DoDonPachi

Not the bees!

DoDonPachi, or literally, “Angry Leader Bee”. (Wikipedia writes my reviews for me, thanks internet, but this review is THE REMIX!) Is a vertical bullet hell shoot em’ up developed by cave for the arcade and a sequel to Donpachi, which if you take a look, is almost a completely different game design wise. What Wikipedia won’t tell you, is how DoDonPachi solidified the bullet hell genre as a successful genre as well as brought the hell, to bullet hell. Story goes, the designer, Tsuneki Ikeda, wanted to surpass another shoot em’ up game he was inspired by, Battle Garegga, and his method to do this was to emphasize bullet dodging. To do that, he added more bullets. Lots of bullets. The screen, can in fact, have up to 245 bullets on screen at a given time.

Shmups, STG’s, bullet hells, is an intense genre, not for the feint of heart. Mass amounts of projectiles and enemies on screen to manage with little space to maneuver. Its often a high paced, claustrophobic adventure. What drew me to DoDonPachi is its overall sprite work. Its a feast for the eyes, and often, draws my attention away from looking at projectiles coming my way. Enemies, ships, environments, all look top notch and deadly.

The bosses are all vastly different with their designs and modes of attacks, but mostly goes for filling the screen with bullets. Some track, some merely have one direction to flow, some spray outwards like someone rigged up a water sprinkler to fire deadly lasers.

Summer vacation never looked so deadly.

Each boss has parts of its ship you can blast off to weaken its firing power, which is an added bonus. Later bosses get outright brutal with their attacks later in game.

You get three ships to pilot through this mad fire storm of hell. All with their strengths and weaknesses. A red and blue jet, and a green helicopter. All with their own style of projectiles that fill up the screen. Each ship has a pair of satilites that circle the ships to add extra fire power. Unlike Battle Garegga, you can’t change the direction of their fire.

The red ship has the strongest fire power, but only fires in one direction. The blue fires straight ahead, and to both sides. Its weaker than red, but its side guns can take out enemies you’d otherwise not be able to get in front of due to dodging bullets. The helicopter has two turrets that fire the direction you’re piloting. Its a bit cumbersome to manage, but the helicopter has a very wide shot as well as the best looking bomb drop of the game.

The ships have two methods of firing. Your standard lasers which manual firing via pressing fire to execute. The second firing method is holding the fire button for a charged laser that fires straight forward. This laser is far more powerful and can take out larger ships with ease. Its drawback is that it slows down your maneuverability. Drawback? A tip would be to use it if you need more precise movement through bullets.

Me, coming from playing Alpha Mission II, a game released 6 years earlier(1991), I would have liked DodonPachi to take some cues from its power ups, a wider selection, but the game functions well enough on its own, and given how fast paced it is dodging bullets, juggling weapon selection like Alpha Mission II does, wouldn’t be best. So designing the change of fire to just how long you hold down the button, makes for a fast paced ease of style change to your battle strategy.

Moving through the bullet storm can be butt clenching. However, the developers were kind enough to give your ship a small hit-box. Bullets will often graze past your wings.

Your hit-box is actually your cockpit. A small pixel on the ship. Use this to your advantage when things get intense, and you feel the bullets closing in. Make no mistake though. This is a bullet hell, and often bullets are shot in large chunks, where you can’t fly through.

All three ships also are equipped with bombs that can be delivered in one of two ways. One fills up the screen and wipes out all enemies and projectiles on screen by pressing the bomb button. The second option, is holding the fire button, the charged laser, then pressing the bomb button. This fires a far superior focused charged laser that wipes out enemies and vaporizes all enemy projectiles on screen.

Dying is a pain, but the game is fair with giving back your power ups upon re-spawning. Your bomb ammo also increases by one with every death. Six total. It also increases with a power up, so dont go killing yourself to increase it.

The music in this game is adrenaline pumping. A symphony of power metal ballads to get you through hell. Definitely something to put on gym playlist after your collection of Disney songs have made its rounds.

The game is pretty short. 7 levels. It can be beat in around 30 to 45 minutes. A great game to play in short bursts if you get it on PS-One. However, apparently there is a secret ending. A secret ending I have not been able to unlock.(But spoiled for myself via researching this game. Its a haunting ending, to say the least). You have to somehow beat the game within a certain criteria. Be it not dying, or getting a good score, collecting golden bees from each level, then beat it again, albeit with no special needs to complete the second go around, thankfully.

There are no branching paths to the game, all are straight forward, power through. Which is fine for a quick arcade play, and with only 7 levels, and short play time, makes it easier to play again and again to get the game memorized for better play-throughs. Play like a musician mastering a difficult solo. This leaves only the secret ending being delivered via pro level play. Again try as I might, I have not made it for the second loop.

Perhaps you can do better, maybe you have the right stuff.