Game: Dondonpachi Daioujou Black Label/怒首領蜂大往生
Release Date: April 10, 2003
System: Playstation 2
My Score: 8/10
Game: Dondonpachi Daioujou Black Label Extra/怒首領蜂大往生ブラックレーベルEXTRA
Release Date: February 19, 2009
Genre: Shooting, Waiting
My Score 6/10
So the story goes that a thousand years have passed since the first game. In the first game all of the “enemies” were actually your comrades sacrificing themselves so that only the best of the best become pilots in the DonPachi Squad. Nice.
So after that “training mission” that is the first DonPachi game, there was a big war where humanity was nearly wiped out. After that war, the enemy force was sent to the moon and was to be sealed there forever. Over hundreds of years humanity rebuilt itself and lived peacefully on Earth. Well, Earth wasn’t the only planet where humans were thriving as they also went to the moon. During the human colonization of the moon they woke up the bad guys that were banished there forever. After being in hibernation against their will for a few hundred years, they are pretty upset. They started wreaking havoc on the moon and its peaceful inhabitants who all lived in the lunar city of Lunapolis.
The DonPachi Squad was brought back into service and built just two ships to battle this ‘opposing force’. To help the DonPachi Force was these androids called “Element Dolls”. These ‘dolls’ are the brains (and beauty) of your ship. They control the amount of bombs you have, the amount of firepower, among other things. So jump in your ship and choose your element doll and let’s take out the opposing force!
So that sounds like the typical scenario of a shmup. Pretty generic, but hey, shmups don’t really need stories. Let’s start with the title of the game. It directly translates to “Angry Boss/Leader Bee, Peaceful Death”. For those of you studying Japanese, the title is broken down at the end of this review.
PS2 (left side), XBOX360 (right side)
Like in previous DonPachi games you rapidly press the “shot” button to shoot your Vulcan gun, and then hold down the shot button to release your concentrated laser or “Power Shot”. You choose between Type-A and Type-B ships. Type-A is a red ship for player one, a blue ship for player two. Type-B is a green ship for player one, and a yellow ship for player two. Type-A is a standard ship with a standard, concentrated shot whereas the Type-B’s shots are more spread out but with less power. After choosing your ship you must choose which Element Doll you want attached to your ship. You have three choices, a Lolita-styled android called Shotia, a Chinese-styled android named Leinyan, and a sexy type android named Exy. With Shotia you can only have a maximum of 6 bombs (starts with 3) and she has the strongest normal shot. Leinyan can hold a maximum of 4 bombs (starts with 2) and has the strongest Power Shot among the three. Exy only starts with 1 bomb and can only hold a maxium of 2, but she has the strongest shot and power shot of the bunch. Other than the regular power-up icons, there is also a golden bee power-up icon which gives you a “Hyper Shot”. The Hyper Shot is activated by pressing the “bomb” button and your ship’s vulcan guns become immensely more powerful as well as your laser Power Shot. Giant yellow lasers spew from your ship, destroying anything and everything in its path.
Is the PS2 version you have an Arcade Mode, Simulation Mode, and Death Label mode. The Arcade Mode is, you guessed it, a port of the arcade version of the game. Within the arcade mode you have a “no bullet” mode which is you play through the game but not one enemy fires a bullet at you. This is there for people who want to memorize the enemy attack layout. With no bullets in your way, it is easy to memorize the timing of which enemies come at what times during the level.
The Simulation Mode is just a practice mode of the game. You can choose which level to practice as well as which boss. There is also a replay mode in which your game plays can be recorded and there is Super Replay Mode where you can watch pre-recorded game plays from Cave employees and die-hard shmuppers.
Lastly there is a Death Label mode that is only present in the PS2 version. In the Death Label of the game you start off with only one life and there are no continues. Instead of playing through the stages, you only fight the bosses who really give you a pounding. At the beginning of each boss fight you are given a bunch of golden bees which activate your Hyper Shot. I found that it is better to avoid these and use your regular bombs to help get rid of enemy bullets when you're in a jam.
In the XBOX360 version there is the “X Mode” which is unlocked after 6 hours of play. The “X-Mode” was designed for novice players since the game is easier and you have more firepower. I don’t think it makes sense for a game’s “easy” mode has to be unlocked after a certain amount of achievements or hours of play. This should be available from the get-go. In the X-Mode there is an additional Element Doll that is not available in the PS2 version. Her name is "Piper" which is supposed to sound like "hyper", and her specialty is her strength in Hyper Shot mode.
There is a gallery mode in both games, but the XBOX360 version's gallery has a lot more art...at a cost. There are 3 second load times between each slide. They just show art work from the development of the game. The 5pb version of the game should show pictures the developers sitting around doing nothing instead of, you know, checking the game for bugs.
Which leads me to the controversy of this game, specifically the XBOX360 version. I am sure most of you know, but for those who don't, it goes something like this. Cave asked 5pb (a gyaru game developer) to make a port of this game for the XBOX360. It took longer than they had expected so somebody got a hold of the PS2's code from the publisher of the PS2 version, Arika, which they cut and paste into the 360's version without permission. This resulted in a very buggy game which 5pb has apologized for many times on their site. Since the game's release, they have been saying they are working on a patch for the game, but that patch is nowhere in sight.
The Verdict: 8/10 (PS2 version), 6/10 (XBOX360 version)
This is a great shmup and a good follow-up to previous DonPachi games. I do feel other Cave shmups are more exciting to play because their bullet patterns are more intricate and the enemies are more detailed. One thing I noticed with this game is that a lot of the enemy entrance patterns are odes to early shmups, especially Galaga and Galaxian. When you are playing and you see this, you will know it was no accident. That was really a nice touch.
The music in both games is really good, as well as the sound effects. They should have gotten a different announcer guy, though. His voice and acting doesn’t really match the game. They should have done some sort of android female voice or something similar.
All in all, it is a very solid shmup that is typical of Cave games and a great lead-up to the sequel, DoDonPachi Daifukkatsu which I will review upon its release in late November. If you're a newbie to Cave shmups and played games like Espgaluda, Ketsui, and Mushuhimesama then you might find DoDonPachi DOJ a bit less refined. If you're a veteran to Cave shmups, then you can appreciate that this fairly new game doesn't let go of its mid 90s roots. We can't berate the game too much for not being as good as newer Cave games since the original version of this game came out in 2002.
This is a straightforward shmup without any deep story intricacies (like Mushihimesama series) and it is definitely worth your money. Now, which version should you get? Read on to the comparison below.
A peaceful death brought on by the angry boss bee.
Comparison Between PS2 and XBOX360 Versions
So what are the bad differences between the two? Well the first thing you will notice is the load times. Here is a comparison of some of the load times
From initial disc (not system) boot-up to actual game play:
39.01 seconds (Playstation 2)
From initial disc boot-up, memory scan, to main menu:
25.05 seconds. (Playstation 2)
Pause screen to Back to Main Menu:
40.36 seconds (XBOX 360)
00.24 seconds (Playstation 2)
So the XBOX360 takes more than twice as long to boot up than the PS2 version even though the game originally came out during the PS2 era. 40 seconds just to start the game over from the pause menu compared to the split second it takes for the PS2. This is unacceptable for a current-gen system, but 5pb didn’t think so (or didn’t care). They were lazy by copying and pasting code from the PS2 version, and they were lazy by not even checking the game for bugs. I guess 5pb should stick to making gyaru games. I have a copy of Ketsui for the 360 which was also ported by 5pb, we’ll see how they do with that title in another review.
Other than the arduous loading times, the game freezes on the 2nd level during online play. If you plan to do co-op battle with anyone, you guys won’t make it past the 2nd level which is a bummer because online play is fun. Here and there you find little bugs in the menu and the layout of the menu isn’t really well-though out in the first place. The game was very rushed and you can see evidence of this throughout. Another gripe is that it tells you to use the "back" button (B) to go back, but you really have to press "START" to exit menus. Things like that add up and become annoying.
Another thing with the XBOX360 version is that you have to unlock the “easy” mode after many hours of play. I do not understand the reasoning behind this if they want to make the game more accessible to new players...on the other hand one good thing the arcade mode in the XBOX360 version has over the PS2 version is that you have to earn your credits to continue, which presents a great challenge. In the PS2's Arcade Mode, you have unlimited credits which makes the game a bit easy and since you know you have unlimited continues, you feel your ships are expendable. When you play the XBOX360 version, you feel just like you did when you were at an arcade and you just inserted your last quarter of your allowance.
The XBOX360 version does come with a guidebook printed by Famitsu if you pre-ordered the game. The guidebook isn't really that great. It's a small pamphlet that gives you bullet-dodging tips and the locations of all the hidden bee icons. The PS2 version comes with a region 2 DVD which shows some pretty hardcore game play.
As always, no pirates or emus, my copies:
PS. I think the PS2's cover looks far better than the 360's. The PS2 cover evokes sadness by showing your Element Doll distraught over her pilot's death. In the XBOX360 cover it looks like a fetish brothel blew up and there are bodies in different types of fetishes strewn about.
The guidebook that comes with the 360 version.
Title Explanation for Japanese Learners
怒, ど (音読み) = Angry
首 領, どん ＝Boss/Leader. It may seem confusing that these two kanji together are just one syllable, but this reading of these two kanji is actually of Italian origin. “Don” Which means “boss” (for mafia) is where this came from. If you want to pronounce it the Japanese way, it is しゅりょう. But for the game’s title, it is to be pronounced “どん”.
Otherwise the game’s title would be Doshuryou Pachi.
蜂, はち (訓読み) = Bee, but for better flow, the は is changed to ぱ sound.
大 往生, だいおうじょう (音読み) = This is just one word, which means a peaceful or natural death with the connotation that the life was a long, fruitful one. This is not a commonly-used word.