As if our bees today were not bad enough, those of Donpachi are huge, mechanical monstrosities. You best not to contemplate that too much. Thinking about blasting them is much more comforting, isn't it? Of course it is.
Realizing that huge, robotic bees are infinitely scary (there is actually only one and the rest are all normal ships, SAMs, etc., but that is still too many), your patrons wish to destroy them and gave you just the ship to do that. In fact, they were so kind that they gave you three to choose from to accommodate different playing styles, and even let you change ships before each continue should you wish to do so. Each ship is also accompanied by two others in formation that the player can, by holding down a button, pull in front of him or her to create a ludicrously oversized and over-powered laser beam that slows you down a lot but is totally worth it. You can also use a bomb to make this laser even more powerful. Along with dishing out damage, Cave added some interesting ways of raking in the points by awarding players for finding hidden stars and bees, and for killing enemies in combos. It may not be revolutionary, but these small tweaks give the game some good depth and replay value, and are a hell of a lot of fun, too.
There are a few nuances that keep it from its true potential. Slowdown, that ancient killer of this otherwise fast-paced genre, pops up not only during the game but in between levels and whenever changing ships. They used a lot of color, but everything looks blocky and pixilated, especially compared to most other 2D Saturn games. As far as sound goes, the effects are passable, the music is utterly forgettable and unmoving, and the voice-over is just irritating. Though the actor's English is surprisingly good, understanding his needless encouragements and pointing out of the obvious did not change the fact that his voice is grating.
In order to get the real ending, the game must be played through twice in one sitting. The second time the levels will be harder and then the real final boss appears at the end of level ten, which is actually level 5 again. Some will undoubtedly love the challenge; others will see it as pointless. I am part of the first group.
Donpachi is a good game. If they had improved the look and soundtrack, eliminated the slowdown and loading times, and used a less annoying voice-over, this game would have been fantastic. If only there were a game that extracted the good, threw out the bad and maybe upped the mayhem a bit. Say, a sequel, perhaps ....