Deathsmiles I & II review (Switch)
Originally marketed in Japan with tea bottles labeled “Windia’s Delicious Urine” – the conspicuous excrements of the central protagonist of Deathsmiles – one wonders what exactly Cave’s aspirations were for this entry into their shoot-em canon. up.
A hellish 2009 shoot-em-up (or “shmup”), Deathsmiles is an eccentric pastiche of broom heroines battling the forces of darkness through fiery caverns and over the English shipyards of Ye Olde. His list of ‘Lolis’ (or ‘Lolitas’, to say the least by the way with anime lexicon) are a group of witches aged 11 to 17 who occupy Gilverado, a Halloween-themed world filled with dragons, wizards and giant cows possessed by satanic. Each character’s weapon and orbiting spirit pet provide different benefits for survival and score, and fire types can be alternated between a faster (but weaker) laser and a slower, higher cannon. powerful. Holding both buttons activates your pet’s SEO properties, allowing them to target anything within a specific range.
Deathsmiles is one of the most polarizing titles in Cave for everyone except casual gamers. An incredibly easy default game, it was the first clear trophy of a credit from many shmup rookies. Its real challenge lies in its complex scoring settings, and while it was a mixed-results experiment, it has proven popular enough to spawn a sequel, Smiles of Death II X, also included in this package.
The horizontal aspect is visually appealing, allowing the world of Gilverado to breathe in full screen. Your Lolis can shoot forward and backward at will as enemies stream in from the left and right ends; a fun mechanic who keeps you on your toes as you destroy all kinds of ghouls, demon pigs and giant orcs. The stages are well visualized, with the Cave of Fire and its particularly alluring two-headed dragon, beautiful misty atmospheres in the graveyard, and an impressive velvet-draped castle raid finale. While the layout is nice and the backgrounds beautiful, it suffers from a few rough pre-rendered sprites; and Arcade Mode is deprecated unless you plan to play on a CRT. Thankfully, its jagged edges have been significantly overhauled by Normal Mode’s high-resolution scaling – although one can only guess, with some certainty, how much better the game would have been had it been. created entirely using traditional pixel art. Still, the bosses are wonderfully macabre – albeit rather easy – with Mary the Giant cow and Tyrannosatan’s thunderous finale flexing the wilder side of artistic director Junya Inoue.
Elsewhere, there are plenty of options for game settings settings (which you should never touch) and screen settings. For some reason, an empty pixel ribbon bandages the display when set to full widescreen, which really turns off the OCD. Fortunately, the native 16: 9 aspect of Deathsmiles II doesn’t suffer from this issue, but a patch for the picky ones would be welcome. A lazier problem is that Deathsmiles II’s replay feature is inexplicably devoid of options for speeding up sequences.
Deathsmiles is purposely made easy for the casual player, with a clever system that lets you freely moderate its difficulty. Its six initial stages can be visited in any order you choose, each with a choice of rank. Rank 1 is for kids only, 2 is not much more difficult and 3 is a step up. As you get more familiar with the layouts and patterns, it’s fun to wean yourself off to higher ranks; but if you take rank 3 five times, you unlock ‘dead mode’, unleashing swarms of ‘suicide bullets’ (extra homing fire unleashed by destroyed enemies) for the rest of the game.
It’s still a far cry from the ruckus of the Donpachi series thanks to generous hitboxes, proper slowdown, and powerful weapons; but ‘Gorge’, the adrenaline-filled optional EX stage that precedes the majestic Hades Castle finale, takes it up a notch. This is where your orbiting familiars come in handy, acting as an anti-suicide barrier to help you navigate the carnage.
Deathsmiles is an extremely rewarding survival game, and if that’s all you’re looking for, you’ll have fun. Scoring, however, is a matter of polarization. It’s incredibly deep, usually convoluted, and reserved for experts only – and genre enthusiasts targeting the upper echelons of the scoreboard may find its structure frustrating. To score, destroyed enemies drop wreaths that shatter when they hit the ground, shattering into diadems and then skulls, increasing in total number but with successively lower point denominations. Different enemies will drop larger dot icons depending on the shooting method used, adding to the learning curve, and you will automatically switch them all to some proximity. During this aspiration process, you build a secondary counter which, when at maximum, can be manually triggered to induce a state of “fever” for a brief period. During this state, the number of score drops multiply into a screen-filling waterfall, and, while that’s the most enjoyable part of the game – just blitzing and sucking up a tornado of shiny ingots – you won’t be able to. not compete with scores unless you learn how to perform a perfect “reload” before the fever stops.
To achieve this, you need to deduce the optimal time to enter fever mode, and then, just when the counter hits zero, atomize a huge swarm of enemies, absorb a wave of skull icons, and instantly reload the counter. It’s so hard to achieve that even when you could have sworn you were absolutely right, it’s still prone to failure – and video watching doesn’t help much.
On top of that, there’s a cumulative score multiplier – negated by an exiting death or fever mode – that requires Suicide Bullets to thrive. It takes months of practice to pin down, a repetition that isn’t helped by slightly simplistic enemy schematics at first, and you have to get through Tier 3 stages and Dead Mode to get the most out of it.
Like so many Cave shmups, Deathsmiles received a retooling known as the Mega black label, also included here. His new character, Sakura, is one of the nicer additions to the clan; while the introduction of rank “999” – darkening the stage backgrounds and turning enemy fire to full purple haze – offers an exhilarating but nearly impossible trap for experts only.
Mega Black Label mixes up the base game by increasing the multiplier score cap while reducing the death penalty. You can also induce multiple fever modes per stage and order a greater number of point drops and recharge opportunities. Its complex rearrangement means that some swear by the vanilla version; but MBL’s greater sense of action and fluidity will likely feel more natural to most, and his all-new EX scene, the Ice Palace, is a standout moment.
The console-exclusive “1.1” mode again rebalances the scoring system and its penalties, and adds features like suicide bullets for bosses in case of fever. It’s hard to say why the game needed a third rebalance, but those with a deep understanding of the original may find its tweaks rewarding.
The sequel, Deathsmiles II X, has a suffix that translates to âHell’s Merry Christmas,â which tells you everything you need to know about its festive horror theme. Only Cave’s only fully polygonal shmup, it has a nice aesthetic flair although it visually resembles a PlayStation 2 game. It has even younger Lolis, a trap, and an ever-weird set of enemies, but that’s nonetheless a very pleasant manic shmup experience. Often overlooked compared to its predecessor, its insane scoring mechanics are really fun to play. Stage lengths and bullet densities are closer to usual Cave work, and, while many familiar systems remain – including routes and stage ranks – the new force field system and its enormous Explosive and heartbreaking bullet cancellations are freshly alluring.
Here, fever mode can last for most of a stage, and at rank 2 or higher, pulls blue suicide bullets towards you. Once these bullets enter your magical sphere, they can be pushed back across the screen, collecting scintillating destruction as you go. Reloads are still a thing, but they’re now a lot simpler to perform, and converting the playing field into a cyclone of glowing dots is a spectacular rush. It also features a great antagonist in the form of Satan Claws and a host of original boss battles. It’s hard to say why, but there is something more immediately relaxing about the pace of Deathsmiles II.