Now this is how it’s supposed to be done! Good shooters were few and far on the SNES thanks to that slow processor so when a truly exceptional game in the genre appeared it was cause for celebration. Even considering the series pedigree R-Type III is one of the best games in the franchise with some of the best level design and additions to the series that elevate it above being a mere sequel. The different force options would go on to become a lasting staple of the series.
The Bydo Empire has returned and all hope rests in the hands of the new R-90 fighter. The story isn’t important but what is are the tons of new features Irem has added, giving the weapons system a much needed overhaul and adding a strategic element to the series. Exclusively released for the SNES in late 1993 it not only succeeds as a worthy entry in the series it also makes up for a series of slightly sub par R-Type games such as R-Type II and R-Type Leo.
The weapons system has been completely redesigned from the ground up. The Force option has now been upgraded to 3 separate options. The 3 choices, Round Force, Shadow Force, and Cyclone Force feature their own unique weaponry and quirks. These new weapons represent a considerable increase in firepower, one that is necessary to meet the challenges ahead. It would have been nice if you could choose a different force prior to each level rather than then entire game at the start but that’s a minor complaint. The charge cannon has seen a face lift as well. You now have the ability to switch on the fly to the Hyper Wave cannon which once maxed will fire multiple smaller blasts in succession with the drawback that it will overheat for a few seconds.
The Round Force is the standard drone that has been in every prior installment of the series. That means veterans with an aversion to trying something new or newcomers can fall back on this reliable option. The Reflecting laser, Air to Ground laser, and red air to air laser make a return and function as they did before.
The Shadow force pod can be shot and pulled back faster than the others which is crucial considering the number of enemies you’ll face throughout each level. When powered up it fires two shadow lasers simultaneously. Its weapons are the red reverse laser, blue all range laser which fires beams from the top and bottom of the ship, and the yellow guided laser, which does the same but also two forward. Personally this is my favorite force since its weapons prove so versatile.
With the Cyclone force the option satellite becomes a weapon itself to make up for its lack of projectiles. This is potentially the most destructive due to its ability to fly through enemies and inflict damage at the same time. Using an attraction and repulsion mechanic you can send the cyclone force out and pull it back at will. If you’re skilled enough you can fire it, pull it back for more damage and shoot it again without ever reattaching it and keeping it glued to a boss. Its weapons are the through laser, which pierces enemies but not certain walls, the splash laser, which fires multiple beams at varying angles that cause splash damage and the capsule laser. This strange weapon lets loose a small capsule in front of the force that almost functions as a second drone for a few seconds.
Lest you think all this additional firepower will go to waste, R-Type III is just as hard as its predecessors. Enemies swarm in great numbers and they still have a tendency to overwhelm you and herd you into a wall. It’s the type of white knuckle action that leaves you afraid to even blink in fear of what might happen. But you know what? Even despite this it remains fair. The controls are air tight so if you die you know it’s your fault. The enemies as well as bosses have recognizable patterns to exploit and maximizing whichever force you have is crucial to survival. Each of the levels has multiple checkpoints fixing Super R-Type’s biggest flaw. Despite topping out at only 6 levels you will definitely work to finish the game.
At least you’ll have some eye candy to ogle while doing so. R-Type III is an exceptionally beautiful game and holds its own against later shooters released on the console such as Spriggan Powered and Macross Scrambled Valkyrie. Eschewing the dull browns of its prequel R-Type III features a vibrant color palette and insane attention to detail. The alien designs of the series have always been striking and now even more so. Mode 7 is used pretty frequently but in subtle ways, such as the robots that scale in from deep space in the first level and the rotating backgrounds of stage 5. Irem are pushing the SNES pretty hard to achieve these visuals so it stands to reason that there is some slowdown but not to the extent of Super R-Type. The only competition in the 16-bit era would be Lightening Force in my opinion.
Excellent graphics, a difficult but fair challenge and a unique weapons system make R-Type III one of the best shmups of all time. This in my opinion is the best game in the R-Type series and should be sought out by any fan of the genre. Just stay the hell away from the Gameboy Advance port. Good god did they really screw that one up.