Looking like a gothic blend of high-speed action and frantic arcade style shoot’em bliss, the latest title from Rising Star Games arrives on February 18th, 2011. Will it have enough to steal gamers away from the coming tidal wave of first-person shooter titles? Read on to discover all in the GamesMediaPro review of Deathsmiles.
With more modes and lightning fast gameplay than you could wave a motion controller wand at, Deathsmiles arrives for the Xbox360 with lavishly designed graphics that contain some of the best 2D imagery ever witnessed outside of a true cabinet arcade title.
Gothic in its outlook, yet inhabited by a sisterhood of four teenage witches that would not look out of place in a Manga style anime movie, Deathsmiles is a shoot’em up title in a class of its own. The story line is simplistic in its telling as you play one of four teen temptress spell casters who must fight to free the realm from the clutches of some genuinely impressive bosses and their underling. Each character comes complete with their own witches familiar, in the shape of the hovering entity that is constantly at your shoulder to lend that extra added firepower that is much-needed against the constant onslaught of winged demons, floating eyes and gigantic end bosses ,that shower the screen with a dazzling array of airborne attacks that would have the Royal Air Force humbled before the sheer weight of their air-to-air missiles.
Deathsmiles forgoes any real overblown plotlines to give gamers what they truly want, and that is non-stop heart pounding action of the highest calibre to be found on any shmup. After deciding which of the hovering hex bringers you will play as during your stay in the 2D side scroller, you are then whisked off to a magical land where the attention to detail by the developers gives Deathsmiles a polished feel that is, sadly, lacking amongst its rival 2D Shumps. Another feature that is also found to be lacking in the vast majority of schmup’s is the ability to be able to fire both to the left and also to the right. A basic feature you may think, but one that is missing from so may 2D shoot’em up’s. Fortunately the team behind Caves’ side scrolling spectacular have added this ability to your already impressive arsenal of weaponry, and the game plays a whole lot better for it.
The weapons that are on offer to you in Deathsmiles make your handheld rifles and pistol’s of the FPS genre look like pea-shooters and cap-gun’s by comparison. As you wield your impressive primary weapon, which alters from character to character, you fire a stream of bolts that range from lightning to ice to fire and so on. These can be shot almost in a single fire style or, if you keep your finger firmly pressed on the A button, you will blast away with a deadly onslaught of incessant projectiles that gain in intensity and power for as long as you keep pressing down the required button. There are also an additional set of ‘Smart Bombs’ that arrive in triplicate, and cause devastating damage to the unfortunate intended targets. The smart bomb’s do replenish over time, and so it is worth keeping an eye on your HUD to monitor the progress of the left-sided power gauge. Your X button act’s as a ‘target lock’ for your ‘witchy woman’ to stay focused on one particular enemy at a time.
The HUD is a clear and precise affair, as is the entire outlook adopted by the graphical content of the game. Usually the arcade crossover games are blurry and almost look ‘smudged’ but there are no such faults or flaws in Deathsmiles. Instead what players get is a crisp polished title that, when viewed through a HD TV, looks simply stunning in its exacting detail and lavish living colour. The are no issues whatsoever with frame rate, and even less with glitches, at any point throughout the game. Even in the more taxing of level’s on the higher difficulty setting’s, when the enemies and missiles and lasers that are speeding their way towards you are almost completely covering the screen, we still had no issue with the game. In fact when we played the game online with a friend it still suffered no form of lag or slowing.
The fact that there is online and offline co-op in Deathsmiles is a feather in its cap, and one that future Shmup’s would do well to recognise, as the amount of enjoyment that you and a friend can have whilst battling the hordes of lumbering and flying foes almost seems limitless as you blast your way from one epic level to the next.
Another ostrich size feather in a cap so large you could carry potatoes home in it, is the sheer amount of fantastic modes that are on offer to you in Rising Stars’ top-notch title. There is so much ‘replay-ability’ value with Deathsmiles. Not just from the fact that you can play each of the four characters in turn, and then play each of those four characters on three different difficulty levels. But that you also do the same again across a further range of Modes that cover the graphically upscaled ” Xbox360 Mode,” where you can play through Deathsmiles using the original highly detailed and beautifully pixellated Arcade graphics, albeit at the cost of a smaller gaming screen, or you can play through the entire range of characters and settings in the Arcade mode, Story Mode as well as the excellent Time Attack Mode. With all of this going on, plus Leaderboards for the al-important bragging rights, it is then a safe bet to say that you may be visiting these underage vixen’s on an almost regular basis.
We would suggest that if you are going to purchase Deathsmiles, and we heartily recommend that you do, that you pick up the Mega Black Label Edition that allows you to play the game through one more time with an exclusive character. Add to that the Deluxe Edition, that includes the excellent soundtrack and the achingly beautiful anime art for your desktop, and all in all Deathsmiles is a cracking purchase for any shmup’s fan.
Graphics: Looking sharper than your average shoot’em up title, Deathsmiles is a bold and beautiful foray into a fantastical realm that has some of the best looking and fun styled end bosses that we have battled against for some considerable length of time. There are no issues whatsoever with any screen tearing, frame rate or glitches. Deathsmiles is just 100% good clean fast paced full screen action of the highest kind. Gorgeous to look at and great to play. 8
Gameplay: Just excellent from start to finish. The four main characters offer a wide variety of skills and abilities to satisfy even the most ardent of shmup’s fans, whereas the boss battles are of epic proportions against the imaginatively thought out demons. The control’s are very easy to use and the handling is silky smooth with no lag to speak of whatsoever, online or off. From the encircling eyes to the enormous cow that showers lasers from its eyes at you Deathsmiles is a fun-filled excursions into a genre that rarely breaks into the retail mode, and we are glad that it did. 9
RePlay Value: With so much going on in Deathsmiles the short story mode is quickly forgotten as it is buried under a vast avalanche of quality content, gameplay modes and top-notch gameplay. Rising Star and Cave have done themselves proud with packing this much content onto one disc. 10
Presentation: We remember the last time we stopped at a motorway services and played an arcade mode title in its natural environment, the game was a shooter of the ‘Timed’ variety, if you get our drift? The sheer weight of pound coins that we all ploughed into that damn machine would have equated to a small country’s national debt and still we walked away with our tails between our legs. Now when you think that for just a few of those ‘ Continue…9′ countdown’s you can have one of the finest arcade shmup’s in the comfort of your own home without the need for the 7 foot cabinet blocking your doorway is just awesome. Deathsmiles is a corking shoot’em up that will have you begging for more as you seek to gain the top score on the leaderboard by wringing those last few points out of the ever popular levels, Rising Star Games have done a sizzling job with developer Cave to bring the feel of the arcade title to the console without having to cut down all the modes an additional content by making it a downloadable title. 9