Review: Deathsmiles


Familiar - And I just don't mean the demons

Just hearing the phrase "Cave shooter" evokes so many memories from just about every defining era of my life. From the very first time I ever played Espgaluda, to listening to the gang's adventures in shmups on Destructoid's very own RetroforceGO!, this is one genre that I will take with me to the grave.

Now, Cave is coming back to the forefront with a foray of Steam releases, which started with the fantastic Mushihimesama late last year. Its next offering, Deathsmiles, was always one of my least favorite projects, but it's still streets ahead of most of the competition these days.

Deathsmiles (Arcade, PC [reviewed], iOS, Xbox 360)
Developer: Cave
Publisher: Degica (PC)
MSRP: $19.99
Released: October 19, 2007 (Arcade), July 7, 2011 (iOS), March 10, 2016 (PC)

Deathsmiles, which first debuted in 2007, hasn't aged as well as other Cave games, at least in a visual sense. I never really dug the gothic style, littered with a muted and strange story involving young girls blowing up all sorts of demons. Some of the enemy models look very dated, especially in comparison to some of the gorgeous hand-drawn work from earlier in the company's history. But like most shooters, it works as a delivery system for flashy (sometimes hellish) bullet patterns and gigantic boss fights.

Mechanically, everything is still sound. Although I'm not as big on horizontal shooters as I am with those of the vertical variety, Deathsmiles certainly makes the case for the former. Switching directions constantly is a rush, and allows for some cool enemy formations, coupled with intriguing level designs that help break up the monotony. Your character's hitbox is visible and easy to deal with, allowing for lots of room to dodge -- which comes in handy when the entire screen is riddled with bullets.

I love the fact that each character has a distinct playstyle, and are joined by an equally delightful familiar (demon) to accompany them in battle. It gets even crazier if you have a friend join in on the action by way of the drop-in, drop-out co-op feature. The advanced mechanics aren't all that deep, as there's a rudimentary score system, your standard bomb power, and a limited time super state. For the most part, you're going to be dodging while holding down the fire button.

As far as the PC release goes, this is an iffy port job. It's not a full rework from the ground up for PC, as it was seemingly ported straight from the Xbox 360 version. Even if you boot the game up without a 360 or Xbox One controller plugged in, all of the menus cater to the A, B, X, Y buttons. It's...odd, to say the least. There were a few occasions where I didn't know how to start a game (hint: it's the "1" key). Even though the enter key is technically the "start" button, that's not enough to get you through every menu.

It works, though. Other than a few crashes that happened after switching some options around, the game ran without issue. Using a keyboard is actually fine (here's the layout) even with two players in the mix, and you can swap between Japanese and English audio. Any tweaks are barebones though, as there are no real bells and whistles, and the sole resolution setting is the choice between 16:9 or 4:3. There's also very few extra modes on top of the campaign -- there's a score attack gametype and training, and that's all she wrote.

Deathsmiles on PC is an odd port of a classic shooter, and even though it may not measure up to some of its Cave-bred ilk, it's still worth playing if you haven't experienced it yet.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

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DeathSmiles reviewed by Chris Carter



Solid and definitely has an audience. There could be some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.
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Chris Carter
Chris CarterReviews Director, Co-EIC   gamer profile

Chris has been enjoying Destructoid avidly since 2008. He finally decided to take the next step, make an account, and start blogging in January of 2009. Now, he's staff! ------------------- T... more + disclosures



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