While some people get their thrills from bungee jumping and sky diving, I prefer drifting in a sea . . . of hundreds of bullets. I've always considered myself mediocre when it comes to playing 2D shooters, but nevertheless, I can't get enough of them. Those precious moments where death comes from every direction and is mere pixels away are the ones I enjoy the most. As one can expect, I'm especially fond of Cave's shooter library. Outside of a few notable exceptions, Cave understands the importance of games that reward the player no matter his skill level. DoDonPachi Resurrection is a fine example of this ideal, with its multiple modes and play styles. Thanks to Rising Star Games, those of us out there who don't care for purchasing Japanese consoles can own one of the better shooters on the Xbox 360.
Black Label mode is so incredible it has to be played to be believed.
As a Cave fan, I've become accustomed to its penchant for quirky character designs and convoluted storylines. The story this time around is the sort of tragedy that has become synonymous with the genre. The lone pilot, trapped in a cycle of endless war, fights through time to prevent the atrocities of the past, and in the end it's all for naught. Along the way he must deal with the five Element Daughters, giant A.I. fiends that transform into young girls. Anyone expecting these ladies to be symbolic or have any sort of deeper meaning are kidding themselves, because it's all to make this game more marketable.
Nevertheless, if you're a first-timer you should concern yourself with one thing: survival. Survival all depends on your ability to dodge bullets, recognize patterns, and anything else that keeps your ship intact. DoDonPachi Resurrection is especially nice in how it treats the gamers who simply want to stay alive. The arcade mode allows for three selectable ships and three styles of play. As far as concerns the ships, I tend to favor the green one since it resembles a helicopter and offers a good balance between speed and weapon range. The style essentially determines the difficulty. Those who are just starting out should try bomb or strong style. As with nearly every other Cave shooter, the bomb is the last resort weapon for getting out of seemingly impossible situations.
What's most important to consider about the bomb in this game is that above all else it is a psychological weapon that can be used against yourself. When the difference between life and death can be measured in millimeters, you'll discover that frequent bombing is only going to do more harm than good. Still, the bomb-based styles are very effective for survival as they offer the player an abundance of lives instead of the usual three. Players who want to avoid using bombs should either learn to dodge enemy fire or stick exclusively to the power mode, as it trades bombs for a faster-recharging hyper, one of the most important aspects for scoring.
While survival is all well and good, what's the joy in living a life mired in mediocrity? The key to getting the most out of DoDonPachi Resurrection is in scoring. This obviously means the risks are greater, but with persistence the rewards will come. It all starts with the hyper. When activated this weapon triggers a fever mode of sorts, where enemy bullets are erased by your own. This builds up a counter that over time tacks on hefty multipliers, so your kills become worth far more. The challenge here is that enemies must be kept alive so they can continue to flood the screen, and after so long your hyper won't be quite as effective as cancelling all those bullets. It's probably best to hyper early on to amass a high hit count and just pray that you don't collide with anything over the course of the stage and the ensuing boss battle.
Going for score will also require the player to access the advanced route. After accomplishing a few seemingly inane tasks in the first thirty seconds of the game, you'll be railroaded into battles with the boss line-up of the original DoDonPachi. Naturally they get some upgrades to keep pace with the firepower getting tossed around. Fans of scoring will also have to be collectors. Every stage is littered with bees, hidden insect medals that grant bonus points or chunks of hyper. However, it is possible to grab them in the brief flash when they switch between colors so you get both rewards. You probably don't need to be reminded that your life is still under constant threat and that ship you're flying is still one bullet away from becoming dust. If you collect enough bees, you can access one of two second loops. The potential for scoring becomes ever so higher, but the probability of your destruction soars as well. If you manage to survive all that, you'll tackle the ultimate final boss and wonder why you put yourself through all that stress just to be mercilessly crushed. Aside from obscene bullet patterns, this buzzing jerk also draws up a shield whenever the player dies or uses a bomb, so all damage you do to him must be earned.
In the series, I consider this entry as a close second, just behind DoDonPachi. This is mainly because I don't really enjoy bullet canceling all that much. It's a neat feature, but I enjoy it more when I destroy a large enemy or boss and all of its fire that was just pixels away dissipates instantly. Getting high scores requires far more memorization than I'm willing to take on, as 2D shooters are best to me when I'm relying solely on my reflexes and not the foreknowledge of what's ahead. The level design is for the most part pretty standard, and is perhaps a little too familiar to genre veterans (before you ask: yes, stage 3 is the battleship stage). Also, the final stage has an annoying gimmick in that several rotating laser cannons make a handful of appearances. Without bombs they're frustrating to get around, and I haven't mustered the patience to learn how to deal with them in a manner that satisfies my pride. Altogether, it is still much more accessible than the previous game, and that means a lot to me. It can also be argued that DoDonPachi enjoys a bit of immunity since it was my first experience with Cave.
As with Cave's other console releases, Resurrection offers up a handful of additional modes. For everyone who prefers his shooter to be something akin to a serene vacation, the novice mode is available. Arrange A tweaks the rules and limits the player's choices to one ship and the power style. Also, hypers can be accumulated and strengthened, which increases how fast they build hits and how long they last. It's an enjoyable mode as it is fairly easy to get into. Arrange B is a bit of an acquired taste since it focuses on "grinding." It's not all that different from repeatedly killing that same crowd of slimes in your favorite RPG. By playing stages over and over again, the rank will increase, enemies will take more damage, more bullets fly around, and everything becomes worth more points. Basically, the goal is to push the rank as high as possible so that a green field overlaps the play area. This is the sign that you've entered hell and those hundreds of bullets onscreen at once will turn into thousands. You have to be willing to dedicate quite a bit of time to getting the most out of this mode.
The Black Label mode is the real deal, and is only available to gamers out there willing to pay 800 Microsoft points. If I remember correctly, the Japanese version of Black Label is retail-only, so this DLC is a steal by comparison (though in all fairness, retail Black Label also has an additional mode). The changes aren't immediately obvious, but your first thought after a play-through of DoDonPachi Resurrection Black Label is likely going to be, "Wow, this is better than the original game." This version feels more intense, more aggressive, everything moves a bit faster and more is required out of players if they expect to survive. One of the notable changes is that hits can't be attained by simply cancelling enemy bullets with the hyper. Instead, these hits must be collected off bullets canceled by other means, such as by grabbing gold or flashing bees or destroying enemies with the shot + laser combo. By holding both the fire and rapid-fire buttons, your combine both of your ship's weapons to do some massive damage. Doing this fills up a rank bar which leads to enemies filling the screen with more bullets. Essentially, the game becomes uniquely manageable as you can turn bad situations worse for more scoring opportunities, or ease up a bit to focus on maneuvering out of trouble. Strong style has also been revamped by giving the enemy a very noticeable boost, and is pretty much the pro-only mode for those who prefer valor over sanity. Really, there is little else to say; this mode is so incredible it has to be played to be believed.
With something for every level of 2D shooter fan, DoDonPachi Resurrection is a very solid package. It takes awhile to get into and the level design isn't anything truly exceptional, but as a whole this game has enough content and excitement to last. If you do pick this game, you should definitely pick up the Black Label DLC as well. It is a few more hoops to jump through if you live in the U.S., but I assure you it's totally worth the trouble.