Deathsmiles is a game that pretty much redefines the shoot-em-up genre, at least in terms of difficulty. It’s one of the most outgoing, and mystifying Shmup’s I’ve laid my eyes on. There no time to blink, the Game Over screen features a lot, and the iconic Japanese flash of cleavage is very present.
Most side scrolling shoot-em-up’s always seem to get talked about like they are super hard to progress because there’s so much happening. Friends and I have had discussions over games like R-Type, or Metal Slug, having so many enemies coming in that it becomes so hectic that it reaches the point of being too much. However, after a few seconds with Deathsmiles, you’ll change your thinking.
Deathsmiles starts off looking very gothic from the main menu – as well as looking like it’s straight from the Xbox 360 version from 2009 due to the Xbox controller buttons still showing up in places – its thick spikey font with washed out deep purples and reds shaded into the artwork make it looks haunting and dark. The menu navigation feels very arcade-like, that’s for sure, and that’s understandable seeing as it first came out as an arcade game back in 2007.
The gameplay is different. I’m not going to lie, I’ve had fleeting discussions about this game and heard the term, “Cave Shooter” uttered from mouths and fingertips, I’ve just not understood what that is. I can’t even call this game “Unhinged” or a “Bullet hell” because it’s far more wacky than that. There’s no moment of rest, the first second into a stage and you’re already being bombarded with some form of enemy horde. I can’t even use the word “horde” because that would indicate that there are waves of enemies, but it’s literally just one long string of enemies that won’t stop, almost like a Black Friday frenzy.
You have a choice of five gothically fashioned angels, each come with their own look and style of attack, and they have their own “Familiars” who serve as backup when out on the field. They hover around you, helping you shoot down the enemies, or flying in front of you and taking some hits for you like a good wingman. The characters in the actual world of Gilverado look rather pixelated as if you were playing it as it originally was, as an arcade game. The main menu artwork though features some of that famous Japanese cleavage.
You have three bars of health, which already is different to this type of game as normally in these genres, players are given “lives” and each time they die they respawn. In this, your health drops per bullet taken or per enemy flown into. Once you die, you’re dead. Gone. Partying with the worms, bathing in soil.
It’s not only overly crazy, but it’s incredibly unforgiving.
You’ve got two buttons (Z and X) that allow you to fire standard shots left and right, and then two other buttons (A and S) that allow you to shoot left and right with a turbo edition of your standard shot. You’ve got a button for Magic (D) which casts deadly spells, and you’ve got a special button, (C) which basically…annihilates everything on the screen.
The chapters and stages are mostly horizontally scrolling, but there are a few that go vertically, which is a game changer because you have to wait and fly upwards as quickly as you can to avoid being struck by hellish demons. There are six different game modes – one that’s mostly mentioned is the “Mega Black Label” mode
Sadly I couldn’t try this mode because the game I was given bugged out in specific areas and left me stuck on a non-responsive card screen that was stuck in a looping animation.
Finding it hard to play on your own? You can invite a local player to hit start and join in the demonic slaughtering. Why suffer alone?
Deathsmiles is certainly a game I didn’t think I’d get on with, and in fairness, I still don’t. It’s far too brutal for me and there are far too many monsters from hell coming on screen at any one moment. Every angle has something coming to kill you. Having said that though, it’s a well designed game, and you can’t help but find yourself immersed within it, no matter if you enjoy it or not. It’s attention grabbing, and it’s always making you want to try again until you finally don’t see that nasty, “Game Over” screen. The screen I grew far too used to seeing.