Arcade Apprecation - Deathsmiles 1
by, 21 May 2012 at 02:40 AM (701 Views)
I reviewed Deathsmiles 2 on the main-page so give it the once-over if you haven't already.
Now then...what can I say about the first game? Well it's not quite as creepy as the sequel. Also in terms of atmosphere and level-design it's a bit more cohesive, even if most of the stages feel almost Psikyo-length. I actually feel kinda bad that I threw this game in a forgotten corner for so long because it's better than I remember. It's probably Cave's most accessible shooter thanks to a very neat difficulty system. The difficulty can be changed at every stage except for the Final and Extra. Mostly this effects things such as enemy-count, density of bullets, and the strength of the bosses. An honest 1CC of this game expects you to adhere to the rules of the arcade version. Basically you're restricted from using level 1 & 2 difficulty so many times. If you select level 3 difficulty five times in a row or trigger the Extra stage you get a massive boost in difficulty thanks to the onset of suicide bullets. Basically whatever you destroy will start coughing up an immense amount of bullets. Your familiar can absorb these but good luck with it. This little bugger requires constant repositioning and is also quite small.
Like a number of other Cave shooters Deathsmiles has the whole power-up/cash-in concept. Basically you grab stuff dropped by particular enemies then when you power-up you go into a fever mode and hope to make big bank. Clever players will know the right spot to trigger the fever so that when they come out of power-up mode they can recover almost instantly through a huge cache of skulls & crowns. There's a bunch of little details to account for but it won't matter unless you're playing for score. Even if you're not playing for score it's always fun to catch a fever, otherwise the stages will feel rather unremarkable. Despite being a horizontal shooter Deathsmiles doesn't have nearly the amount of stage-based gimmicks of something like the Gradius or R-type series. I mean really if all you wanted to do was dodge bullets and shoot stuff there are a number of other Cave shooters that perform better.
Really when you get down to it as long as you focus on playing safe Deathsmiles isn't a very difficult game. Bombs are generous enough and do wild amounts of damage, if you manage the difficulties properly you'll cruise through everyone, and really the only extend you'll probably need is the first one. The right character also helps. Windia or Rosa will cruise through this game. Follett might be able to handle it as well but I hate her, same with Casper for that matter. Even accounting for the massive difficulty spike that is the final level it shouldn't be too bad. I'm not exactly sure if I appreciate that design-decision. Maybe if I played at level 3 for the entire rest of the game it wouldn't be so much of a jump. As it stands however I can't quite say I like it. Still it helps that the final level is very entertaining. Oh and I nearly forgot, don't use bombs on Jitterbug so he'll drop a massive cake worth two lives. With that many bombs you can just blow through the final boss.
Mega Black Label is something I'll definitely have to spend more time with. For now it feels like it should have just been called Mega Sakura Label, because why use anyone else? Unlike the other girls, Sakura gets TWO familiars so she's a suicide-bullet-absorbing-machine. Also I guess Cave forgot to take this into consideration and make her weaker to balance everything out. Still I can't hate them for it, since using Sakura in the extra stages actually makes them fun. Okay I'm getting a bit ahead of myself here. The Ice Palace is a load of fun but the Canyon is still a load of crap. It's a very claustrophobic stage that relies on so much vertical movement. This is something that irks me terribly me in horizontal shooters.
The answer is probably that I simply need more practice, which is understandable. Unfortunately I get the feeling that this game will end up in my forgotten world as soon as Akai Katana arrives. Coupled with my work schedule, Dragon's Dogma, and a deluge of Sega downloadable releases, it could be awhile before I get back to Deathsmiles.
All in all it's a decent game, probably not something I'd rank in the upper echelon of Cave's library though. But hey at least it doesn't require an obscene amount of practice just to be able to get anywhere. I'm starting to wonder if I'll ever get around to playing ESP Galuda 2 again. I think the soundtrack disc has gotten 20 times more play than the game disc.
*Read a guide that refers to suicide bullets as revenge bullets. That makes a crapload more sense. Of course I'm going to completely forget about this phrase in a couple hours.
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