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R-Type Dimensions

Your knuckles are bloodied and bruised, there’s broken glass littering the floor; people are screaming, including yourself. Is this the scene of an unfortunate bar fight? No, I‘m afraid not. Because those knuckles are in agonising pain from where you punched the wall in furious anger; and the broken glass covering your room is actually from your expensive HDTV that, in a split-second of madness, you decided to throw your 360 controller straight into.

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Yes, this is not the aftermath of drunken, human fisticuffs, but rather the battle against an evil alien empire known as the Bydo. A force that has provided gamers with more frustration than any other iconic enemy in existence. This is R-Type Dimensions, and it’s as good as ever – just pad your room with pillows first.

Consisting of both arcade classics, R-Type and R-Type II, Dimensions offers two of the greatest retro shooters to hit the Xbox Live Arcade. Both games remain completely unchanged from when they hit the arcades back in the late eighties, as Bydo in all shapes and sizes clutter the screen, reigning down death from every possible angle. It’s overwhelming, intense and extremely difficult; a game the hardcore, nostalgic fans will adore from the get-go.

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But that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything here to attract in some newcomers. Like Bionic Commando: ReArmed before it, Dimensions offers both games in glorious 3D. The change is astounding as you use Y to switch between 2D and 3D on the fly – a feature that every retro game on the XBLA should implement. R-Type is known for its excellent enemy and level designs, and here the step-up to 3D improves the experience tenfold. It looks sleek, crisp, highly detailed and down right beautiful at times. It might not be a giant step up, but when you see how much the original titles have aged, it’s definitely a lot more pleasant to look at.

And that’s not all. There’s also a whole host of other presentational options to take a gander at. Most apply to the 3D mode, with a new “crazy” viewpoint moving the camera to an angle just to the left of the screen; and some funky 8-bit filters, giving everything a washed-out look. But perhaps the most novel of all is the arcade camera for use with the original 2D mode. Here you’ll play on the tiny screen of a 3D-rendered arcade cabinet. As the ship moves so does the screen and joystick on the arcade unit. It’s fun to watch, but those susceptible to motion sickness may want to stay away. It may be gimmicky, but those nostalgic fans will get a kick out of it – and the small screen can ramp up the difficulty even further.

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But for those of us that don’t want to die every three seconds, there’s the Infinite Mode. Rather than start with a measly three lives – like the classic mode – you’ll be given an unlimited amount. It makes the game extremely easy, and you can complete both games in around thirty minutes; but at least it gives you the option to do so, rather than never seeing past the first level.

Of course, you can always get a friend to join you, which should made the task a little more doable if you want to attempt the insanely difficult classic mode. Whether it’s offline or online, the co-op is a lot of fun. It can get a little too hectic with two people, and you’ll often forget which ship is yours, but a lot of laughs are guaranteed and it goes some way to justifying the high 1,200 points you’d need to be willing to pay for Dimensions.

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And, obviously, that price will be the sticking point for a lot of people. It makes Dimensions one of the most expensive games on XBLA, so even though it’s been made more accessible, it will probably only really attract in the hardcore fans. Those that will stick with the classic mode and spend countless hours trying to better their scores to extend the longevity of the game.

For the rest of us, the Infinite Mode makes the game way too easy and short, so there won’t be a lot to go back to other than the co-op. So really it depends on whether you’re willing to fight through the classic mode to try and justify your purchase. Those that do will enjoy R-Type Dimensions despite it’s horrendous difficulty level. There’s been a lot of effort and love put in to keep it from being just another retro game on the Arcade. The new presentational options differentiate it from that group, but I still don’t think it’s enough to warrant the high price point. The hardcore fans looking for nostalgia will definitely get the most out of it by far. It still maintains the classic look, sound and gameplay that made it such a hit in the first place. It’s just not for everyone, despite all the new bells and whistles that may attract a more casual audience.

7 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in June 2008. Get in touch on Twitter @richardwakeling.

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