DoDonPachi Resurrection Review
Game: DoDonPachi Resurrection
Publisher: Rising Star Games
Available on: Xbox 360 only
As one of the great survivors, Cave have managed to maintain their popularity and critical success, despite the decline of the coin-op in the West and the niche nature of their games. Even as someone who grew up playing some tough-ass shooters on the Commodore Amiga – and let me tell you, Project X was not and still isn’t a walk in the park – losing my bullet hell virginity was a scary and intimidating, yet undeniably beautiful experience. You see, Cave define their games by the intricacy and volume of enemy ordnance on screen and the way you pilot your craft through the maelstrom. When you first cast your eyes on the thousands of swirling projectiles that fill the playing field, you would be forgiven for just downing tools and giving up there and then. But perseverance is key – once you learn the mechanics of the game, and that your ship is perhaps not quite as vulnerable as you first thought – you can start enjoying the mesmerising treats something like Dodonpachi Resurrection has to offer.
The first DonPachi – “leader bee” (hence the bee motif that runs throughout the series) was released way back in 1995 and converted with aplomb to the Sega Saturn. One of the first proper “manic” shooters, DonPachi was Cave’s debut and built upon the themes and ideas present in Batsugun, the final shooter crafted by Toaplan, the company that fragmented leading to the formation of Cave, 8ing/Raizing, Gazelle and Takumi – companies that have all had a crack at their own vertical shooters since the demise of their former employers.
It went on to spawn four sequels, which seemed to up the ante in terms of bullet hellaciousness and mental game mechanics with each new instalment. The most recent offering in Cave’s popular franchise is Do-Don-Pachi Dai-Fukkatsu – which translates as Do-Don-Pachi Ressurrection – and exploded into Japanese arcades in 2008. Up until now, it was only available to Japanese gamers, with Xbox 360 ports of the original game and the “Black Label” revision appearing in the East, as well as scaled down (but excellent) ports for iOS and Android devices. Thanks to the tremendous folks over at Rising Star Games, who also helped to bring us Cave’s stellar side scroller Deathsmiles earlier in the year, we kids in the Eurozone can now enjoy some hyper killer bee fun times, in blazing HD.
The basic principle of Resurrection is to pilot your chosen spacecraft – of which there are three to select – in a vertically scrolling five-stage assault against an armada of anime-inspired nasties. There are extra lives, extra smart bombs and lots of gold medals to collect to increase your score – and each sortie is rounded off with a boss battle against…a giant robotic girl. Of course, all of this is an excuse for the trademark “bullet hell” – literally thousands of pink and blue bullets swarm around your craft, often in mesmerising formation. It may appear from the outset that this plethora of bullets onscreen is simply too much – and impossible to navigate through. But as with many games of this type, your avatar can only be destroyed when a projectile or enemy strikes the hitbox at the centre of your ship. Therefore Resurrection tasks you with piloting your larger ship through the beautiful pyrotechnics, whilst being mindful to protect the core.
You come equipped with two different weapon types, and depending on which play mode you select, smart bombs. Hold the fire button down and your ship will unleash a solid, concentrated beam of fire. Tapping the button will activate your “spread” attack. A bit like Treasure’s classic Ikaruga, switching between different shot types have different effects in counteracting your enemies and their bullets.
You’ll rack up increased scores by filling the Combo Gauge. Like the more maniacal beat ‘em ups of recent times, Cave and their ilk also include combo meters– but not for duffing people up. Each time you kill an enemy, it sets off a timer which lasts for a split second, enough to allow you to chain another kill, and another, and another, increasing your Combo Gauge, with the ultimate aim of maintaining it for as long as possible, or even over the course of an entire level, if you are an expert player. There is also the Hyper meter to pay attention to – shooting down certain foes with different combinations of weapons slowly fills the meter, which, when at maximum allows you to enter Hyper mode, a state of invulnerability that gives you an awesomely increased rate of fire and the ability to clock up your Combo Gauge at an alarming rate – but at a cost. Once you have unleashed Hyper mode, the game becomes a lot trickier until the end of that stage, with enemy fire becoming markedly more ferocious.
The three different ships on offer vary dramatically. A-type is the quickest but has a far narrower shot range. B-type is the all-rounder, whilst C-type is slow and cumbersome but packs a punch with its hefty armaments. Once you have chosen your ship, you get to select a play style. Strong Style is the suggested selection for beginners, featuring a handy smart bomb attack that is initiated automatically when you are in mortal danger. Bomb style favours a bit of risk taking to achieve combo chaining, in that you begin with a weaker main weapon more suited to chaining together attacks, and are encouraged to “touch” enemies to fill your Hyper meter. Power style gives you increased weapon power that makes filling the Hyper meter much easier, but is much more difficult to advance your Combo Gauge.
The game is blessed with gorgeous old-school graphics, rendered in crisp HD. The screen is bordered on either side with illustrations, which is understandable for a title which in the arcades would have been housed on a vertical monitor. The soundtrack is your usual Japanese fare, banging techno tunes interspersed with some crazy jibber-jabber, screams and yelps, given the girlie nature of the combatants. The Deluxe Edition even comes with a nifty soundtrack CD, if that is your bag.
It is quite possible to run through the entire game in one sitting, using a couple of credits. But that is missing the point entirely. Playing DoDonPachi Ressurrection is about not only racking up enormous scores to post to the online leaderboards, but about learning the zen art of the one-credit playthrough – defeating the game without having to resort to continues. Achieving this feat will be hard enough even for seasoned players – but there are many more delights in this package to keep you playing. You can watch replay videos of expert runthroughs to pick up handy tips. Various different arrange modes jiggle things around – Arrange Mode A changes things every time you play the game, with the number of bullets increasing or decreasing depending on your skill level, something borrowed from previous entry in the series DoDonPachi Dai-Ou-Jou. Arrange mode B is a remixed version of the original game that actually alters the game according to your play style, changing after each clear. There is the opportunity to play the game co-operatively offline, however my advice is to avoid this entirely, as it is difficult enough as it is concentrating on negotiating the bullets without having to worry about your mate muscling in on the action.
VERDICT: With the Xbox 360 becoming the SEGA Saturn of this generation, with umpteen amazing Japanese shooters to choose from, this latest DonPachi sequel and arcade conversion is a welcome and impressive addition to the list, for a budget price.
There are plenty of modes to get your teeth into, with downloadable content also available adding a further arranged mode to the mix – the “Black Label” mode available in Japanese arcades. The whole package is well worth a look either for seasoned fans of the genre or newcomers – the way the game tailors the experience depending on skill level is most welcome, as is an excellent tutorial mode. WARNING – you may end up becoming addicted.