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DoDonPachi (Arcade) artwork

DoDonPachi (Arcade) review

"What is DoDonPachi? If you answered ''a shooter,'' you are wrong. Go home, go directly home, do not pass Go, do not collect $200. "

What is DoDonPachi? If you answered ''a shooter,'' you are wrong. Go home, go directly home, do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

DoDonPachi is every great thrill that life has to offer. It's the steepest hill on a rollercoaster, the most tender steak you've ever eaten, the fastest car you've ever driven, the best sex you've ever had. Bullets are fired from enemy turrets faster than you can sweat them, but there isn't the same kind of panic here that is found in other shooters. Ammunition pounds out of the turrets forcefully in other games, but not so in DDP. Here it just sort of wafts out of the cannons, letting the wind carry it where it will. Walls of gunfire crash into you, and yet DDP finds that perfect balance of order and chaos that lets you face a number of bullets so high it doesn't exist yet and slip through all the cracks unscathed, leaving you to wipe the drool from your chin and wonder how on earth you did it.

Over and over again, tanks and planes look you straight in the eye and unload oceans of bullets on you. Although your heart palpitates and painful shivers course down your spine, you never feel your confidence shaken, because DoDonPachi gives you a weapon worthy of killing gods - the mightiest laser in all of video game history. When rapidly tapped, you and the almost unnoticeable miniature planes flanking you fire a three-way shot that has its use in certain sticky situations but can cramp the finger of even the most diehard shooter fanatic. Hold down that fire button, however, and what you see is perfection flowing from the barrel of your guns. Picture Ryu channeling all his energy into an endless, streaming hadoken, or a solar flare coming out of a cigarette lighter, and you have a good idea of the intensity of your arsenal in DDP. Add to this a super bomb of pyrotechnic divinity that either blows up the entire screen or becomes an extension of your eternal laser based on whether or not you're holding the fire button, and you have all you need to take on innumerable enemy units.

With these accoutrements you are sent out into the harsh world of DoDonPachi, which excitedly anticipates your arrival. You get a sense that the game wants to save some of its greatest surprises for later on in the game, and so the gunfire, while not as reserved as it could be, still is somewhat. But even before you reach the first boss, DDP blows its load early, spewing a bright orgasm of magenta and electric blue bullets in your face that continues through the rest of the game. Most of the bullets head straight at you in normal shooter fashion. Others are more theatrical, and you'll lose more than one life staring at laser rainstorms and pods that burst open to let the ammunition they house float in the breeze like fragile dandelion seeds blown from their stems. Give the standard shots some interesting fanning and homing formations and you'll be eternally thankful for your ship's mercifully small hitbox.

It's simply amazing the way the elements of the game are all at one with each other. Everything in DoDonPachi is sheer brilliance, from the bosses taking up half a screen and spilling their artillery in your lap to the pulse-pounding soundtrack laden with electric guitars and blunt stacatto strings. Stars pour out from the craters left by the dead, more badges of pride in ability than cheap trinkets for points. And best of all, you're rarely without sufficient power-ups: the appropriate icons swim about the screen when your ship explodes and a maximizing power-up appears if the need to continue arises (and unless you're God, it will). Prodigious use of the infinite laser and your super bombs will keep the kamikaze hordes at bay, but only for so long - this is a game that demands a knack for calculated thought and fingers faster than a door-to-door sales pitch.

While even a novice will get the feeling that DoDonPachi is not quite as hard as a shooter has the potential to be, it is nevertheless ruthless in the way it besets legions of war ships upon your tiny yet well-equipped vessel. If your testicles haven't yet dropped, this game will give them the push they need. DoDonPachi is the kind of game that causes voice changes and puts hair on chests, regardless of gender or age. Your thumbs have probably gotten plenty of exercise from mind-numbing platformers and time-killing RPGs; let the rest of your hands in on the fun for once. Just one intense level in, and they'll be thanking you for it.

If you ever want to know why arcades eventually fell out of favor in America, just play DoDonPachi. It will have you wondering all the more.

snowdragon's avatar
Community review by snowdragon (June 18, 2004)

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