I played through this game again last night. When I first got it in '99, I fell deeply in love with it, as deeply as with any game I've ever played, and from then played it on an extremely regular basis (weekly, at the very least) for the following two years. Before I played it last night, I abstained from it for probably about a month, which was enough time to become at least a little out of practice with it.
I decided to play it because I was extremely stressed out, and I find that when I'm that stressed, only R-Type seems to releave it. It may seem odd that this is so - R-Type is one of, if not the, most difficult games I've finished, and yet I can find playing it relaxing. But that's an understatement - It not only relaxed me, but left me rejuvenated.
Why is this? R-Type has gained a reputation for being a methodical shooter. This is partially true. There are many areas in game where strategies are particularly important. I recently reflected that Castlevania 3 is a cerebral, thoughful game, yet is also lithe and intuitive - deep, yet also simply fun. The same applies to R-Type. Though R-Type may not seem to be as fast-paced as truly fast shooters, it's certainly NOT *slow*. Indeed, the ship in Radiant Silvergun, another game that aimed at being a thoughtful shooter, seems to move as slowly as the ship in R-Type before it has gotten a single speed-up. With a couple of speed ups, the R-9 is easily fast enough to keep up with your reflexes.
The most methodical stages in R-Type are the early ones. When I am stressed, I think it's possible that their order and logic stables and trains my racing mind, soothing me.
I happened to make it to the boss of stage 7 in the same ship that I started stage 7 with. I purposefully crashed my ship into the floor then. Stage 7 is the greatest designed stage I've ever seen - indeed, as great as any work of man of comparable length. I wanted to go through it naked. At this time, the methodical nature of R-Type starts to give way to hectic skill challenges. The final boss is even more primal - enemies pour in from all sides, and must be dodged between a background of constantly gyring obstacles. After my mind was calmed by the early stages of the game, fighting these enemies - and then the release granted by the explosions that ripped through them - freed my mind, exhilarating me.
I would love to review R-Type. It must wait, alas, until I feel I am eloquent enough to equal it. It is far better than I made it sound. Until I do review it, let me simply state that R-Type is game design as artistry.