R-Type Command is a departure from the typical R-Type series of 2-D space shooters. This time the game is a focused turn-based strategy game that tries some interesting twists to the genre that don't quite work.
R-Type Command places you in the role of a commander named Atlus Armada who is given the mission to stop the Bydo infestation. The story is relayed through briefings and the commander's monologue style journal entries (the commander being you) as you progress through the game. The story is not incredibly deep, but there is a lot of R-Type background info and detail to read through if you so desire.
You start the game with a handful of ships and pilots and play by placing the units on a starting grid on a space or futuristic backdrop. The game progresses with you crossing the grid and battling enemy forces and bosses. There are a large amount of missions that generally have you trying to reach a certain point on the map or destroy the enemy flagship/boss.
The game utilizes a very methodical approach with you generally starting on the opposite side of the map from the enemy and meeting at the middle. This is where I had the biggest problem with the game. Yes I was able to research some cool units and my bombers were mini-gods but the gameplay is simply too shallow. This is a space themed strategy game and you have less movement options then in a standard land based tactical games (Jeanne D'arc or Final Fantasy Tactics). You can move up and down or left and right, and if enemies or debris are in your way, you have to get rid of them before moving forward (unless you have special units that can exit normal space). I found it really odd that the developer did not make this isometric or try to come up with a simple 4D grid. Plus the rounds take FAR too long, with each ship requiring you move them individually with far to many menu clicks to accomplish the task.
The developer seems to have looked at designing this game as more of a board game then a true strategy game. There are no benefits from flanking or surrounding the enemy as you see in many modern tactical games. The raw potential of this universe, especially its space setting, seems wasted in this game.
Having said that, some of the battles were quite fun as I tried to win with limited ships remaining. The game definitely has a charm that evokes some old school memories. There are many ship types, from Fighters to Bombers and Capital Ships to Force units. The Force units add a nice layer of strategy as you can attach them to certain units (front or back) and use them to enhance your attacks. You can also move with them attached, detach them, then they can move even farther. More innovations like this would have helped this game immensely.
There is a large amount of depth in the game if you choose to look for it. Your pilots gain skill as you play them and have increased stats eventually, you can also research new ship types as you obtain resources (that are very rare). The ship researching system could have been a real feather in this game's cap if resources were not so scarce. The game also features an ad hoc multiplayer mode that lets you bring your armada against a friends in local play. In multiplayer you can even play as the Bydo, which is a great feature in the R-Type universe. Infrastructure mode would have been a welcome feature as finding local friends who also own this game has been impossible for me.
Graphically the game is not groundbreaking, the main engine is sprite based units over a rendered 3D background. The sprites are very well done and add nostalgia to the look and feel, but they are hard to tell apart and sometimes blend into the background too much. The 3D backgrounds do have some nice effects in the form of debris and wispy tendrils of matter, but they have no bearing on the gameplay as they are literally a backdrop.
There are 'cutscenes' of a sort due to the fact that random 3D scenes are presented occasionally when you attack. While it is nice to see your ships in action they are not very impressive and take far too long to load, I turned them off before playing too long into the game. I do have to say that the screen filling bosses were very interesting to see in a game like this and were represented quite well.
Overall R-Type Command is not a terrible game. It has its charm and the battles can be fun if repetitive. The slow pace and relatively shallow strategy elements hurt an otherwise promising game.
R-Type Command is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) by the ESRB for Animated Blood and Mild Fantasy Violence.