Friday, July 9, 2010

Bullet Hell もえ!!!: Deathsmiles (XBOX360) review

God bless the bullet hell. A genre wrought with sci-fi elements and random space ship blowing up other random spaceship for the overall dominance of space, or something of that nature. I've played too many games with that exact same premise I don't know if I can put myself though another. But bullet hell with cute Loli-Angels (and a 5th playable and equally moe witch), thats a whole different bowl of jelly beans.

Now before I do this review, I'm updating my review format, before I had three categories I reviewed that played out into the overall score: Setting (elements such as level design, graphics, and overall pace of the game), Gameplay (controls, pretty self explanatory), and story (do I really need to explain this one?). I've split the categories out into 5 elements now; Setting (now made exclusively for level design and overall set pieces), Graphics, Sound, Gameplay, and Story. Anyways, here we go.

Setting: The level design is pretty standard fair for Bullet Hell SHMUP (shoot-em-up) games, most levels are side scrolling with a few that have the character moving ascending to the sky or descending to the caverns. This particular entry in the very Japanezzy Bullet Hell SHMUP genre takes place in the Mystical world of Gilverdo. In place of endless space, and fighter jet skies you get Fantasy-esque ports, Castles, and Lava filled caverns to traverse. Everything is meticulously placed, from enemy placement to the obstacles that stand in our favorite Loli's way. Each level was extremely fun and challenging to play through, I found myself picking different characters to play the same levels again and again, obsessing over my score and achievement whoring every little gamer point I could conceivably squeeze out of this petticoat clad package. Overall, I have no complaints regarding Setting, it's perfect. 5/5
Graphics: The game is beautiful! Aside from the moe-enducing otaku bait that is the cast of lead characters, everything from the backgrounds to the enemies are very well crafted. In true to SHMUP flair, bosses are huge, the character models are so well done you can easily get distracted (and die countless times) just admiring the scenery. The character design of the female leads is uber-cute and the gameplay versions look true to the characters' art design, from Casper's big ass scissors to Windia's Feather/Sword thing, the gameplay character models look great. The XBOX 360 version (there are three game-type modes to choose from, including the original arcade version) have redone backgrounds as well, adding to the beauty of this gorgeous game. I just can't find a single complaint here. 5/5

Sound: From the ra-ta-ta-ta-tatak of your weapons to the yelp and groans your characters make when hit, the sound direction is pin point awesome. Infectious and catchy back ground music that hits highs that just supplement the madness you see on screen are a very welcome addition, and even sounds of explosions are so on point I can't begin to explain how eargasmic it was, totally another fiver here! 5/5

Gameplay: Gameplay is played on several fronts, with enemies coming at you from all angles, you shoot either left or right and you have a bomb you can deploy to take out multiple tangos on screen, also you have a magical familiar that varies in attacks as well, aiding you when things get hairy. The control scene is pretty simple, you control you character with the d-pad (or analog stick if you prefer) and there are separate buttons to shooting left and right, the RT and LT buttons control rapid fire for left and right respectively. When taking down enemies, some will drop items that you can collect, when you collect 1000 items you can press X to go into "power-up" mode, in this mode you and your familiar's fire power increases, along with the item drops you gain from enemies. There is also an auto target mode you can you (pressing both A & B) that is available as long as your item counter is less than 1000. Your AI controlled familiar is pretty good about picking where to shoot when you are aiming for a particular side, but for those that want more control, there's the v1.1 gameplay mode. In the v1.1 (one of the three game modes) you can control you familiar (by means of the right analog stick). Buttons are slightly tweaked with RB/LB handling rapid fire and RT/LT taking care of regular shots, bomb is still the same but power up is mapped to the A button. This mode is a mode I would only suggest to those who can pay attention to many things going on at once, since you control yourself and your familiars movement, it can be quite taxing; but since your familiar can block enemy bullets it creates a whole new level of strategy when tackling some pretty sticky situations. My one complaint (finally found one) is how the frame rate tends to drop when the shit hits the fan, it isn't too bad but can be pretty jarring when you get into a groove. 4.5/5

Story: Story? there's a story? Really there is but honestly it's not very fleshed out, while bullet hell SHMUP tends to be fairly light on the story elements and heavier on the action, I wish there was at least a little character development, it's not until you meet Sakura (moe-moe-Witch-chan!) that a story even comes into play. In fact, in reading the manual I learned a little about the backstory of the Angels and their creator. Overall, the story does kinda fall flat, but I won't dock it too badly since that's what we come to expect from these types of games. 3.5/5

Overall score: 4.6/5

While some slight frame rate issues and a story as substantial as vapor can keep you from wanting this game, it;s a satisfying buy. I suggest, if you want to continually challenge yourself to a better score and don't get tired of these types of games give it a buy (the US LE version comes with a moe-tastic XBOX360 face plate too), but if you just wanna take a romp through, a rent is sufficient since the entire game can be beat in less than an hour.

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