This article is part of the The Great Authors Series series.
I believe Deathsmiles involves Halloween and panties. I made a note at some point that panties are definitely at issue here. I played the game as a moaning witch who flew slowly over ominous terrains and filled half the screen with fire. She was accompanied by a ceaseless pachinko parlor jangle of coins. Monsters and demons launched balls of purple at her. The game is a nauseating ordeal. The artwork is lost in a computer-generated blitz of orbs that has the narrative relevance of a sine wave. This is unquestionably trash designed for idiots I hope do not exist. You can find more compelling "art" on the wall of a Bennigans. And I mean a closed, abandoned Bennigans.
Your space ship flies over visually interesting backgrounds and encounters impressive, animated foes that occupy most of the screen. Mushihimesama uses its assets economically to achieve a sense of scale in the way a model maker might use camera tricks to fool the audience into thinking a miniature is a full-size building or ship. Then house music begins to play and the screen is completely obscured by waves of flashing projectiles and buzzing laser beams. It is this predictably frenetic orgy of destruction that undoes any sense of meaning in almost every video game. Is this art? Maybe in a world where the recording of screaming voices used by the KGB to torture prisoners is called art.
I have long considered myself to be an admirer of the genre of Japanese animation, or "Anime," that has in recent years become quite popular with Western audiences. From Akira to Ghost in the Shell, to modern fare such as Hamtaro, Anime allows for visually compelling explorations of sometimes cerebral subject matter. And other times it allows for Aero Flux, which poses anime heroines alongside a screen filled with wobbling bullets that you must continually avoid. It is the worst thing I have seen on a TV screen since Bud Dwyer took his own life. For a better time, try the 2005 film Aeon Flux. I did not see it, it was not even screened for critics, but I feel confident in offering this assessment.
I appreciate the continual effort by the Japanese to somehow meld enormous bosoms with laser-blasting space ships. In Dodonpachi Saidaioujou, your space craft passes over familiar techno terrain, empowered to cover the screen in rivers of projectiles that make short work of space craft and other vehicles. Then an alarm sounds and your aerial supremacy is challenged by a large ship that hurls confusing swarms of purple (why always purple?) projectiles across the screen. A woman seems to narrate everything that is happening in Japanese.
I suppose the game was visually impressive compared to some of the others, but once again the interaction between player and game is reduced to exploding enemies, dodging projectiles, and collecting coins. Why are all space craft filled with coins? Where do they get these unlimited supplies of purple orbs? What, if anything, is the impetus for this riotous combat? Do not go looking for answers in Dodonpachi. Do not go looking for anything other than epileptic fits or you will find the game lacking. If you're looking for art you will find only the numbing idiot clangor of purple orbs.
|Zack is the author of the new short story collection Wages: Future Tales of a Hired Gun, a blood-soaked satire of private military contracting. He is also the author of the genre-hopping novel Liminal States, soon to be available as an audiobook. You can find out more about Zack's latest projects and special offers on his Facebook page.|
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