I was planning on making a full review for this game, but I don’t feel like it, so instead I’ll make a shorter impressions post.
DeathSmiles took over a year to get here after coming out in Japan, and frankly I’m surprised it came out here at all. But after seeing that it was selling for 65$ here in Canada (though it did go down at 55$ already, which I still feel is too high), I decided that I would just rent it.
So read on and see what I thought about it!
Publisher: Aksys games
Date of Release: June 29th 2010
Platforms: Xbox 360
Genre: Bullet Hell shooter
Rated T for Teen
I quite like the graphic design here. Everything is nice and colorful, but, at the same time, a bit creepy. The monsters look cool, the areas are really nice to look at. It definitely has a Halloween feel to it which fits with the Gothic Lolita look of the characters. But, on the technical side of things, I feel that this game got the short end of the stick. The sprites for the characters are small and pixelated and some of the enemies have really jerky animation. Yes, I did see that it got some pretty big graphic modifications from going to HD (you can actually play with the arcade graphics to compare), but it still feels like it should look a bit better. Oh, but the big bosses are generally quite good looking and more nicely animated than everything else in the game. Also, the game is shown in a small window with a huge border taking the rest of the screen, but I read that you can stretch it out for better graphics… I just didn’t test that myself.
The gameplay is standard Bullet Hell fare: play as one of 5 lolis, this time the Gothic Lolita variety, and shoot down enemies, with tons of bullets trying to kill you.
Each character plays sort of differently, but I feel that, in the end, they’re all very much the same. They each have a familiar, and each of them have a different kind of shot for both themselves and their familiar. You get a normal shot by tapping the shoot button (or holding the turbo button). You get a stronger shot if you hold the shoot button but it slows down your movement. One of the “gimmicks” here is that you actually have 2 shooting buttons: one for shooting to the right, the other for shooting to the left. So you have to change which direction you’re shooting to get enemies coming from both sides of the screen. Another kind of shot you can do is by pressing both shooting buttons, which creates an area either around you or around your familiar. If an enemy gets into that area, both you and your familiar will shoot towards that enemy until it dies. This type of shot be really useful for boss battles. And finally you have bombs. They just kill everything on screen, and deal good damage to bosses. Oh, and no weapon upgrades, you play through the whole game with the same weapon, and it doesn’t get stronger. Some enemies also drop objects you can pick up, which, when you have enough (the number you need depends on the mode), enable you to power up, making your shots twice as fast Â (until the objects you picked up deplete).
One interesting aspect is that you can choose the difficulty of the level you’re going to play. You probably get more points from beating a level on the highest difficulty than on the lowest. But then the final levels (one optional level, and the actual final level) are played on Rank 3 no matter what, so it doesn’t really matter which difficulty you pick since the last levels will always be really hard.
Other than shooting enemies, you’ll be avoiding big purple bullets, lots of them. Like most bullet hell games, only a small portion of the character you control is actually vulnerable to bullets, displayed by a small heart on your character’s chest. Enemies shoot bullets at you in patterns, and you have to figure out what the pattern is so you can avoid the bullets. Using the shot that slows you down can be very useful for more precise movements, and some patterns require going as fast as you can. The higher the difficulty, the more bullets there are on screen trying to kill you. You have 3 life bars, and you get a game over when all of them are lost. Bullets take away 1 life bar, and touching enemies removes half of a life bar. This isn’t very different from the average bullet hell, but that’s definitely not a bad thing.
There’s also multiple modes of play and that’s one thing that makes this version better than the japanese version. The extra modes of play (1.1 and Mega Black Label, as well as a mix of both) were actually DLC in Japan, totalling around 1200 MS points to get them. But, in the US version, those come standard on the disc. Mega Black Label changes the scoring system a bit, and it adds the fifth playable character, Sakura (who is a boss in the swamp level with the other characters) and it also adds a second optional level that you can play before the final level (I think, not sure how I got that second level, it might have been 1.1). 1.1 gives you control over your familiar with the right analog stick and changes the controls up a bit (the triggers are now the normal shot buttons, and the bumpers are the turbo buttons)… and the enemies in 1.1 shoot a different kind of bullet when they die, which can be blocked by your familiar, but make things a lot more hectic.
There’s online leaderboards so, when you’re done with the game, you can save your score and a replay to Xbox live for people to see. But one thing that I need to mention here: if you use a continue, you lose all your points, so the point of the game, in the long run, is to become good enough so that you can finish the game without dying, thus landing you a spot in the leaderboards. Just finishing the game with all the characters isn’t the point of the game.
While I feel this is a solid Bullet Hell shmup, I feel that it doesn’t really do anything unique. And I also feel that it’s way too expensive. It really should be a downloadable game. If you look at Gundemonium Collection on PS3, it’s 15$ and includes 3 games with various difficulty level and customizable characters, and one of the games has completely different gameplay from the other 2. On the other hand, DeathSmiles offers only 1 game, with various difficulty levels, a mode that changes the controls a little bit, and a mode with a different scoring system.
Still though, DeathSmiles is a fun Bullet Hell (though not as bullet hell-ish as some other games) that will offer a lot of challenge if you try beating it without dying, it has a great graphic style (even if I feel it falls a bit short on the technical side of things) and has a good amount of replay value if you plan on tackling the leaderboards (if you don’t plan on getting good at the game and getting high scores, just rent it).
The Save Factor
It’s not a bad game, of course, it’s actually very good, but at 50$, even with a faceplate and soundtrack CD, it’s a bit of a tough sell. 15-20$ as a downloadable title, or 35-40$ with the bonus stuff would be a lot more reasonable.
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