Most R-Type II reviews start with how teeth-grindingly difficult Irem's classic shmup is.

Not this one. Nope. I'd rather talk about its brilliant bit system, its wonderfully frantic synth soundtrack, or its screen-blitzing weapon system.

It is bloody hard, though.

You know the type

R-Type II trailed the seminal original by just two years, debuting in arcades in 1989. Sure enough, it's a very similar game, with chunky 2D sprites and familiar side-scrolling shooter gameplay.

Of course, that doesn't matter, because nothing else plays quite like R-Type anyway.

Take the aforementioned bit system, for example. This sees a little semi-autonomous helper pod accompanying your spaceship, acting as shield, offensive boost, and rear-guard.

The beauty part is that it's you who decides which of these roles you want the bit to fulfil. Fly into the bit and it'll attach to your ship, stopping light bullets in their tracks. Reverse into it and it'll protect your exposed rear while also firing backwards.

Fire it forward and it'll hover ahead of you, cutting a swathe through the enemy waves.

Alive to the danger

Stay alive long enough and you'll be able to upgrade your default pop gun to a crazy level, introducing ground-scudding torpedoes, lancing lasers that refract off level furniture, and circular red and blue attacks that blast through pretty much anything - all of which are chargeable.

Of course, you usually won't be able to stay alive for long enough. Because R-Type II is, indeed, difficult. Levels are densely packed, leaving little room to manoeuvre, and many enemies take multiple hits to kill.

If you're not a committed shoot-'em-up fan, don’t bother with the game. It’s as simple as that. There's nothing here to convert you, only to frustrate you or to reaffirm your prejudices.

For fans, there's plenty here to like, including neat cosmetic touches like a CRT scan line effect. There’s also gamepad support, which shows the game off the way it was intended.

The 1:1 touch controls are fine, but they lessen the impact of the speed power-ups and take out some of the vital digital precision of physical controls.

R-Type II, then. We can say that it's got a clever weapon system, timeless shmup gameplay, and essential controller support. But above all, it's as hard as nails.