Saturday, March 2, 2013

Danmaku Unlimited 2 [Doragon] - $4.99

If you aren’t an avid reader of our little review site here, or don’t know me from the Touch Arcade Forums, you might not know that I’m a HUGE Bullet-Hell fanatic. So with this in mind, it’s really no surprise that when Danmaku Unlimited 2 was announced last October, I just about crapped my pants in excitement. Now that it’s here, we get to see if we’ve hyped it up in our brains to the point where there’s no way it could compare with our hopes, or if it lives up to everything we hoped for and more. I’ll give you a hint; this review is going to be glowing. 

For those of you familiar with the original Danmaku Unlimited, DU2 not only adds some new scoring mechanics, but an entirely new mode all-together; Burst Mode. We’ll get into the scoring mechanics of Burst Mode in a sec, but first, Classic Mode. There have been some pretty big changes in the scoring for the Classic Mode in DU2. Right off the bat, you are able to graze bullets to help increase your score. However, here, grazing bullets does not effect your multiplier. Instead, it charges your Trance Meter and gives you a grazing bonus. While your Trance Meter does recharge on its own, slowly, grazing bullets and destroying enemies will speed this up quite a bit. Now, how do you raise your multiplier, you ask? Well, it’s a lot like DoDonPachi Maximum’s multiplier raising; you’ll need to collect gems dropped by enemies, however, the closer you are to an enemy, the more gems they’ll drop. So the closer you are to enemies when you destroy them, the more gems you’ll collect, and the higher your multiplier will go. Nifty, huh? We sure thought so! Once you enter Trance Mode, an initial blast will discharge converting all bullets on screen into multiplier gems. Also, all enemies and their bullets (once destroyed) will turn into precious gold stars that really bump up your score. 

Now, Burst Mode scoring. In Burst Mode, grazing is still on the menu as something that gives you a bonus and raises your Trance Meter. However, it does not raise your Trance Meter at the same rate that it does in the Classic Mode, here, it’s a bit slower. However, this is done for a very good reason. If you can pull this next move off right, your multiplier will SOAR. Burst Mode also utilizes the up-close-and-personal mechanics of Classic Mode, except here, while you’re up against enemies they will drop items that raise your Burst Gauge. Once your bar is about 20% full, you’ll be able to enable it and cancel out any bullets that the Burst Laser comes into contact with. The cancelled bullets, as well as destroyed enemies, turn into gems which, when collected, will raise your multiplier. Needless to say, you will be cancelling a LOT of bullets, especially on the harder difficulties. Another huge difference between Burst Mode and Classic Mode? In Burst Mode, entering Trance Mode will, get this, multiply your multiplier by 4X. That’s right. If you activate Trance Mode when your multiplier is at 100X, during Trance Mode your multiplier will hit 400X. This makes for some incredibly high scoring. 

As far as bullet patterns go, Danmaku Unlimited 2 has quite a few interesting combinations. Better yet, there’s a very good mix of bullets that are aimed directly at you and bullets that fly out in pre-determined patterns no matter where you are on-screen. The build up in the number of projectiles between difficulties is great, and with 4 difficulties, there’s definitely something for everyone no matter your skill set when it comes to SHMUPs. 
All of this sounds well and good and already stands out as a top notch bullet curtain title, but something that also makes it stand out above and beyond others? Kind of like the shop in the original Danmaku Unlimited, DU2 has an upgrade, experience and leveling system. That’s right, you’ll be earning experience in each game that you play that’s tacked on to your total experience and builds up your ships level. For each level that you achieve, you’re awarded points which you can use in the game’s shop. Here, you can change your shot type between focused, tracking and wide, with each shot type upgradeable to level 3. Even cooler; you can mix and match shot types. If you’re willing to dump points into shot types, you can even go into games with all 3 shot types active once you have enough points. Points can also be spent on bombs, lives and continues. Even better? Points are permanent. Once you earn them, you own them and can distribute them however you see fit. There are no IAPs, so purchasing points is not an option, meaning that players can’t just buy their way onto the leaderboards. Once you’re at the top level, you can mix and match and figure out what the best set-up is for what you’re trying to do during your run; going on a score-chasing run or trying to just complete the game. 

The controls are another huge plus. DU2 is free of all on-screen buttons. To do this, Doragon has made it so that entering Burst and Trance Modes, as well as switching from your regular shot type to the laser shot type, in Classic Mode, is all done by either swiping up (to enter Trance Mode) or down (to enter Burst Mode or change to your laser shot). You’re also able to customize the relative touch ratio from anywhere between 1:1 to 2:1, adjust the size of the gaming screen, change Trance Mode from auto to manual and on the iPhone, switch between normal and iPhone aspect ratios (in the iPhone aspect ratio, the screen will be able to scroll left and right instead of having everything smaller and centered). And yes, you can also adjust the music and sound effects separately. All-together, along with the game’s upgrade shop, this has made Danmaku Unlimited 2 a customizers paradise. 

Graphically, DU2 picks up where the original left off; exaggerated neon projectiles with huge ships and loads of items on the screen at almost all times. Your ships hit-box is very easy to see as the dot in the middle of your ship, even when things get insanely hectic. There have been some complaints that the Burst Mode orbs look very similar to the Track shot’s tracking missiles. Personally, I don’t see the issue with it, as your missiles go up towards the enemies and you never need to worry about collecting anything that’s going up. There’s also a few shades of color difference between the two, and doesn’t really distract from the game at all. But I thought it was worth bringing up since there are some people who are obviously having an issue with it. Hopefully Doragon can come up with an elegant solution for this; maybe making the Track shots missiles more missile like - long and straight - instead of tracking orbs. I don’t know. 

The background music is done by the same artist that did the music for Doragon’s previous bullet hell title, Storm Strikers, and fits the game beautifully. The mix of electronica and metal definitely adds to the intensity of the gameplay no matter what mode or difficulty you’re playing on. Animations also add quite a bit to the gameplay, with huge explosions and item movement all fitting together to create a visually intense gaming experience. All of it running at a smooth 60 frames per second too, which is very impressive. 
And, like any other SHMUP, DU2 wouldn’t be fully complete without GameCenter leaderboards. There are separate boards for each mode and each difficulty, as well as boards for your total combined scores for all difficulties in both Classic and Burst Modes. On top of that, there’s also leaderboards for the Boss Rush Classic and Boss Rush Burst Modes that are unlocked once you complete the game. There are also 30 achievements to snag, all adding to the already crazy high replay value. 

All of this is put together in a Universal and iPhone/iPod 5 widescreen supported package priced at $4.99. Considering the price of similar games (I’m looking at you Cave) it’s a real steal. Doragon has definitely cemented their place in the iOS bullet hell genre and hopefully we’ll be able to see more from this incredibly talented one-man development studio in the future. If you’re a fan of the genre, Danmaku Unlimited 2 is a must own. I really can’t recommend it enough, and if this glowing review isn’t enough to win you over, you can check out the lite version of the game which contains the first level in both of the game’s amazing modes. You’ll also have access to the game’s upgrade and shop system, which is a pretty cool thing to get acquainted with if you’re still on the edge of deciding whether or not to throw down the $5 for the full version. 


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