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Perhaps too manic for its own good.
on 8 November 2011
In 1995 a little company called Cave released 'Donpachi' (literally `Leader Bee' in Japanese), one of the first of the newly coined `bullet hell/ manic shooters', and was surprisingly so successful in native Japan's arcades it became synominous with the sub genre, rejuvenating 2D shooters as a whole, and bringing the flailing genre back into mainstream attention.
13 years later we get Dodonpachi Resurrection, the fifth instalment of Cave's flagship series, with no hesitation in living up to its legendary cult status.
Typically, you guide a single, minuet spaceship, overhead, as it blasts wave upon wave of other spaceships that come into its path. The game's not original by any stretch, but takes everything you've ever loved about 2D shmups, overdosed it on steroids, and embraces carnage like a drunk man in kebab factory.
To those new to these games, the sheer number of bullets thrown at you is near overwhelming and you could be easily detracted after first playthrough where you seem to be shot down every half a second from impossible-to-miss storms of enemy fire.
But stick with it. Upon getting accustomed to the speed of gameplay, Resurrection becomes more intense and exciting than any first person shooter you've played in recent times. The immense satisfaction from outmanoeuvring 100 bullets is incomparable to any other gaming experience.
This, along with the beautiful scenery and enemy ships, and the thumping Japanese techno music, makes Resurrection truly unique amongst the typical outings we see on game shelves these days.
As mentioned earlier, the original started something of a renaissance in the 2D shooting world, but over the last few years this has died down as Cave's outings have become increasingly more difficult, sidelining anyone other than the most dedicated of fans.
Cave took this on board and have taken the necessary steps to make Resurrection more compatible to newcomers. Firstly, unlike say Deathsmiles (another Cave shooter released by Rising Star (thank you)), if you get hit by a bullet, instead of dying automatically, you release a bomb which pretty much eliminates all but the strongest of enemies and bullets, giving you a quick breather before taking on the storm once again. And Dodonpachi is quite generous with bombs giving you plenty of get out of jail cards before you die, and a chance to warm up before its all over.
There're also novice modes, arrange modes and other tweaks to ease newcomers into the experience. Despite these extras, I'd still recommend Deathsmiles for newcomers. It's slower paced, has more variety of levels, and just seems more visually appealing.
For those accustomed to bullet hells and wandering what's new, there's the standard normal fire and heavy fire (laser). Two differences though. Laser rays from enemies cannot be dodged, but can be repelled by firing your own laser back at them, requiring you to skilfully switch between the weapons in a way very reminiscent to the switching in colours in Treasure Co's cult favourite Ikaruga (worth checking out if you haven't already).
There's also the hyper attack, where upon filling the bar up, you're able to shoot a more powerful black version of your attacks, where the normal attack eliminates enemy bullets upon touch, making your ship almost impervious to any attack (almost)
Are there downsides? Why yes! Most crucially, Cave are so keen to please with highly detailed 2D eye candy that the game becomes so hectic you lose track of what's going on. Enemy bullets have the mistake of being too small and neutral to colours of debris or background objects, meaning at times you'll be hit by bullets you simply could not see.
It's almost impossible to play 2 players seriously. There are so many bullets fired to and fro you can barely tell what's friend or foe. It goes without saying, if you suffer from epilepsy, this game is best left alone. And don't even think of playing this on a small television.
Personally I didn't find levels as interesting as those in other Cave shooters. But I've played a fair few now, and I'll always have my favourites.
One final thing worth mentioning is that Dodonpachi Resurrection is the kind of game played to complete using the minimum amount of continues and racking up the best score possible. There are 5 (technically 6) levels, and if you're the kind of person to complete games once then never play again, chances are you won't stick around Resurrection for long.
But should you enjoy this enough to crave another Cave shooter, I would highly recommend `Mushimesama Futari' and `Espgaluda 2', also for the Xbox 360. They can only be imported from Japan, but they're both region free, with the former being an outstanding shooter, with the latter including a very fun `bullet time' mechanic.
A fan of bullet hell or not, Dodonpachi Resurrection is worth a try.