DoDonPachi is a vertical shmup which may have a story involving blowing
stuff up. If you read Japanese and beat it twice, you do get some text.
Cave was formed by some of Toaplan's programmers after that firm dissolved.
The last game Toaplan created was Batsugun. Batsugun featured a reduced
player hitbox and increased bullet counts over previous shooters,
effectively making it proto-danmaku. Cave tried to one-up Batsugun with
DonPachi, though in my opinion Batsugun is the better game. After playing
Battle Garegga, Cave programmer Tsuneki Ikeda got the inspiration to take
the gameplay of DonPachi and give it a big dose of style like Garegga.
Thus, in 1997, DoDonPachi was born.
The influence DoDonPachi has had on shmups is staggering, effectively doing
for the manic shmup what Gradius and R-Type did for the horizontal shmup.
No previous shooter had a bullet count as high, and the creation of
intricate webs of bullets has become one of the primary elements of shmups.
Enemy chaining is now also a standard scoring method, seen in games as
diverse as Battle Bakraid, Ikaruga and Space Invaders Extreme 2. Most
important, the reduction of the player hitbox to just a few pixels allows
bullet counts to skyrocket.
Controlling DoDonPachi is easy. Tapping A fires the standard Shot.
Holding A fires the laser, a powerful waterfall of destruction that still
looks cool more than a decade later. The B Button uses a bomb. If pressed
alone, it clears the screen of bullets in the usual style. If dropped
while A is held it stretches the laser out wider than the player sprite and
options, nullifies bullets, and is so powerful it actually pushes your
fighter backwards. If tapping A for standard shots gets on your nerve, a
setting in the Test menu allows button C to act as a full-auto shot with
faster firing rate than tapping allows. Collecting a P icon powers up both
the Shot and Laser, collecting a B adds a bomb with the maximum increasing
per player death.
When selecting a ship, you will have the choice for one focused on Shot or
Laser. Shot types have more bullets on screen at once, but the laser
doesn't penetrate enemies, isn't as strong, and the ship slows down. In
Laser mode, the Laser is wider, penetrates enemies, and does more damage
but the Shot is much weaker. In both modes using Laser activates an aura
around your ship which does the same damage as the beam and allows you to
hit enemies behind or beside you to a short distance. The game can be
played with any combination, but some ships work much better with one than
Type A has concentrated forward power. All of the bullets in Shot go
forward in a narrow line. While Shot mode makes them stronger, Type A is
best used for Laser mode. It retains it's speed in Laser mode, and the
weaker Shot can be used to pick off tanks and popcorn enemies.
Type B has the gimmick of rotating options. Move to the left, and the left
option will rotate to fire left. Move right, the right option does the
same. The result is a fighter that is useful in either Shot or Laser,
depending on how you play the game. However, the actual scoring potential
is actually lowest using Type B. The side options don't do much damage
using the Laser type, and the laser slows the vehicle down bad in Shot
type. Still, I usually play with this one.
Type C has the wide shot pattern. Much like Type A seems designed to favor
the Laser mode, Type C seems designed for Shot mode. At full power the
spread is wide enough and strong enough to hit any part of the screen with
very little movement. The tradeoff is that when using laser in Shot mode,
Type C slows to a crawl.
Unlike games where one choice is clearly best, Cave designed DoDonPachi so
that all combinations can be used and beat the game with enough skill. If
you don't know where to start, try Type A with Laser and Type C with Shot.
The scoring system is a little complex to describe, but very easy to use.
When any enemy is destroyed, a bar next to the score indicator in the top
left with fill up and quickly drain in about one second. Destroy another
enemy before it empties, and you will create a chain. The chain is a
multiplier and each enemy killed while the chain is active will yield a
larger score than the previous one. In addition, the chain will slowly
rise by concentrating Laser fire on a larger enemy like a midboss. If the
bar empties, the chain is over. At bosses, the chain goes up like Lasering
a midboss, but it counts down if you stop hitting the boss rather than
reverting to zero. Many of the levels can be chained right from beginning
to end, which the best players can do to build a chain in excess of 1,000.
On top of the chaining, each stage has 16 bees. Some bees fall out of
destroyed enemies, the rest will flicker when your Shot passes close. Hit
them with the front of the Laser to activate them. As long as you don't
miss any, each bee has a higher point value up to number 15 at 80,000. The
16th will be worth 100,00 on the first stage, but collect all the bees in
subsequent stages and the last one will award more points.
DoDonPachi uses a military theme for the graphics, with lots of tanks,
helicopters, and more unusual devices like robo bees and massive flying
contraptions. The pixel art here is very nice, and a huge step up from
DonPachi. After playing through Guwange and Progear, I don't think
DoDonPachi quite reaches those levels of artistic mastery. Besides the
bullet counts, the screenshots may not look at all exciting. They look
good and do the job, Cave just got better over time.
The sonic portion of DoDonPachi is as bombastic as the gameplay. Cave
traded in the synth orchestral sounds of DonPachi for straight-up hard
rock, appropriate for a shmup. Lots of screaming guitar leads backed up by
rumbling bass and aggressive drumming. Explosions are deep and crunchy
except for your own death, and big enemies actually drown out the music
when they die. Sound effects, like the missiles fired by the first boss,
sound very threatening. The weapons all sound like they are powerful,
really. Your Laser has a floaty, electric sound to match the graphic.
DoDonPachi begins with a launch sequence, as your selected fighter is
dropped off mid-flight by a large carrier craft. With little time to
hesitate, the cliffs in front of you are swarming with tanks ready to be
destroyed. Check out the ruins in the background, under the cliffs. This
is one of the few instances of multi-plane backgrounds in DoDonPachi.
Right ahead is a large red enemy that fires a cloud of bullets quite
quickly at your current position. Get used to seeing globs of little
bullets like that. Continue on past more cliffs and destroy dozens of
tanks. When the cliffs end, hold down the A button to keep the Laser
going. Time it right and you'll keep your chain through the midboss. This
stealth bomber fires tons of bullets literally all around. None of them
are aimed, and the patterns seem to be chosen at random from a pre-
determined set. Not hard, good practice for what awaits. The green
enemies that appear right after should be killed near the bottom of the
screen to release lots of little stars or one big one for more points. One
last cliff remains behind them, before the first boss.
I'd like to point out that the DoDonPachi boss music is some of the best
battle music in any video game.
This first boss shouldn't pose much threat. As he moves into position,
cursors appear over his weak spots. In this case, it is the main body and
the two turrets. Unlike Battle Garegga, DoDonPachi bosses tend to have
just a couple large weak spots instead of dozens of small ones. The bullet
patterns fired by this boss are aimed. My suggestion is to use small
movements to get between bullets rather than going around arcs. DoDonPachi
allows you to pull this off fairly smoothly. Concentrate fire on the
turrets until they explode (they explode at the same time), then keep the
Laser going and avoid bullets. When the announcer says "Just a couple more
shots," you can use a bomb while holding A to more than double the combo
counter. I'd actually recommend saving bombs, as you get huge bonuses if
you collect a bomb and your counter says MAXIMUM, much bigger than you'll
get from destroying the boss. I'm not too good at chaining in DoDonPachi
and I can usually get out of Stage 1 with a score in excess of 2 million.
You'll need high scores to get those extends for later stages.
Stage 2 opens over a red desert, dotted with craters. It looks like Mars,
but this is another portion of war-torn Earth. Immediately on the left is
a bee in a crater. Tanks roll in from both sides. On the right hand side
is a very large crater. Shoot over it to reveal stars. Each star also
counts towards your chain. You will quickly have a chain in excess of 60
if done right. To the left of the star crater is a large machine that
generates equally large vehicles. These can throw out enough bullets that
the careless player will be killed. After another of these generators,
you'll come upon multiple large gun turrets on a parking lot. Destroy all
of them, then hover over the lower right device while firing the Laser.
The top will pull back and reveal flowers, which award points, before
exploding. Right after this parking lot is a very large machine on the
ground. Concentrate on the part that shoots at you. When it is destroyed,
all bullets on screen are cancelled and the top of the structure is blown
off. Hover over the middle while firing the Laser to activate more
flowers. This also allows you to get early hits on the huge tank midboss.
Don't sit right in front of him as his spreads will cross the center of the
screen. The midboss itself rarely kills me, but the turrets on the sides
of the screen do a good job. Once this guy is dead the final stretch is
fought across what looks like a ruined city. The turrets on the buildings,
the buildings themselves, the helicopters, and the tanks all rolling out
make it possible to get a chain of over 130 just in this stretch, and
chaining the whole stage can lead to chains in excess of 400.
The boss is a huge tank that rolls in from the side and plays reverse Space
Invaders. It can only move left and right. On each side of the turret are
a handful of targets, including missile launchers and bullet turrets. Take
out one side completely, then work on the other. The primary attacks this
boss uses are thin blue bullets and a charge attack. The thin bullets
blanket the screen but most are slow, use small movements and edge around
them. You can tell the charge is coming when you see pink mist in front of
the main turret's barrel. The barrel will fire a mass of pink bullets at
you, and blue bullets in a pre-set pattern will launch from the back of the
turret. In my playing it seems that if all the side targets are destroyed
the blue bullets are greater in quantity. Move quickly once the attack is
launched to get away from the pink bullets and between blue streams as best
Cave didn't really put a huge battleship fight in DoDonPachi, but Stage 3
comes close. This one is set high in the clouds, no ground enemies here.
While Stage 2 started getting hard, I notice a pretty big jump in
difficulty right in the beginning of Stage 3. The stage can effectively
broken in two. In the first part, the main targets are large purple ships
with many turrets. Use the Laser, destroy the turrets and concentrate fire
on the front to destroy them. Each one will drop a bee if destroyed.
Beware the popcorn enemies coming from the sides, even little enemies gang
up to create bullet spreads that are dangerous. The Stage 3 midboss is an
absolute bastard. He flies in and fires two little puff balls. They sit
there for a moment and burst at high speed all over the screen. Each
particle is fatal. The pattern looks to be randomly generated, meaning you
can't sit in a guaranteed safe spot and are required to dodge. Try staying
vertical with one, and moving to the least dense angle you can as soon as
they burst. The second portion of the stage starts with a whole fleet of
those flying green turrets from Stage 1. The main portion is made up of
small green ships that materialize in midair and larger yellow ships. Let
the yellow ships live for a little while and destroy them when the bullets
from the green guys get thick, as the destruction of these yellow ships
cancels bullets. The final section is the huge battleship, except it isn't
much of a fight. About halfway across, you'll see a turret on each side of
the middle portion. Completely destroy each one, then blast the middle
portion. If done correctly, you'll trigger the extend in the wreckage.
The boss of Stage 3 looks a little Compile-esque to me. A huge pod,
mounted with tons of turrets. The turrets on the extreme left and right
will drop bees when destroyed. Take out the rotating side turrets quickly
as well, they can create very thick bullet clouds if both are active. Once
all the turrets are taken out, the four behind the main weak point will be
vulnerable. Just slightly move to the sides with the laser to hit them, or
let the boss move and stay still if no bullets are coming your way. The
blue bullet spreads fired at the end here aren't too hard to dodge. I have
fit between these blue bullets, but the error room is tiny so go for the
gaps between spreads.
Stage 4 looks to be the urban zone. You can murder civilians in their cars
on the highway at the beginning to start a chain. If video games make
people do crazy things, at least they'll be doing it in the name of high
scores. Most of Stage 4 is set amidst the rubble of a ruined city, with
tanks crawling out from behind smashed buildings and under roads. A few
large enemies appear, but no real midboss. A chain can be carried all the
way from the beginning to the end of the level, with a lot of practice.
One thing I notice starting in this stage is that some enemies will fire a
nearly continuous stream of bullets vertically. It may be possible to fit
between bullets but I got killed trying to do it. These vertical streams
effectively cut off a portion of the screen, and if caught in front of an
enemy firing two of these kill it quickly or your dodging space will be
limited to nearly vertical movement. Across another highway filled with
tanks instead of cars is what appears to be a small military complex. Use
Laser on the right side to destroy the turrets or they will blanket the
screen with blue bullets very fast.
The Stage 4 boss has no extra pieces and is one giant weak spot. His first
attack consists of multiple bullet patterns overlapping. The thin blue
lasers cut off the sides. The blue and pink bullets have a pre-determined
shape but are aimed, and the way they cross can cut off movement. Don't
get too low, move up when the chance arises. When the boss stops firing,
his signature attack is coming up. The two big boxes are not intakes, they
are lasers. Each one gets a short charge animation and fires a white
laser. The laser moves far faster than you do, if you are in front of the
barrel you will die. Follow his movements, try to stay on the outside.
When destroyed, the boss will begin firing rings of bullets and aimed arcs.
Interestingly, by glitch or design if the lasers are destroyed at a
certain point in the movement pattern the boss will freeze and can be
destroyed or nearly so. I've never managed to pull this off, but watching
super plays it seems that if the lasers are destroyed after the boss sweeps
the bottom of the screen and is moving from the right to the left, the
effect is triggered. Getting to this point isn't easy, but it does make
the rest of the fight much easier.
Stage 5 looks like an industrial complex, full of steel grate floors and
cold machinery. Make the machinery warm by blowing stuff up. By this
point in the game, enemies are so numerous that by simply holding A and
dodging, I got a chain of 120 on a level I honestly haven't played in about
18 months. Small enemies still fire aimed bullets, by this point usually
one aimed at you and one aimed off to the side. Admittedly, the bullet
count is so high by this point that it isn't always easy to tell where a
bullet originated and I might have some patterns wrong. Like Stage 4,
smaller enemies will roll out from underneath the structures in the
background. In this case, the lines seem nearly endless. I was still
hitting enemies with my aura behind me as the screen scrolled them away.
The Stage 5 boss uses aimed spreads not unlike the Stage 4 boss. I didn't
notice as much eye candy in the patterns here, they tended to be more
directed and deadlier. Take notice of the missiles underneath the boss.
Once the patterns stop it starts firing those off. They explode into huge
fireballs. I find myself dying more easily in the middle, try staying to
one side so you can move between the big fireballs and the small ones.
While the fireballs are the more unique part, I find the bullet spreads
harder to dodge.
I'm not really sure what Stage 6 is supposed to be, if anything. It looks
like Stage 5, with lots of industrial designs, but then has roads and bees
that teleport in. The colors are brighter than Stage 5. I believe I saw
enemies from every previous stage in Stage 6, including the Stage 3
midboss. Two of them in fact, at the same time. And they aren't midbosses
here; you still need to fight off smaller enemies underneath at the same
time. from Stage 3 and the little turrets popping out of holes in the
ground from Stage 4. The bees fling a wide bullet spread all over the
screen and take a little punishment before exploding. Ground enemies
really let the lead fly in this stage. Red turrets early on spray bullets
all over, kill one and move to get the other before it's too late. The
enemy count is higher than I can even hope to keep track of, and even
staying alive for a few seconds I was getting chains of 80-100. A good
player can get over 900 in this level. In MAME, this stage actually seems
to slow down due to the number of bullets on screen at once. In classic
shmups I don't often like slowdown, but in DoDonPachi it actually helps
dodging bullets. And when the sprite count nears or exceeds 1,000 at once,
a little slowdown is OK.
The boss rotates in with a neat light show. No gimmick lasers or bombs
this time, all bullets. To go along with the light show, the boss dances
all over the screen. The side closest to the middle fires sprays of pink
bullets while aimed blue arcs emanate from the center. Not only is bullet
count high, but the variety of positions they are generated from makes
tracking bullet paths even more difficult. When the boss gets tired of
that it switches to twin shuriken spirals, and eventually to very fast
laser streams. Some very good players beat this boss simply by bombing
until they win. The very best players can get by without so much bombing,
I just don't see how.
Once that boss falls, you receive a congratulations from your general. If
you get here dying less then two times and either score 50 million points,
collect all the bees in at least 4 stages, or have a chain over a certain
number, the second loop is unlocked. The general does explain what is
happening, in the only real bit of story in the game. Apparently, that
army you just destroyed was the defense force, not an invading alien fleet.
Impressed, the general sends his strongest force after you. In gameplay,
this is the second loop.
The second loop's general rule is to take the first loop, and double the
bullet count at any given moment. I've personally never even seen this
loop, and my only exposure is through super plays.
Beat the second loop on that same single credit, and you'll get to meet the
true last boss, Hibachi. Hibachi is a giant bee because Cave likes bees.
The first form is a giant mecha bee, the second is about the size of the
bees in Stage 6 but on fire. The purpose of Hibachi is to fill the screen
with projectiles. He is immune to your bombs, so if you manage to get here
you'll need actual skill to beat him.
Cave themselves seem quite fond of this game. In fact, for the most recent
incarnation of the series DoDonPachi Dai Fukkatsu the first five stage
bosses become midbosses. All with heavily increased firepower, of course.
Even at it's most chaotic, DoDonPachi manages to be fun. The chaining
system is flexible enough that you can pick your way through a level and
not be forced onto a predetermined path. The bullet counts are high, but
at no point is the situation unwinnable. Even when I lose a life, I can
see open spots that I should have been in. Later levels have lots of fast
aimed bullets but unlike Shienryu I never feel like I'm struggling just to
play the game. Having lots of firepower helps. Among manic shmups,
DoDonPachi is the one I recommend people start with. I honestly think this
game is good enough that even non-shmuppers will be entertained. The only
reason I won't give it a perfect score is because I think Cave got even
better not long after DoDonPachi.
Go play it.