Video games are steadily becoming easier, which is a very good thing indeed. Not more than ten years ago, seeing a title through to its conclusion was still considered an impressive task: “Have you played Deus Ex mate?”, “Played it? I’ve completed it!”, “High five!”
Yet by the end of the sixth generation of consoles, as we moved into the current era of hardware and the potential audience for the medium had grown massively, attitudes towards difficulty had changed. Players wanted to see the entirety of the product they had shelled out for as, now, paying £40 for a mainstream title and not getting past the fifth level was unacceptable.
Back to the store that game would go, into the second hand market, damaging new sales for a publisher, harming the chances of a sequel being made. The industry learned that punishing gameplay just wasn’t going to cut it for big budget releases. In response to this it’s true that now, more than ever before, games can be played by a wider audience, the barrier to entry steadily dropping lower each year.
DoDonPachi Resurrection is absolutely a release in this vein. Part of the “manic shooter” derivative of the shmup branch of action games, it caters exclusively to the kind of player that wishes to learn detailed play systems, memorise attack patterns and be severely punished for any mistakes they make along the way.
Choosing from one of four modes – the main game, novice and two special “arrange” versions of the central offering – the aim of Resurrection is ultimately to blast anything and everything that moves on the screen. Within this main goal of surviving the five stages (there are also a couple of hidden areas), there are further objectives which the player sets upon themselves.
Completing a run using just one credit is the next hurdle to overcome, as “coin feeding” – the process in the arcades of adding another credit to continue a game – is largely looked down upon as taking the fun out of the experience. Once a player can confidently beat the main game using one credit, it’s on to the a-synchronous multiplayer competition of leaderboards, here handled by uploading a highscore to Xbox Live.
So in reality, within DoDonPachi’s four modes are three higher states of mind to approaching play, whether it’s just seeing the ending, seeing the ending in style or showing off your skills on the global stage. This first state is easy enough, the game offers the option for unlimited continues, taking all the skill out of the game and is little more than a place for new players to become accustomed to how it plays.
The second is much tougher, the onus being on making it through a hail of bullets from almost every direction, taking advantage of power ups to make it through in one piece without hitting a game over screen. The third is largely the domain of those that have mastered the second, exploiting systems in the title to rack up as high a score as possible. Here credits are never used, risks are taken to pick up additional points and players understand exactly what is ahead at all times. It is one of the purest tests of patience, dedication and gaming skill that you can find on shelves today.
It’s mechanically deeper than one might imagine at first, it’s certainly not a simple case of holding the fire button and dodging anything headed toward you. Two modes of primary fire are at a player’s disposal, a repeating shot for normal bad guys and a concentrated laser attack for the bigger ones. Switching between these types has the effect of either destroying targets across a wide area quickly, or focusing an attack on a single location. Movement speed is also affected by this choice, with the laser reducing your overall manoeuvrability, allowing for finer movement under heavy fire but making quick dodges an impossibility.
Bombs are also available and can be launched to clear the screen of most smaller and mid-sized craft as well as enemy bullets, a perfect escape if the volley headed towards you is simply too much to handle. These screen clearers are also triggered when your craft runs into fire, though they do less damage to other ships when activated in this way, so knowing when to conserve your limited supply and when to bring it out is crucial.
A further layer is added when combined with the chaining system. Taking out enemies consecutively builds up a combo which at increasing intervals multiplies the score you will receive. However, triggering a bomb resets this counter, meaning that it cannot be relied on at higher levels of play.
There’s also a Hyper bar which fills when opponents are taken down and – once full – can be unleashed for either massive damage using laser, or to destroy incoming projectiles with normal bullets. Thoughtful use of this will rack up points and keep you alive longer but it comes at a price. For each use of this ability the Hyper Rank increases, making the game even harder.
Controls feel well transposed to the controller from the game’s arcade stick based origins, especially in terms of guiding your craft around the screen. The left analogue stick still allows for the subtlety of movement demanded in intense situations, you won’t feel impeded by this aspect of the game. This cannot be said of its core visual approach though, which contains one of the two biggest sticking points of the release.[drop2]DoDonPachi Resurrection is suitably bold in its approach to design, with character models of the game’s bosses all looking like slightly unhinged, robotic young girls, composed entirely of disjointed metal sheets of armour. It’s a powerful look, the severed but connected limbs of these boss enemies taking on an almost eru-guro look at times. Bullets and ships dominate the screen almost constantly and at the height of its volume exchanges appear as lavish firework displays, bright blues, purples and yellows streaking the sky around you.
Colour is its biggest downfall though. In other Cave shooters – the superb Deathsmiles for instance – bullets being fired at you are a single hue on the spectrum. Resurrection though is quite happy to mix up its palette for no discernible reason, leaving players to deal with multiple shades of several different colours to contend with. It wouldn’t be an issue in most games but here it’s a design choice that flies in the face of fairness, as it compromises a player being able to rely quite so heavily on their peripheral vision.
Other great shooters have featured bullets of differing colours of course, the much loved Ikaruga dances between black and white frequently, but there it’s used as a mechanic and the polarity between light and dark also aids players to make distinctions between what is friendly and what is not. When you’re unfairly taken out by a bullet you simply haven’t realised is coming towards you, it feels like a kick in the teeth after a Queensberry Rules boxing match.
It’s other core issue is of concession to newbies and not just those that are new to the genre. Even on the toned down Novice Mode, it’ll take hours and hours of practice to scrape by with one credit, but it also won’t explicitly teach you any of its systems. Everything about how to play the game detailed in the paragraphs above is relegated to the manual, the Training mode included is just a menu to allow access to any area under any condition with which to practice. Discovering how and when to use your stock of Bombs and Hypers is down to experimentation and often dumb luck, disappointing for an experience that demands so much of its players.
All of these factors lead to a title that it’s almost irrelevant to write a review for. If you’ve been excited for this release since its announcement then you’ll be pleased by the package offered and have likely already bought it. The main game type and Arrange modes in tandem with the leaderboards will test your reflexes and skill to the limits, the screeching and pounding rock soundtrack included as a bonus disc is a significant value proposition that does well by its fanbase.
If you’re just curious about the release though it comes as a cautious recommendation. It does nothing to welcome anyone unfamiliar with the series, leading to a game that will demand a little more time and understanding than most will be willing to give to it.
- The mightiest of challenges that will reward the dedicated.
- Bright, crisp visuals and bombastic presentation.
- Pixel perfect controls, even on a gamepad.
- No guidance for anyone new to the series or the genre.
- Easy to miss approaching fire due to its over zealous use of colour.
Hard games can be great and in a period of time where only getting 100% of the achievements on offer presents a substantial challenge for some players, DoDonPachi Resurrection will be a refreshing change of pace for the hardest of the hardcore. For everyone else though this is a novelty release, a title to observe from a distance and secretly envy the 1337 skillz of the niche audience that will savour every moment of its brutality.