Deathsmiles is one of those games you come across fairly much by recommendation only. The game is what’s commonly known as a frantic shooter. In Japan these games have a reasonably well established lineage and are found in numerous arcades. Unfortunately here in the UK you are unlikely to find this one in an arcade due to the decline of the industry. Fortunately though developer Cave have spotted the opportunity that there is a gaming sub-culture that really does enjoy this type of game and have made several releases of this genre on the modern home consoles. Today I will be taking a look at the UK Deluxe edition for Xbox 360. It comes packed on 3 discs which include audio and art discs.
Without going in to needless detail of the storyline it is fair to say that you play the role of a teenage girl that must lay waste to the enemies of an alternate world. To be honest the story segments of the game are very thin but this really isn’t what the audience came for. As you enter stage one you will be given a good introduction of what is to come for the rest of the game, colourful enemies, great animation and many, many bullets to dodge.
The options of the game are surprisingly detailed for what is essentially a very simple game. The Xbox version is packaged with an Xbox edition, 1.1 Arcade Edition and what is known as the Mega Black Label 1.1 Edition. To be honest you will not notice too much difference between them other than the Mega Black Label 1.1 edition, in my opinion it adds the most depth to the game. The control system has a new arrangement allowing you to control your familiar along with the rest of the buttons just moved around a bit. In addition though there is an additional Crystal Caves stage and the ability to play as Sakura. Most impressive though is the addition of the “Level 999” setting. Level 3 will be a great challenge for most, however, level 999 is just insane. There’s bullets everywhere on screen, so much so that the game has intentional lag built in to allow the player a slim chance of survival. This difficulty setting is really just a novelty for most gamers though.
What really impresses me about the game are the touches of finesse that set it apart from traditional shooters. For example, hitting certain enemies with a quick shot will produce a different amount of bonus item drops when compared to the standard shot (and vica versa). This means when attempting to build a large combo chain you have to really think about your shot selection to get the best from the game. Having built up a combo pot of 1000 points you can hit the power-up button. This allows even greater power and subsequently larger item drops. Getting these large combos is the key to massive high scores.
At the end of each challenging stage you must fight the boss. These are one of the games stand out points. You will fight Pumpkin Reapers, a dead baron, a tree and even a crazy cow. These set pieces all require phenomenal concentration and skill. Depending on the difficulty level that you selected the boss fights will also change. For example, the Pumpkin Reaper will add an additional barrage of scythes if you select difficulty level 3. As you would expect from a crazy Japanese shooter the boss fights get more and more elaborate, the final fight in particular will have you sweating with tension. I find myself always needing an extra bomb to get me out of trouble.
Overall this is a great game for those that are familiar with the genre. It’s a world away from its ancestors such as R-Type but just as fun. Although this is perhaps a game suited to existing fans I’m sure that it is accessible enough to gain new followers.
Pros: Colourful, great sound and graphics, different to the average shooter, fun, affordable.
Cons: The most difficult settings are just a novelty, game can be completed quickly.