There are shmups and there are shmups
. DoDonPachi is a shmup. A very good shmup. Perhaps one of the best shmups ever made. And I spent most of last night playing it along with some buds over on the Racketboy forums.
DoDonPachi certainly has a reputation. In that sense I was maybe even a bit worried to finally get around to playing it. Y'know how sometimes people talk about a book or movie and by the time you see it you're just let down that it didn't live up to the hype? Not to mention that a recent sequel, DoDonPachi Resurrection was the first shmup I ever 1CC'd (on Novice Mode). So again I was mildly worried that going back further in the series might not be as enjoyable as a newer installment.
But it turns out there was nothing to fear at all. DoDonPachi is actually one of the greatest shmups I've ever played. Visually, it looks excellent and far from dated. The sprites are all so well detailed, the color pallet is always appropriate and the backgrounds are stunning. The music is definitely fitting as well. But really what makes the game so incredible is the balance of it all. There's such a perfect ratio of risk to reward in DoDonPachi that it's easy to see why it's still such a fan-favorite.
Not only does the game offer up three ships in the old Goldie Locks manner of Type A being the "super fast but not the strongest" ship and Type C being the "wicked slow but so powerful" ship. No the balance goes so far beyond all that if you're seriously trying to play for score. For instance there's the whole risk/reward paradox of chaining. You have a small meter that runs out rapidly every moment you're not killing something. If the meter runs out, your chain resets. Big chains make for big bonuses. But of course this means really learning a level and timing every single kill. It also means that sometimes you'll be killing in a not-so-effective way just to keep a chain going. Similarly there are icons of Bees that you can pick up throughout levels (with many of them hidden). They give you bonus points that get higher and higher with each Bee you get. But again, this means probably giving up your chain to uncover them all. The game is loaded with these sorts of decisions on how
to maximize your score -- fast rapid shot or slow laser? To bomb or not to bomb? And so on.
Perhaps the greatest thing about DoDonPachi however is that it's the kind of game that makes you better at an entire genre. The more you practice, the more you're forced to think about strategy and how to increase your score. Not to mention it's a great workout for your mind and fingers to weave perilously throughout blankets of bright bullets. And all of these skills carry over to any other shmup, be it bullet hell or non. Throughout the month I managed to pull off a score of 11,446,730 which I felt really proud of. This was a lot of improvement from my first run. And I also found a new game that I just completely love and will surely revisit often.