Jun 26, 2017 Last Updated 9:29 PM, Jun 25, 2017

Danmaku Unlimited 3 Review

Published in Action
Read 1012 times
Rate this item
(0 votes)

The danmaku genre, also known as “bullet hell,” is a subset of the more widely known “shoot-em-up” genre. Often described as more intense than its scrolling-shooter counterpart, entries that fall under the danmaku banner are characterized by its dense, sometimes hypnotizing, bullet patterns and often unforgiving difficulty curves.

Doragon Entertainment’s newest addition to their Danmaku Unlimited series, Danmaku Unlimited 3, is a true bullet hell shoot-em-up in that it follows the traditional conventions of fractal and isometric bullet sprays and challenging gameplay. What sets it apart from other titles in the bullet hell genre is the lengths it goes to include newbies and those otherwise unfamiliar or unskilled in handling boilerplate game mechanics.

Close Calls as a Calling

There isn’t much in the way of plot or characters. Unlike those that may feature shrine maidens fighting evil spirits or a girl armed to the teeth warding off otherworldly invaders, Danmaku Unlimited 3 takes a no-nonsense approach and delves right into the gameplay. The only sliver of a story that could even be remotely be hinted at are the titles that appear briefly at the beginning of each stage. The first stage, esoterically named “Yesterday’s Tomorrow,” gives way to “Schräge Musik,” then “Sturmvogel,” followed by “Oroboros,” and finally “Far Beyond The Stars.” While these vague titles could leave one pondering and searching for depth, the brainstorming only lasts a few seconds before the barrage of bullets make its way toward you.

Danmaku Unlimited 3 emphasizes grazing, or getting as close to an enemy’s bullets as possible, without getting hit. Grazing fills individual meters and gauges which lead to bursts of enhanced power and a significantly bolstered score. Grazing is utilized differently between the two modes of play:

Spirit Mode and Graze Mode.

Spirit Mode is recommended more for beginners, and manages to simplify grazing down to the one Spirit gauge. Filling the gauge automatically activates Spirit Mode which enhances the player ship’s capabilities and forces enemies to drop gems which count greatly toward your score. Additionally, any contact with an enemy bullet will automatically fire a bomb until depleted and any bullets fired by an enemy will turn into collectible graze points once the originating enemy is defeated.

For those more familiar with bullet hell games, Graze Mode places a higher emphasis on grazing, requiring a graze meter to be filled before the Spirit gauge can be filled. Spirit Mode is activated manually, and enemy bullets are converted into collectible graze points only during Spirit Mode. Making contact with an enemy bullet will deplete the entire bomb reserve at once.

Starting with Spirit Mode, I was able to comfortably coast through, though I did have to rely on my Continues to even make it to stages four and five. But through the repetition, I started recognizing bullet patterns and finding new plans of attack, something that the danmaku genre makes you do with continued attempts. In making the switch from Spirit Mode to Graze Mode, the importance of eagle eyes and steady hands cannot be understated. With more bullets to graze, one wrong nudge of the directional keys or joystick could bump you right into death. With enemy bullets still retaining their stock-depleting capabilities even after the enemy was blown off the map, there was more to focus on, more to dodge and graze. Boss fights were that much more stressful as the screen wouldn’t clear of the mesmerizing designs of laser rays and bullet arrangements straight out of a grandma’s quilting pattern (from hell, naturally). Despite this, I thoroughly enjoyed myself, while also cursing at myself after each death.

In playing through and replaying again and again, there comes the opportunity for unlockables, but only those limited to the player ship’s various shooting patterns and beam styles. Some of these are awarded through campaign progression, while others are awarded through achievements and milestones like grazing a certain amount of bullets or reaching a certain score. Outside of the main campaign, Free Play and Boss Rush modes are also available for a nice change of challenge, replaying previously cleared stages or facing the bosses one after another.

The Importance of Beauty

Compared to the past two entries in the series, Danmaku Unlimited 3 is a visual masterpiece. The graphics are crisp and clean with an electrically cool palette of purples, violets, and turquoises and the inclusion of dark, bold reds and the occasional streak of gold. Even as an overwhelming abundance of bullets and lasers fill the screen and explosions from enemies and bombs alike act akin to a flashbang grenade going off in slow motion, the smooth and fluid motion of it all solidifies the look. With the quick flash of a transition, I would have to say that one of my favorite visual cues is the traditional kanji script that pops up, then fades, once Spirit Mode is activated or when a boss enters its special attack phase. Coupled with its snap of an audio cue, I found the small visual experience was worth constant pursuit, in addition to all the bonuses that Spirit Mode brought along.

Pairing well with the overall smooth and colorful look of Danmaku, the rock soundtrack blends in perfectly with the rest of the aesthetic. The almost post-rock feel of the music helped add a dramatic, motivational edge to make it to the end of each level without coming across as overbearing. While Danmaku Unlimited 3’s Steam page attributes its composer, BLANKFIELD, as a well known Touhou and anime remixer, BLANKFIELD should be recognized in their own right for their original work, particularly for this title.

8

The Verdict

Flexible in its appeal to those new to the bullet hell subgenre of shoot-em-ups and to those hardened master grazers, Danmaku Unlimited 3 is a solid entry in Doragon Entertainment’s Danmaku Unlimited series. Despite its lack of plot, its polished audio-visual quality, simplified mechanics, and high replayability makes this title a great addition to anyone’s library.

Image Gallery

Philip de Leon

Gamer, bookworm, and all around nerd, Philip is a guy who writes about all sorts of things. When he isn't writing, he hunts for new music, studies Japanese, reads short stories and comics,and plays some games on the side. Find him lurking in bookstores or spacing out wherever.

Related items

  • Nex Machina Review

    Not all efforts in nostalgia end in success, but with Nex Machina, Housemarque has crafted a fast and fun twin-stick shooter with crisp visuals and challenging gameplay. Flawed only by a problematic mouse adaptation, Nex Machina is a solid execution of a gaming genre staple that promises long nights with guns blazing (instead of sleep).

  • Reservoir Dogs: Bloody Days Review

    Reservoir Dogs: Bloody Days by Big Star Games is a third-person top-down shooter with few connections to Quentin Tarantino’s film other than it being about gangsters with color-coded names; and yet Bloody Days partially succeeds in its aspiration to revive a classic for crime and gangster films, while offering a time-rewind mechanics that helps the game distinct itself from the pool of titles in the top-down shooter category.

  • NBA Playgrounds Review

    NBA Playgrounds, at its best, provides some over the top arcade experience that can be highly entertaining, hilarious and even addicting to play. With a presentation and technical foundation that’s as solid as fun, NBA Playgrounds is easy to pick up but hard to master and makes for a worthy addition to any library of arcade sports games.

More in this category: Beat Cop Review »

Latest Shows

Dawn of Andromed…

Dawn of Andromeda is a pausable, real-time 4X space strategy game providing an accessible, fun and immersive experience, introducing fresh ideas to the genre. Build your empire, co...

PREY - AAA Anony…

With AAA Anonymous, we discuss our latest AAA game addiction, until the next one replaces it. This episode covers Arkane's anticipated 2017 release: PREY.

Out Soon

PC Gaming Incoming

The Golf Club 2

Rise to fame and fortune in the largest, most dynamic golf game ever created. Assemble and join onli...

Danganronpa Anot…

Komaru Naegi has been imprisoned inside a mysterious apartment for over a year. Her rescue is derail...

Pyre

A New World From the Creators of Bastion and Transistor, Pyre is a party-based RPG in which you lead...

Subject A-119 Re…

Subject A-119 makes a strong showing with a variety of abilities, but the puzzles, through mechanical and logical limitations, quickly fatigue the player. Puzzle addicts might be t...

Gorescript Revie…

With sparse environments that burst into color as the action unfolds, solid level design, and a low hand-holding, high satisfaction difficulty curve, Gorescript is already a title ...

Nex Machina Revi…

Not all efforts in nostalgia end in success, but with Nex Machina, Housemarque has crafted a fast and fun twin-stick shooter with crisp visuals and challenging gameplay. Flawed onl...

Wonder Boy: The …

After nearly three decades since the original release comes Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap, a worthy remake. Developer Lizardcube created an engaging universe, partly thanks to beau...