“Targa was intended to be a space shooting game but Softgold
wasn’t sure if this would be enough to make big sales and decided
to bring in the successful jump’n’shoot Turrican elements.
This is why Targa (Rendering Ranger R2) became a mixture of both.”
Rendering Ranger R2. The ‘holy grail’ of shooters on the Super Famicom, as it’s affectionately known amongst the web community. EDGE Magazine once labeled it as ‘the rarest and most expensive SNES game ever released’. Likewise with Racketboy.com, but this simply isn’t the case. Rendering Ranger R2—A Japanese release, coded by a German (none other than cult game designer, Manfred Trenz) and produced in low numbers via a relatively obscure publisher, it ticks every box for the Super Famicom collector. It’s rare, exotic, it’s fun to play and doesn’t require a knowledge of Japanese. Unfortunately, it’s incredibly expensive and as most will lead you to believe, it can prove difficult to track down a boxed, complete copy.
After his huge success with Turrican being ported from the Amiga to countless consoles and computers, Manfred Trenz was ready to work on a new project, aimed directly at the masses who bought Turrican.
Trenz spent three years developing RR, most of which were spent crafting a game that would straddle the play-mechanics of two genres: the scrolling on-foot ‘run & gunner’ (Contra/Metal Slug) and a fast-paced horizontally-scrolling space ‘shmup’ (R-type/Gradius). His past experience with porting R-Type to the Amiga and developing Turrican led him to the decision to design a game that would combine both of these genres. Trenz completed most of the game under a different working title, ‘Targa’, and had designed a bearded, long-haired spandex-clad warrior as its central character — resembling a character more in tune with a 80s heavy metal bassist than futuristic space soldier. Despite the game content remaining mostly intact, further decisions by Trenz’s German publisher, Softgold, ultimately steered his creation in another direction, beginning with the visual design, its name and finally into the hands of another country for production.
“Since Donkey Kong came out on the SNES using
pre-rendered graphics, one person at Softgold came to
the conclusion that this was a must for Targa too.
This is where its title comes from.”
According to Trenz, the first version of Targa used “old school hand-drawn graphics”. Trenz found himself in a tricky position, with Softgold pushing his art style towards Donkey Kong Country’s pre-rendered Silicon Graphics Workstation sprite design. Softgold also led Trenz to believe that only one publisher expressed interested in his game (Virgin Interactive Japan). With Trenz handling the entire project, tasked with revisions and keen for its release, he hastily accepted Softgold’s advice and re-worked the sprites and environment, leaving the game with suitably console-ish look and less like his traditional Amiga-coded work. Trenz re-worked the visual style and despite abandoning his traditional pixel style alpha version, the results in the final release were fantastic with Trenz’s meticulous eye for detail making the most of the console’s palette
The game flows with several levels on foot, with our character jumping and shooting his way through streets, deserts and space stations. Laser walls, turrets, flying drones and ships are thrown in our hero’s direction. These levels are followed by piloting a spacecraft, which you hijack from a burning hangar, with a typical ‘self-destruct imminent’ theme. Once we’re in orbit, we’re blasting our way through meteor showers, space debris, fleets of enemy ships and gigantic enemy bosses. After a few levels of space shooting, we’re finally back on terra firma, with our nameless hero facing a demonic alien, in the form of a 6-headed rotating death cube. The game’s difficulty level leaps from mildly difficult to near-impossible. Thankfully, RR contains a password system, which I find is the only way I can complete the game.
Rendering Ranger R2 is regarded as one of the most expensive and collectible SFC games in the console’s roster. However this is something of a myth perpetuated by western websites that have a tendency to only scrape at the surface of SFC gaming. It’s certainly collectible and indeed was manufactured in below-average numbers, but there are many other titles that were produced in much lower quantities and can fetch far higher prices than RR. By contrast, there are also titles on the SFC that were produced in lower quantities than RR and can be picked up for less than $10. It’s all due to internet-based hype and as such, the current ‘retro boom’ has distorted the true value of many games and sadly, Rendering Ranger R2 is one example that has been heavily affected. Its price can range from £200 to £2,000, depending on the seller. It’s really unfortunate that Trenz’s game is currently priced so high as it’s a real treat to play, particularly once you’re further into the game and can enjoy its blistering frame rate.
Its balance of Contra and R-Type mechanics are treated with a visual style that’s deep with pixel detail and executed with real flair. It lacks the balance of the aforementioned games that it pays homage to, particularly with bullet-dodging in the shmup stages, but the scale of the game keeps you playing. You don’t know what to expect next — a gigantic end-of-level boss that requires 4 screens of scrolling to reveal or more hyper-detailed terrain to explore. Trenz’s programming skills on the Super Famicom shatter the view amongst shmup fans that the Super Famicom couldn’t handle fast-paced shooters. It certainly surprised me. Trenz single-handedly coded a Super Famicom title that demonstrated multiple parallax scrolling and sprites moving at a laser-fast pace with zero slow-down. Sadly, many gamers never experiencened RR in the 1990s and as such the Super Famicom is still regarded, particularly amongst its (slower European 50hz) PAL community to be a console that delivered slow shooters when compared to the SEGA Megadrive. This game never made it over to Europe — Trenz’s home crowd and fervent fan base and due to its current price, Rendering Ranger R2 is a game that has only been played by the majority of gamers on emulated software or via flash cart. To play this game as Trenz intended on a real system via a CRT RGB television is an absolute joy.
It’s not the rarest game on the Super Famicom, nor is it the most expensive, but it’s certainly worth tracking down as it’s a technical tour de force and at times, pushes the console into visual territory normally held by the NEO-GEO. It was overlooked on its release due to its obscure distribution in Japan from Virgin and due to its over-inflated price, will likely to remain a game that only a few collectors will ever experience on original hardware. It’s in my top ten of all-time favourites within my collection but a ‘Holy Grail’ tag would probably be better reserved for something that’s truly one-in-a-million. But if you’re a fan of Trenz’s games and have fond memories of Turrican, it’s something very special.
Editor’s Note: Please check out the author’s blog here.