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Deathsmiles Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . Despite dipping into bullet hell territory towards the end, Deathsmiles is a surprisingly accessible shoot-em-up with a great sense of style. This is the perfect antidote for those who are sick of shooting down aliens in outer space. It may not last very long and the slowdowns get in the way from time to time, but Deathsmiles is one of Cave's best games. Rating: 71%
Deathsmiles
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  • Review Score:

  • B
Although they haven't been on the scene long, Degica has made a name for themselves by porting some of the most iconic 2D shoot-em-ups to personal computers. From Judgement Silversword to DeltaZeal to Mushihimesama, this is a company on a serious winning streak. And with the release of Deathsmiles, it looks like the good times are going to continue rolling right through 2016.

A port of the 2007 arcade game from legendary developer Cave, Deathsmiles is a horror-themed shoot-em-up starring a group of teenage girls stuck fighting through the monster world. The goal is to help Sakura hunt down her father, who is attempting to open a portal back to the real world. We do this by flying through a series of challenge stages filled with gothic-inspired bad guys.


Aside from the spooky aesthetic, there is one other mechanic that sets Deathsmiles apart from the typical 2D shooter. Instead of just firing in one direction, our teenage heroes can shoot forwards and backwards. You can do this by pulling the left or right trigger buttons on modern game controllers, something that is immediately intuitive. It gives us the kind of control over the action we rare see in this style of action game.

And just to bump up the intensity, all five characters come with their own companion. From an owl to a fairy, each girl has a buddy flying overhead lending support. This leads to a scenario where you almost always feel more powerful than the enemies. It's only when the bullets cover the screen that we're brought back down to earth.

Deathsmiles (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

Seeing as the game is only 9 years old, it probably shouldn't surprise anybody that the graphics still look incredible. There's an impressive amount of detail put into every bad guy and stage, and the various bosses will haunt your dreams. Even when the game throws familiar enemies at you, it always has a style all its own. I was blown away by the presentation right from the get-go, and found myself completely satisfied by the game's multiple endings.

While I could continue to gush over the gorgeous locations and cool boss designs, I have to sideline the excitement and point out a few of the glaring problems. For one thing, Deathsmiles has a bad habit of slowing down when the action gets too intense. I assume this is accurate to the arcade original, but it's disappointing given my computer's horsepower.

Deathsmiles (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

It's also over too soon. Even on the highest difficulty, it won't take you more than 30 minutes to speed through the levels. It's a fun ride, but you'll see practically everything this game has to offer in a single sitting. That said, Deathsmiles does provide a bunch of different iterations, including the Mega Black Label version. These variations change the rules a bit, but I wish the alterations were more obvious.

Despite dipping into bullet hell territory towards the end, Deathsmiles is a surprisingly accessible shoot-em-up with a great sense of style. This is the perfect antidote for those who are sick of shooting down aliens in outer space. It may not last very long and the slowdowns get in the way from time to time, but Deathsmiles is one of Cave's best games.
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