A Peaceful Death? DoDonPachi Dai Ou Jou.
There really are only a handful of things in life that are truly satisfying. Some would say it’s finally having that ‘moment’ and meeting ‘the one’, and they marry them, everything is fine and they have a great time. Others would contest there is nothing finer than pouring a single malt after a hard day, kicking off your shoes and listening to a James Last LP on an incredibly expensive turntable made of marble, uranium and the eyelashes of fifty seven Nepalese mountain goats. For it may also be the simpler the things that tempt you. Long walks in the park on clear Autumn days, microwave cookery classes, cycling fifteen miles on a unicycle to tell your Aunt Gladys that lives as far away from relatives as possible but within an ‘allowed’ distance that you’ve graduated from the local polytechnic and are now able to ‘keep’ Koi carp.
For me, it’s shutting the door to my office, powering on my Playstation 2 and playing DoDonPachi Dai Ou Jou until my eyes bleed and my hands disintegrate from a mixture of furious stick waggling, button mashing and punching the desk in disgust at how “YOU’RE A COMPLETE BELL END! WHY DID YOU DO THAT?!”. Yes, DoDonPachi Dai Ou Jou is available (at a fun price) for the Playstation 2 and it’s brilliant, possibly one of Cave’s finest ever.
DoDonPachi Dai Ou Jou is the fourth in a long line of ‘Pachi titles, lovingly crafted by the good people at Cave. Well, actually it’s not, there’s also Bee Storm for the PGM arcade system but it’s not a true official ‘Pachi title. I’ll cover that one another day. Dai Ou Jou really steps up a gear from it’s previous incarnations and is the first real step towards the design and winning technical formula that envelops and swishes and spills and bubbles about the core belly of this and the later titles in the series. When plonked side by side in comparison to it’s elders, it truly shows how dated the originals truly are. Mostly from a audio visual aspect as in DoDonPachi the first proper signs of chaining were apparent but it’s Dai Ou Jou that tweaks this and really turns up the heat several notches.
And this is where Dai Ou Jou earns quite the rep. It’s bloody difficult.
It doesn’t quite manage to dip it’s toe in to the balmy oasis of Ibara’s notorious difficulty but it’s certainly not far off. However if you wish to compare it to Ibara on this aspect, then I would have to say it’s certainly far more satisfying and rewarding than it’s angry, unforgiving cousin. Where Ibara punishes you for doing well (or at least it certainly feels like it), Dai Ou Jou feels far more rewarding. Learning to chain is crucial, but there’s something about putting in the effort to make the chain and failing that doesn’t leave you with such a sour taste in your mouth. In fact it’s quite the opposite, it’s almost forgiving in it’s cruelty. Almost as if it’s a caring parent, removing the stabilizers from your first bicycle. You fall off, scrape your knee and it hurts. But there is Mum, Dad or ‘misc’ relative’ by your side whispering good tidings in your ear along the lines of “look, I know you fucked up, but, if you just do it like this…” and there is the lightbulb moment. And so you have another go. And another. And another. And another…
And so it goes on. Soon 6 hours have passed, you were supposed to keep an appointment, you’re still in your pants and the rest of your day is chaos thanks to this marvellous little game.
It’s not just the strategic side to DoDonPachi Dai Ou Jou that will you over either. Like many titles to emerge from the Cave conveyor belt of greatness, Dai Ou Jou features a delicious array of hand drawn sprites and backdrops that have been lovingly brought over to the PS2. Where some ports look, feel and play sloppy, there’s a real sense of care and attention that’s gone in to this title. Audio remains faithful and of course, pumped through the optical output will caress and tickle your lobes quite like no other shooting game experience on the platform. Loading times are spot on too, unlike Ibara which has a dreadful loading time between introducing a stage, LOAD, play said stage, beat boss, LOAD, scores, LOAD… Dai Ou Jou cuts the majority of wait times down to the merest of seconds making for a really smooth, flowing gaming experience which, due to the difficulty of the game and the amount of restarting you’ll be doing, will be more than noticeable.
Did you know?
“Dai Ou Jou” means “Peaceful Death” yet the history section of Do-Don-Pachi Dai-Fukkatsu on iPhone calls it “DoDonPachi Blissful Death” in localisation.
The good continues to prevail in the sheer depth of options and modes of play on offer within. You get the standard arcade mode, the ‘boss rush’ style Death Label and many options to play individual stages with or without bullets, view replays, tate the screen and so on. Nothing has been left to waste here and it’s quite a feat to see so much packed in to one solitary DVD disc.
I really should stop the comparisons with Ibara, which I do still love… a LOT, but when you compare what’s on offer here it’s quite hard to dismiss the Dai Ou Jou package as inferior. For example, one of the big highlights is the inclusion of a Superplay DVD. Granted it’s entirely in Japanese (title cards aside it doesn’t really matter) but it features a great high score run of both loops of the game and some close up slow-mo techniques used to defeat the bosses. It truly is a thing of beauty and something every serious player should use as a study tool. I wouldn’t necessarily be jumping out of the blocks to race to buy a copy if it was for sale separately, but as a pack-in it’s a fantastic bonus.
Picking up a copy of DoDonPachi Dai Ou Jou is relatively easy (for the Playstation 2 anyway), however due to a reasonably limited print run, the fact it’s a Cave title and the fact it’s basically a bloody good game does tend to drive the price toward the upper echelons of acceptability. You can expect to pay anywhere between €50-€100 for a copy of the game in good to excellent condition, and remember it’s a Japan-only release so ensure you have the hardware capable of playing it.
It’s nigh-on impossible to fault this game. It’s beautiful to look at and listen to, it’s almost perfectly balanced, if a little cheap in some areas but compensated by incredibly satisfying scoring mechanics. Some may prefer the Black Label edition that arrived later, others may feign anger at the sheer difficulty level of this game. For me, I think Cave stuck gold yet again and this title proves why they are simply one of, if not the very best developer of shooting games ever.