As gamers, we tend to create our own innate rules when it comes to certain genres. Any game that carries a license should be approached with caution, no matter how fun it looks. Puzzle games will never be as good as Tetris and any spin off game that carries the subtitle ‘Tactics’ is going to bring you pain (hello, Dynasty Warriors). And lots of it. Perhaps it was the vague hope that this new R-Type might not actually be a by-the-books 2D RTS that lead me to volunteering for this review, but from the second you boot the UMD up you aren’t playing R-Type, no matter what the box says. Whereas a conventional R-Type game would have satisfied existing fans and maybe attracted a small handful of new players, Tactics will only truly appeal to the most hardcore fans who will adapt their tastes to the series no matter what direction it takes.
The extremely basic turn based battle system is reminiscent of that in Final Fantasy X and Pokemon, which comprises simply of selecting a ship to use, one to attack and the weapon to use. The killer factor however is whereas FFX’s system was slick, varied and battles enjoyable to watch, R-Type’s feels extremely long winded and sluggish with random cut-scene sequences thrown in. At times, they feel like they serve little purpose other than to slow the gameplay down further. A nice feature at first, but in practise are utterly pointless and only add to the tedium of the battles. It’s a shame, because if the battle system worked smoother then it could at least haul itself back into contention of being a mediocre RTS, as opposed to the unrewarding slog the 58 levels feel like.
To complement the progressively difficult missions, it’s up to you to upgrade your fleet of ships to a style that reflects the way you approach battles. If you just want to get stuck in there, then focusing on the more manuverable ships obviously is more appropriate to your fleet than slower more powerful ones. It can add a little more variety to the proceedings but the core mechanics severely restrict it from bringing any depth to the gameplay. Be it in single player or ad hoc multiplayer, the way you organise your fleet for the battle is ultimately what will decide the outcome, as each battle will usually consist of cautiously attacking the opponent before either player cautiously regroups their fleet to try and turn things around. It is fitting for a handheld console however, simply because if you play it for more than two battles at a time you’ll probably want to find a dark corner and cry.
Normally for a game which brings this much disappointment, you could put a positive spin on it by complimenting its overall presentation and calling it fitting for the system, however bar the random cut scenes, Tactics looks and sounds like it’s straight out of the 16 bit era, back in the days when R-Type was fun to play. Don’t be fooled by the solid 3D screenshots on the back of the box, the cut-scenes do look solid for a PSP game but you’ll be watching these, not playing them. Retro looking menus combined with a dull colour palette will not set that vibrant PSP screen alight.
And that says it all about R-Type Tactics, really. When you play a game and find the most immersive sections are cut-scenes and the game isn’t called Metal Gear Solid, then you know something isn’t quite right. Despite providing an interesting departure for a classic series, Tactics just can’t quite cut it in even the least competitive platform’s market. In no means is it a terrible game or even broken, it just doesn’t serve any purpose and feels like a complete chore. That is not what we pay our hard earned cash for…