Deathsmiles IIX (X360 Review) - November 17, 2010

Started by EOJ, December 16, 2021, 03:21:26 PM

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A review of Deathsmiles IIX
November 17, 2010

I love this game, and I'll tell you why.

Deathsmiles II ver 4.0 was the arcade game I played the most when I was living in Japan last year. I was really impressed with the fast-paced scoring system, the perfect difficulty curve, and the excellent music. It also has one of the coolest last bosses ever. Much lambasted by random Western internet people who watched grainy youtube videos of the game and declared it the worst game ever made (even though practically none of them actually played it), it is a wonderful gem of a game that deserves much more love than it has received. Sure, the graphics are polygonal and not really up to today's standards, and admittedly not as splendid as Cave's 2D sprite-based games, but it is far from ugly, and the bright colors in the game really pop when you walk by a cab that has it running.

The Deathsmiles IIX port was released on the Japanese Xbox 360 this past May, and I was very excited to play it, as I no longer had access to the arcade version. As you might have seen from my early impressions of the game, I was not very pleased with the quality of the arcade port. Indeed, it is by Cave's own admission a rush job, as they did not plan to include the arcade version in the home version until the last minute, when some staff members urged its inclusion and set about a hurried effort to put it in.  It was so messed upon release that a patch was released just a few weeks later, cleaning up the real game-breaking problems and adding in online leaderboards. Essentially the port runs too fast (missing important bits of slowdown, particularly with Lei), lacks 4:3 support, doesn't allow you to enter your initials in the high score screen, lacks replay uploads/downloads, and doesn't even have a training mode.  These are all inexcusable omissions and errors. They also omitted the "enemy" warning graphics, for whatever weird reason. Despite all of this, incredibly (and a testament to how fantastic the arcade game is), Arcade mode is still a fun game on the X360, and with every character except Lei one can score almost the same as on the arcade version, so in the end it's a barely adequate port that could have (and should have) been so much better.

The other modes in Deathsmiles IIX range from excellent to bleh. At first I did not care for X360 mode, which is basically the Black Label version of Deathsmiles II, but I eventually realized it takes some time to adjust to the scoring to really appreciate the game, particularly for someone coming off playing the arcade game. 360 mode adds two characters (Follett and Rosa), two new stages,  and beautiful, full 16:9 widescreen graphics (yes, they are beautiful). It is not as fast-paced as the arcade game, and strangely enough includes boss milking quite similar to the abandoned ver 2.0 of the arcade game. Coded by Takashi Ichimura, who also programmed Deathsmiles' and Ketsui's scoring systems, the scoring system is noticeably different from Arcade mode, but still deep, rewarding, and challenging. Each of the six characters plays very differently, from the super-overpowered Follett to the tough-to-score-with Supe. There is definitely a divide in the game, where Follett, Rosa, and Lei are stronger and easier to score with than Windia, Casper and Supe. The game keeps track of overall and individual character scores both offline and online, so score attacking is great fun even with the underpowered characters. In a throwback to Deathsmiles, 360 mode also adds in the rank selection (1-3) for the first five stages, which the arcade version lacked.

Arrange mode is a very peculiar game. It is quite complex, very slow-paced, involves a tremendous amount of bullet-canceling, and seems to drag on for all eternity (a single play can last over 100 minutes). In addition, the boss milking reaches new heights not seen since Espgaluda 2 Black Label's Arrange mode. It does feel like Yagawa coded it, yet his name is not in the credits. If you enjoy long, complex, Raizing-style boss milking, you may enjoy this mode. Personally, I find it to be pretty boring. I can see what they wanted to accomplish, and it's not a terrible mode, I just don't think it worked out as well as it could have.

There is one last mode in the game called Tsukaima Race. This is a set of one-screen time-trial puzzles, and while it's a decent diversion that is not bad to have tossed in for free, after playing through each stage a couple times when I first got the game, I never had the urge to go back to it. Indeed, I often forget this mode is even included in the game when I fire it up. It does have replay uploads/downloads and an online score attack, but it's sad that this mode has replays while Arcade mode does not.

Ultimately, I find Deathsmiles IIX more enjoyable than Deathsmiles, mainly because it has a better scoring system (in both Arcade and 360 modes), but also because the overall feel of the game is just more magical. It also has a Christmas theme, which I'm a sucker for. If you get just one game for Christmas this year, get Deathsmiles IIX – I know I'll be playing it first thing on Christmas morning! Play it with an open mind, ignore the vitriol put forth against the game from angry gamers who judged the game based on youtube videos, and you might just love it as much as I do. For me, this is the number one reason to own a Japanese X360 right now.

DEATHSMILES II VER 4.00* = 10/10
PORT INTERFACE/MENU SYSTEM (including configurable options, visual options, and so forth): 6/10
*Included in this port as "Arcade Mode".
My score archive
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