EVERY court case has two winners - the solicitors. R-type is the result of another case where the losers won. Factor 5, a German software house wrote a scrolling shoot 'em up called Katakis. Katakis looked too much like R-Type, a licence Activision guarded with zeal, as you would if you had paid Irem, the Japanese originators, lots and lots of Yen. US Gold had Katakis modified to look less like R-Type and called the result Denaris. So Factor 5 wrote two games which looked pretty similar. But the best was yet to come. Katakis was such a good R-Type rip-off that the Germans were chosen to produce the official version.
They have done a brilliant job. Purely in the interests of research I visited an arcade to check out the original. I used not to be very good at R-Type, but after three days intensive practice on the Amiga version I sailed though the first two levels of the arcade version. Friends in the arcade were well impressed. This reveals two things about the conversion. First, the timing and feel are spot on. Second, the Amiga version is much harder than the coin-op with standard settings.
Increased difficulty is no bad thing. At 20p a go there is a strong disincentive to practice. If you have shield out 100 times the amount and then all the games are free, you will play until your fire button finger is sore. Then you will play some more.
The programmers clearly know and love the Amiga. The game oozes slickness. Graphics are not quite up to the money-munching original but they are pretty close. Speed does not seem to be affected by swarms of encroaching aliens, the massive end-of-level guardians nor your unleashing megatonnes of death by building up loads of weapons. Pick up a shield, ripple lasers, side firing lasers, seeking missile and some side shields and no enemy poses a real threat. But if your finger slips on the sweaty trigger and you lose a life at a crucial moment, it is still playable.
Dedicated gamers will argue that if you lose extra weapons early you might as well give up and go back to the start. This takes some patience because you have six credits and the temptation is to use them regardless of tactics.
A well-programmed conversion of one of the best games in the arcades is the most you can hope for. The music does not grate, neither is it great, but the result is spot on.
Denaris may be a better game for its deviation from the original, but R-Type is the benchmark by which other games of this ilk must be judged.