R-Type was one of those series where it took me forever to play the original versions of the game. I knew the series was pretty awesome, having seen pictures of the Dobkeratops and other monsters, but had never actually played one of the games. Super R-Type was my first foray to the series, which is kind of sad in some ways as it’s not one of the better titles. In fact, Super R-Type is based off R-Type II, which was one of the hardest games in the series (and not one of the best…), here made even harder in that there are no halfway points! That’s right, you have to play the entire stage from beginning to end. As a result, I’ve only beaten the game once, and that seems to have been enough for me! However, the music still sticks in my head long after I’ve put the game back into the shoebox next to all the other SNES games I haven’t played in years.
The most notable track is “Solo Sortie”, the opening stage, a new short level serving as prelude. The stage is fairly simple, an asteroid field with weak defenses, but the music is spectacular, with instruments ranging from a pounding background rock guitar, brilliant piano, strings and flute, a lead trumpet taken straight out of hip school, and the ever-present drums that tap away with horseshoe clatter and the chatter of weapons-fire.
The track opens with five seconds of descending piano notes taken straight from the original R-Type before the strings burst through the clouds to a flurry of trumpets that are absolutely all over the place, flying across the scale with the surgical precision of an ace pilot, raiding first the highs, then mids and lows and back again, just as the R9 fighter swoops through the oncoming asteroids. This trumpet is punctuated by screeching bursts from strings and flute before swinging into a melody dominated by flute and strings, supported by trumpet and drums. This hits a finale with a blast from the guitar at 1:17 that loops back to the beginning before hopping back to low notes on guitar.
It is here that the stage ends and the boss battle begins, but what is most interesting is the song contains additional material! It would normally have been impossible to hear this music in-game, but using SPC players, we can hear the entire song as the composers intended. This includes a trumpet solo beginning 1:52, followed by a beautiful piano solo at 2:20 with support from strings. In told there is about one minute of new material for a 2:50 loop that runs over a minute longer than the actual stage.
The composers’ names are pretty anonymous, which is a shame considering how good the music is. However, some of these names crop up in other titles. Hiya, the pseudonym of Takushi Hiyamuta, also composed Gunforce and later left Irem to work on the Metal Slug series along with many other studio refugees.