feature of aimable, blaster-equipped pods (similar to Bits) which the player can launch at enemies. These Pods are available on ships of the OF series.

The ship from Image Fight (identified as the OF-1 Daedalus) is a playable fighter in R-Type Final. As in the original game, its structure transforms at different speeds, and the exhaust from a speed change can damage enemies.

The OF Forces, too, are all based on Force-like devices from Image Fight. (The most primitive forms of the OF Forces, which look like a spinning square green gem, were originally in fact the power-up container.) All weapons of the OF Forces are taken directly from the Image Fight games.

An enemy from Image Fight (identified as the Photon Dorney) appears several times on stage 5, as does the 'Bat' in stage F-C.

Gallop: Armed Police Unit

Gallop: Armed Police Unit (also known as Cosmic Cop outside of Japan) is a horizontally-scrolling shoot 'em up, released in the arcades in 1991. The Gallop Force is presumably named for this game. The ship from Gallop (identified as the R-11B Peace Maker) is also a playable fighter. In fact, in the official history of R-Type, Gallop takes place at the same time as R-Type Delta (despite the fact that the game was not related to R-Type originally).

Mr Heli No Dai Bouken

Mr Heli No Dai Bouken, also known simply as Mr Heli, and sometimes as Battle Chopper outside Japan, is a horizontally-scrolling shoot 'em up released in arcades in 1987. The player's vehicle, a round, orange helicopter, is a fighter in R-Type Final - the TP-3 Mr Heli - although it can only be unlocked using a password. It has its own unique wave cannon, Force, Bit, and Missile.

Tropical Angel

Tropical Angel is a waterskiing game, released in the arcades in 1983. Presumably in homage to this, one of the ships is designated as the R-11S Tropical Angel.


X-Multiply is a horizontally-scrolling shoot 'em up, released in the arcades in 1989. The Flexible Force is based on the ship from this game. The description of the Flexible Force notes that it was not made by the designers of the similar Tentacle Force - perhaps a subtle credit to the makers of X-Multiply.

Disaster Report

Disaster Report is a survival action adventure game, released on the PlayStation 2 in 2003, which centres around a natural disaster. (The title of the Europe version is S.O.S. Escape, and the title of the Japan version is Zettaizetsumei Toshi) Presumably in homage to this, one of the ships is designated as the R-9WZ Disaster Report. Appropriately, this ship uses the Cataclysm Wave Cannon, the effects of which are said to be indistinguishable from a natural disaster.

Dragon Breed

Dragon Breed is a horizontally-scrolling shoot 'em up, released in the arcades in 1989, in which the player flies a large, Chinese-style dragon. The BX-4 Arvanche strongly resembles such a dragon; it is possible, however, that this is merely a coincidence.

Meanings and significances of fighter names in R-Type Final

  • R-9DH Grace Note: In music, a grace note is a kind of ornamental embellishment. Grace Note is also the name of a company that sells wind chimes. The R-9DH is equipped with a Long Irradiation Beam, which produces a distinctive pure, clear tone when fired.
  • R-9DP series: The pile-driver fighters seem to be named for geographical features in Japan. The R-9DP Hakusan has the same name as a Japanese town. Its descendant, the R-9DP2 Asanogawa, appears to be named for the Asanogawa Ohashi bridge in Kanazawa. The last ship in the R-9DP series is the R-9DP3 Kenrokuen, which is likely named for the historic Kenrouken Garden, also in Kanazawa.
  • RX-10 Albatross: Albatrosses are large seabirds; the wandering albatross has the longest wingspan of any bird. Like its namesake, the RX-10 has relatively long horizontal wings.
  • OF-1 Daedalus: In Greek mythology, Daedalus was a great artificier. He is said to have invented images; this may be a reference to the fact that the OF-1 comes from the game Image Fight, which is set inside a holographic simulator.
  • OF-5 Kaguya: Princess Kaguya is a character in the Japanese story The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter. The OF-5's description in the game itself suggests that it was named for her because the shots of the Green Pod (which only the OF-5 can use) look like bamboo. It stresses, however, that this is merely speculation.
  • TP-2M Frogman: A frogman is another name for a scuba diver. The TP-2M is designed for amphibious duty and is equipped with flippers and what appear to be oxygen tanks.
  • TL series: The transforming mecha fighters are all named for figures from Greek mythology. The first, and ancestor of the rest, is the TL-T Chiron. In Greek legend, Chiron was the tutor of Jason, Asclepius, Achilles and Heracles. The four descendants of the Chiron are the TL-1A Iason, TL-1B Asklepios, TL-2A Achilleus and TL-2B Herakles.
  • TL-2B2 Hyllas: Hyllus was the son of Heracles. The TL-2B2 is the descendant of the TL-2B Herakles.
  • RX-12 Cross the Rubicon: To 'cross the Rubicon' is a phrase meaning 'to commit oneself to a risky course of action'. It originates from Julius Caesar's crossing of the River Rubicon, which was said to be forbidden. The RX-12 is the Bydo Coefficient Test Unit, the ship that was designed to break the limit of energy that could be obtained from Bydo organisms, thus paving the way for Bydo-based fighters.
  • R-13 series: These are also named for Greek mythological figures. In Greek legend, Echidna is the mother of Cerberus, and Cerberus was the guardian of Hades. The R-13T Echidna is the prototype for the R-13A Cerberus, which is the ancestor of the R-13A2 Hades.
  • BX-2Platonic Love: Platonic love is a philosophical term for mutual love of a non-sexual nature. The BX-2 Platonic Love has a distinct heart theme, and it is suggested that it somehow utilises the power of love.
  • R-9 Ragnarok: In Norse mythology, Ragnarok is the name of the battle that is predicted to take place at the end of the world. There is a Ragnarok variant, the R-92 Ragnarok II, which contains the so-called 'Final Wave Cannon', capable of destroying any enemy in a single shot when fully charged. Perhaps also in keeping with the Norse theme, the ship's designation contains the character , a letter of the Norwegian alphabet.

R-Type games

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R-Type DX (Game Boy Color)


On the Usenet newsgroup alt.games.mame (http://groups.google.com/groups?q=alt.games.mame), there is a running gag involving R-Type. Whenever someone asks for help identifying a game, and provides an inadequate description, one of the answers is always "R-Type".

There is a game called Pulstar for the Neo-Geo which bears a great similarity to R-Type, right down to use of a Force-like device. However, it was not made by Irem and has no relation to the R-Type series.

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