Deathsmiles is another bullet hell shoot-em-up from Japanese developer Cave, who also brought their titles, Espgaluda II and Dodonpachi Resurrection, to the iPhone. Deathsmiles has been a legend in Japanese arcades for four years now, and has been ported to the Xbox 360 in several regions, and now it’s on the iPhone too.
The game is set in a dimension parallel to our own, in a land called Gilverado. When people are on the very brink of death in our world, they can be transported here, where they gain magic powers. The story, characters, and enemies are all complete nonsense, and it creates a great backdrop for the game. The anime style is done well, and only adds to the craziness of everything. The gameplay is surprisingly complex and deep for a shmup game, with tons of mechanics and two game modes.
Deathsmiles mixes up the traditional bullet hell by setting it in a horizontally scrolling environment rather than a vertical one. Enemies will be pouring in from both sides, and the player has to switch the direction of their shots from left to right. There are two shooting modes, a wider spread laser mode and a more focused and powerful shot mode. There’s also a lock on mode which locks on to any enemy that breaks the field surrounding your character. This is especially useful when levels go into vertical scrolling. Should you make contact with any enemies or bullets, you’ll automatically launch a bomb that destroys all bullets on the screen, but not the enemies themselves. Once you’re out of bombs, you’ll take damage until you die.
The two game modes include the classic arcade mode, in which you select one of four characters and play through the game with eight possible endings. The other mode is a brand new addition to the game called iPhone mode. It puts you in the shoes of a new, fifth character; Princess Tiara of Gilverado. This mode incorporates some RPG elements and a story of its own. You collect gold and buy better equipment and other items in between levels, such as extra continues. You also have to unlock new difficulties, as opposed to arcade mode, where they’re all available from the start. Each mode consists of the same eight levels, but they play very differently in each.
The touch controls do take some getting used to, but after you’ve played through the story a couple times, it will all feel natural. The gameplay is frantic and fun, and the art style and colors all look great. There was a lot of love put into this port. The inclusion of both Game Center and OpenFeint leaderboards and achievements give you plenty to do. There are also plenty of extras, like story summaries telling the history of the Deathsmiles universe and practice modes. It’s a little pricier than other apps at five dollars, but if you like this kind of game, it’s a definite buy. Check it out.