A vertically scrolling shoot 'em up by Cave, published by Atlus. Originally released in the arcades in 1997, and later converted to the Saturn and PlayStation with an optional extra stage added to the beginning, and a score attack mode.

It seems to me that the phrase "bullet hell" could well have been coined to describe this game. The screen is frequently absolutely filled with bullets, and at times seems ridiculously over the top. Somehow though, DoDonPachi manages to set itself apart from lesser manic shmups. Rather than just taking the easy route out and overpowering the player with sheer numbers, Cave have put a lot of thought into the patterns of bullets and came up with something which, while frequently overwhelming, never feels impossible. Whenever you die, you always know it was you who was not quick enough to react or moved just a little too far to one side, and not the level designers trying to extort another 50p out of you.

DoDonPachi is the sequel to DonPachi, and as such shares a common weapon system and characters. Tap the fire button for a vulcan, and hold it down for a rather nasty laser. The laser is more powerful, but slows you down and is blocked by certain types of fire. The different characters affect how widely the vulcan's shots are spread. You also get the option of whether power-ups should have a greater effect on the vulcan or laser modes of fire. Pressing smartbomb while using the laser results in a super laser that cuts through all enemy fire, and pretty much anything else in its path.

The intensity of DoDonPachi as a gaming experience is pretty damn hard to rival. After a few goes to get into the feel of the game, playing becomes a trance-like experience. You'll find yourself ducking and weaving through screenfuls of projectiles, pulse racing, to get at the badguys on the other side, and give them a fully powered laser in the face, leaving you wondering later how the hell you managed it.

A combo system is also employed to reward repeat playing, allowing you to get bonus points by following a path that will rack up the most continuous hits. At the end of each level, you're rewarded with for the highest combo you got, for getting through without losing a life, and for the number of stars you collected. Stars are left behind by destroyed enemies, but can also be gained by unleashing a standard smartbomb on a screenful of enemy shots, which are then converted to stars.

Sound-wise, the action is set to light metal and speed guitar music that is well suited to the game. The condescending wingman from DonPachi has unfortunately been replaced by a more generic sounding female commentator who offers a few words of encouragement along the way. "Just a couple more shots."

Other shmups might beat DoDonPachi on length or long term depth of strategy, but when it comes to sheer adrenaline rush value, this one comes out on top.

See also: DonPachi, ESP.Ra.De., Batsugun, and PROGEAR.

MAME rom name: ddonpach

Some arcade h/w info (from mame.dk):

  • resolution x: 240 pixels
  • resolution y: 320 pixels
  • colors used: 32768
  • video frequency: 57.55 Hz
  • cpu: 68000 @ 16.00 MHz
  • apu: YMZ280B @ 16.93 MHz

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