• DoDonPachi Dai Ou Jou Review - Sony PS2 (Daioujou)

    Shooters ruled the roost in the era of the Saturn. There were many greats released for the machine, such as Radiant Silvergun, Strikers 1945, Battle Grandprix and DoDonPachi. One of the most fun and satisfying of these was DoDonPachi, developed by Cave, it was considered to be one of the most exhilarating games on the Saturn, and undeniably showcased the talent that Cave had.
    It was the first game to really put the odds against you: instead of trying to kill everything on the screen while dodging a few bullets, Cave’s masterpiece literally filled the screen with bullets, making the player feel somewhat overwhelmed. But as with all Cave’s shooters, the level design and play mechanics were fantastic. Players could spend months learning enemy attack patterns and resolving how to dodge them while building up a good combo. How can Cave’s latest arcade port, DoDonPachi Dai Ou Jou (DOJ), expand upon its predecessors?
    Shooters have undeniably been getting fewer conversions to home consoles in the 128-bit era than they did with the Saturn in the 32-bit era. Yet, in recent months we have been gifted with the excellent Psyvariar, Shikagami No Shiro and now the new instalment in Cave’s highly successful series. From the offset the game offers promise. From the excellent attract sequence through to the fact that the game offers a wide-screen and TATE mode (explained in detail here: Ikaruga Review ), Arika have not done an inferior conversion. For those of us who don’t have the privilege of playing in TATE mode will be happy to know that, instead of having large black borders on the left and right side of the screen, you can choose artwork to cover it. Mode-wise, it offers the usual arcade mode, but Cave have also included several extra modes for the PS2 conversion – Arcade~No Bullet mode, Simulation, Death Label and also a Gallery mode.
    Arcade~No Bullet mode is just like Arcade, but the enemies don’t fire bullets. This is just a way to allow the player to get a feel of the controls and also learn how to build combos. However, whatever is learnt in this mode is short-lived, because when the player indulges in the main Arcade they have the added threat of incoming bullets, and therefore the kill combos that can be pulled off will primarily depend on how the player decides to take the bullet pattern. Simulation mode is excellent, and is of much benefit to those who are new to the DoDonPachi series. This mode allows you to experiment with the levels by altering attributes such as the max number of bombs that the player can carry, the point in the stage they would like to start from, their stock of “Hypers” and so forth.
    Death Label is a novel idea that allows the player to fight each of the game's bosses in turn, but with much more insane bullet patterns. It is extremely useful for learning to dodge their bullet patterns while still making sure that the combo meter is ticking (explained in detail later in this review). Gallery mode allows players to marvel at the varied amount of artwork that Cave have made for this instalment.

    The game consists of 5 varied yet short stages. This does not mean, however, that the game is short-lived, as players will be pulled back into the game to better their scores and also experience each of the “Elemental Dolls” endings. When starting the game, the player is given a choice between two different craft. One craft is all fire-power-orientated, while the other is much more agile and allows the player to maneuver with much more agility, but with less firepower. After this, the player can choose between 3 different Elemental Dolls. The dolls have two main purposes, each doll alters the capabilities of the ship: they affect the strength of the beam and regular shots and also the maximum amount of bombs you can carry.

    Secondly, even though DoDonPachi DOJ is a shooter, Cave have implemented a story. For those that don’t have an understanding of Japanese, the story is concerned with the fight between the human race and the machines. The humans send these Elemental Dolls to aid them in their fight and, depending on the doll the player has chosen, the ending of the game differs.
    The two main buttons that are used are the shot and bomb buttons. The shot can be used to unleash a barrage of bullets by tapping the shot button, or can be ionized into a powerful beam by holding the button down. The regular shot has a wider attack range and is therefore better suited to take out a large amount of enemies. The beam is much more powerful, but its attack range is not as wide as a regular shot and is therefore more suited to taking out a small number of enemies and, particularly, bosses.

    The bombs can be used for two purposes. If there are too many bullets on screen, the player can hit the bomb button and all the bullets will be turned into stars that can be absorbed to increase your score. Also, when shooting a beam and using a bomb, the beam will absorb all the bullets that come its way, making the player invincible for short period of time, whilst also giving them a more powerful beam than usual. When enemies are destroyed, they occasionally release power-ups. Absorbing these can increase your ship's fire-power or even increase your bomb stock, giving you a wider range of fire and also a faster stream of bullets.

    Yet the heart of the game is concerned with the kill combo system. When an enemy is killed, if the player kills another one in a short, specified time, the kill count will increase by one. It is possible to make the meter go into the hundreds, however this is much more difficult to achieve than it seems. The enemy chucks so many bullets towards you, that it seems impossible to dodge them. The player must therefore map out the best path to take through the bullet barrage while still being able to score kills.

    Using a bomb (which turns the bullets to stars) is therefore more of a desperation move that will destroy everything on screen, meaning that you are unlikely to find another enemy for a few seconds, and will therefore be unable to keep the counter going. Another initiative for not using bombs is to use them as a multiplier. When your bomb stock is full and you absorb a bomb icon, your current kill combo gets multiplied by a multiplier and a set number of points is added directly to your score. This multiplier will only stop when you either die or reach a boss encounter. However, if you can withstand the tough bosses, you can continue your multiplying streak in the next level.

    A new feature that has been added to this instalment is the “Hyper” item. When collected, it gives your ship an added burst of fire-power which can be used when shooting a beam, and will last as long as your ship does, but it doesn’t absorb bullets, meaning you remain vulnerable. Technically, it does let you absorb bullets for a few seconds by holding down the bomb button. This can only be done once during a hyper and allows you to escape from a tight corner if there are too many projectiles coming your way.

    Graphically the game is ahead of the competition. The 2D sprites are fantastically animated, and the effects off the beams and “Hypers” are mind-blowing. The animation, coupled with the sound effects, convey the mad rush of bullets and destruction very convincingly. The design of the enemy ships, and particularly the bosses, is exceptionally well done, and the game as a whole has some of the best 2D sprites seen in any game. The arcade soundtrack has been replicated, and Cave have also included some new music just for the PS2 version. Yet, to be honest, the gameplay requires so much concentration that you are unlikely to be paying close attention to the music. However, once you have got to grips with the game and listen to the soundtrack, you will find that it fits in with the mad and hectic nature of the game very well.

    Overall DoDonPachi DOJ is a very exhilarating game. Unlike the sublime Psyvariar, which focuses on making the player choose the best strategy of building up BUZZ by skimming bullets, DoDonPachi DOU is all about learning how to weave through the bullet patterns unharmed, whilst still making the combo meter tick. The game is all about skill and will take players months to be able to be able to one-credit the game – a mighty achievement in its own right. To aid the players, Cave have included a DVD that features a Japanese player building up massive combos while one-crediting the stages, giving the player a lesson in the art of bullet dodging.

    The striking thing about the game is the adrenaline and satisfaction a player feels once they have been able to successfully come out alive of a bullet run, and it is this factor that makes the game a pleasure to play. To be able to do this, though, the player will have to dwell deep into the mechanics and successfully implement the use of combo multipliers, combined with the careful use of bombs. The game as a whole comes second to Psyvariar, as veterans of the series will not find a huge deal different in this incarnation, but as with all great gaming series, if it ain’t broke why fix it?

    Score: 8/10
    A review by Wasim Ahmed
  • Ebay Spotlight

    'Press Start'

    Suikoden II, Nier Galsalt, Folklore & More

    Thread Starter: 'Press Start'

    Hi Everyone

    I am clearing out my loft and have decided to part with some all time fav games (along with others haha)(more soon):-

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