R-Type III: The Third Lightning – “Outer Space” (Ikuko Mimori)December 18, 2009
Following this week’s ‘theme’ of shmups, I’ve got a classic from 1993: R-Type III: The Third Lightning (1993). This track is “Outer Space” the famous Stage 1 theme from R-Type and R-Type III. This is some serious heavy rock from the Super Nintendo’s SPC700, so before you hit play crank the volume to 11. Nintendo didn’t say “Play it Loud” for nothing! I’ve also included “Into the Portal”, the track the plays before you begin the stage. The two kind of go together.
“Outer Space” first appeared as the Stage 1 theme in R-Type in the arcades (1987). The R-Type III mix is a fantastic revisit to the original, with plenty of variation on the tune featuring that lead guitar. Ikuko Mimori’s remix of this track is simply marvelous and one of my favorite rock videogame tunes, and as much as I love the synthesized guitars here, it’s simply dying for a full-on live instrument recording. The entire soundtrack is heavy metal like this, with later stages adding some really dark minor-key choral sections and organs for some wonderful atmospheric flavor. According to Snesmusic.org, Mimori hasn’t composed anything else (which is a shame!). I think the original song was composed by Masato Ishizaki (according to R-Type – IREM Game Music). There is a pretty good mix of this track from R-Type Special, but I’m trying to track down a higher-quality rip than the 128-bit garbage I’ve got. The PCE-CD version of the R-Type has a fun techno mix. You can get R-Type III off the Wii Virtual Console.
This track plays in the opening stage and so has very aggressive gung-ho music, just what you’d expect to hear accompanying a pilot fresh off the carrier. In R-Type III, this was a giant space station that had been taken over by the Bydo and so was filled with debris as well as baddies, including some giant mechs. This piece reflects the determination and lazer fire before the blackness of space. It really makes you feel like you can win – but then, you blow up.
Yeah, R-Type was a really difficult game. It was heavily pattern-based, but the patterns were difficult and the enemies were tough. In some cases, the only way you could beat the level was by trying it a hundred times to get the pattern down or by restarting the game to get back there with all your powerups. I’ve actually never managed to beat it without cheats. Unlike Gradius though, which after killing you makes you start back with a pea shooter, R-Type lets you pick up a couple power-ups to at least give you the illusion you can win (that and the R9 has the ability to charge its lazer and fire a large blast at the enemies).
What’s interesting is in the special preorder soundtrack for the new R-Type Tactics with the amusing title R-TYPE TACTICS 2 -Operation BITTER CHOCOLATE- (the caps make it all the more hilarious) calls this track “Dimension Catapult” but I’ll stick with this name. What’s also weird is R-Type Tactics 2 was released the same day as R-Type III: December 10. I don’t really know the significance of this – maybe it’s just coincidence?