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Deathsmiles and Genre Redemption

Before XBLA and the retro hype, which resulted in a land-grab on customers' nostolgia through thinly-veiled clones by indie devs, arcade-style games were in a bad way. People just didn't want to play them anymore. It's hard to find a genre that personifies this decline more than shooters. Not 'shooters' as the term is used today, but as it was before games like Halo and Modern Warfare stole it. I'm talking about shoot em' ups, or shmups, for those of us who prefer our genres to be labeled in one word or less. I'm sure more than a few people are unfamiliar with the term, so at risk of generalizing I'll define the genre by saying that it's "like Ikaruga". If you're still confused than wiki it up, son.

The general lack of knowledge about shooters is testament to how far from grace they've fallen. Any other comparable genre has at least one game or series that everybody recognizes. Rhythm Games have Dance Dance Revolution, and fighting games have Street Fighter. So on so forth. Outside of Japan, where the genre continues to thrive, shooters are on life support from the one or two titles that publishers risk localizing, with XBLA titles serving as genre surrogates until the next AAA title gets published. Things are looking up though. After years of terrible knockoffs and quick cash-ins, getting our fixes through imports and freeware releases, another arcade shooter has hit shelves. I say "hit shelves" quite literally. Deathsmiles' release on the 29th signified the first time a Cave title has been localized and available for purchase in American stores since the PSX era.

Normally this would matter for only the enthusiast. Those of us who consider ourselves dedicated fans and probably already own a Japanese copy anyway, but the difference this time around is that the game has been localized by none other than Aksys. Most of these games that get localized are worked on by unknown developers, funded by small-time publishers, and given small print runs. At best they're handled by old-timers like Namco, who generally make solid products, and have a habit of silently sliding the game onto shelves and disappearing into the shadows once again. The secret wish that we all have, but are too scared to admit, in case it fails to come true, is that the Aksys name will carry sales of the game long enough for people to play the game and for word to spread. As popular as Aksys is because of Guilty Gear and BlazBlue, and because of the way they advertise their games, having that name stamped on the box will definitely boost sales, but the question is if the people buying the game on publisher alone will enjoy it. If they don't, then the chances of Aksys picking up any more games of this type will shrivel up and whither away.

It's a bit too much to hope for an entire genre revitalization after more than a decade spent in the shadows because of only one game, but maybe, just maybe, Aksys' got the ball rolling.
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About PIRone of us since 1:31 AM on 07.01.2010

Sometimes I play EVE Online.

Once in a while I write about it too. This here destructoid blog discusses the game in a more tie-wearing, serious-business fashion with less focus on readers that already play the game. For less formal 'jeans-and-a-tshirt' style EVE blogging, I have a tumblr titled A Really Bad Spaceship Game where I post quotes from Jabber, screenshots taken during ops, and write about whatever I feel like.