When most gamers hear of shoot-em-up developer Cave, they often don’t know who they are, but for those die-hard shmup veterans, they’re known as one of the, if not, the best shmup developers today. Aksys Games published their lolitastic shmup, Deathsmiles, to the Xbox 360, which introduces the addictive and unforgiving shmup to 360 owners.
With a game developed by such a hardcore developer, is it a game most 360 players will understand and appreciate?
If you’re playing Deathsmiles for its deep and integrated story, then you’re playing for the wrong reason. As with most shmups, the story is light and is only there in order to give the game some character. You play as one of four girls (five in Mega Black Label mode) who are fighting their way through Gilverdo in order to get back to the real world. The overall style and artwork offers an anime & gothic lolita vibe, which works well for the game’s setting.
When you first fire up Deathsmiles, you’re given an array of game modes to choose from. Arcade Mode is a direct port of the original arcade version of Deathsmiles, Deathsmiles Ver. 1.1 takes full advantage of the Xbox 360 controller by allowing e player to control their demon familiars using the right analog stick, as well offering a revamped scoring systems, while Mega Black Label was originally featured as a DLC in Japan, but was included in the US release of Deathsmiles and offers a new stage and new character.
Each character in Deathsmiles has their own magical element that they’ll attack with as well as a demon familiar which offers additional assistance by firing bullets as well. During gameplay, enemies won’t only come from the right side, as most side-scrolling shmups tend to do, but they’ll also come from all angles your which requires the player to be on their toes as they advance through stages. Bombs are also useable and can clear out an entire screen of all enemies as well as there bullets, which can be a life saver since the bullets can be a bit overwhelming at times.
The monsters the player will be facing are unique and often strange looking. You’ll be fighting large cyclopses, monstrous mad cows, dancing ballroom dancers, and a giant face whose skin peels off as you damage it. Deathsmiles does have a difficulty setting that can be tweaked between 6 of the initial levels you’ll be playing on, but the final stage’s difficulty cannot be set.
Deathsmiles can be played with 2 players, both offline and on Xbox LIVE, but I found it difficult to find a partner to play online. I’m not sure if this was due to network problems, or if there’s only a small population of Xbox 360 players that own a copy of Deathsmiles. Playing with an additional player offline adds to the experience as making your way though the game, dodging an insane amount of bullets is more enjoyable when you’re playing along with someone else.
FINAL THOUGHT: Considering how much game is included in the retail disc, I’m curious why Deathsmiles wasn’t made a downloadable game. Besides that point, Deathsmiles lives up to the Cave name and is certainly a blast to play for both beginners and the most hardcore shmup fans. There’s a ton of replay value as well when you consider all of the possible achievements points you can unlock.