Easily one of the best part about having friends or coworkers who are also die hard gamers like yourself, is the fact that you can talk to this person about how the developers don’t know what they’re doing, how you would’ve done such and such game better, and ultimately, “back in my day…”
Personally, “back in my day” is the best part of any gaming-related conversation. Mainly for the sake of bringing back fond memories, but also because I always manage to realize something that I never noticed before as a kid, or simply couldn’t figure out.
Case in point: Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Casino Night Zone. I spent years trying to get past that block that you simply couldn’t jump over. If you’ve played Sonic 2, you know what I’m talking about. I ended up giving up on the game completely, and declared it broken and unbeatable. Then, just two years ago, I learned while talking to a friend that you actually have to press down on your D-pad, as the platform you’re standing on is actually an elevator.
Silly realizations like this are one of the many reasons it’s always a good idea to take a trip down memory lane. Today’s trip will take us to the town of DoDonPachi. PEW PEW after the jump.
This is the last thing your quarters see before they die.
Whenever talking about old school gaming, I tend to immediately jump on DoDonPachi. The game is easily one of my all-time favorites, and one that I continue to go back and play over and over and over again.
DoDonPachi is a game that comes from a world long since dead: The arcade. If you’re old enough, you might remember being in one of these many years ago. Maybe your grandfather told you a story about how they would be huge rooms, filled wall to wall with the latest pinball tables and how Alien VS Predator is the best thing you will ever set your eyes upon. Sadly, these magical rooms filled with high-quality games are an endangered species, and to find a decent arcade is like finding a four-leaf clover. Only rarer.
DoDonPachi isn’t too old, really. It was released in 1997, and is actually the sequel to another title, DonPachi. DoDonPachi is a bullet hell/manic shooter. Since this genre is almost dead, an explanation is probably needed.
Bullet hell/manic shooters are games in which your character flies through a stage of enemies, and you have to shoot them down and survive all the way to the end if you want to win. Think of Galaga. Now think of Galaxian. Now imagine that they had a baby. Now imagine that you gave this baby steroids until it was 32 years old and then genetically modified it so that it produces excess amounts of adrenaline and even when sitting perfectly still is a twitching, sweating, pants-crapping mess.
Now imagine it had a baby, and you repeat this process one more time. Now you have a manic shooter.
This is Easy Mode.
Manic shooters fall under the umbrella term “shoot ‘em up”, or “shmup”. Shmups, in general, cover a pretty wide range of games. Technically, Galaga and Galaxian are both shmups. So is Space Invaders. Probably one of the last shmup titles to be remotely popular in the English-speaking world is Ikaruga, which is a somewhat weak bullet hell shmup (although Ikaruga makes up for the lack of bullets with the totally awesome color-changing mechanism), but bullet hell nonetheless.
DoDonPachi stands out to me because this is the game that got me into shmups. Sure, I’d played a bunch of them in my time, but they were all kinda… Meh. DoDonPachi cost me $0.50 to play, and I was already reaching in my pocket for more change in all of two minutes.
The difficulty level of the game was incredible. You have no health bar. You have to maneuver your ship in between 2 pixels of space with a 1/10 second window of time unless you want to waste one of your few lives. There are upwards of 10 enemies on screen at once who can all kill you in one hit, but will require multiple hits to die, themselves. They also have no problem creating a wall of bullets.
This is Hibachi, the final boss. This is his first phase, which looks like banana cream pie compared to his final phase.
Aside from being incredibly difficult, the game is visually stunning, given the fact that it is a 13-year old game. The game runs at a whopping 240 x 320 resolution (almost half the resolution of my cell phone!). However, don’t let that discourage you. If you manage to find an arcade that still graciously carries great titles like this, you’ll be playing this the way it was meant to be played: On a big, fat, CRT television, set on its side for vertical display. All those little pixels and other rough edges from the low resolution will simply blur away.
However, you really can’t focus on the visual appeal for too long, simply because your eyes need to be busy watching the waves of enemies and a never ending hellfire of bullets coming right at you. Without a doubt, this is a game that will take years to master. I’ve been a huge fan of DoDonPachi for a long time, and have lost countless amounts of quarters to this game. I could honestly say I could have bought a cheap car with the amount of money I’ve pumped into this machine (and I have no problem admitting this, strangely enough).
So aside from being an incredibly intimidating game, this game is your classic “gamer’s game”, as I like to call them. A gamer’s game is any in which your skill is pushed to the limits without any special gimmicks like wacky controllers, voice chat, achievements, or anything else that would otherwise distract you from blowing things up. Not to say that “gimmicky” games aren’t fun. They’re undeniably fun, but oldschool always prevails in my book.