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Danmaku Unlimited 3

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC
Genre: Action
Publisher: Doragon Entertainment
Developer: Doragon Entertainment
Release Date: March 13, 2018

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Switch Review - 'Danmaku Unlimited 3'

by Cody Medellin on Nov. 8, 2018 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

Danmaku Unlimited 3 is a medley of the best aspects of classic bullet hell shooters wrapped up in a modern and approachable package.

Buy Danmaku Unlimited 3

The shoot-'em-up, both the classic and bullet hell varieties, is quickly starting to make the Nintendo Switch its home. Aside from the portable nature of the console, the genre is a perfect fit because it's easy to get a proper vertical orientation and natural-feeling controls. While a number of very good shooters have already been released, Danmaku Unlimited 3 marks the Switch debut of one of the PC's best offerings. The good news is that very little has been lost in the transition.

The core mechanics match up with the expectations of a "bullet hell" shooter game. Loads of smaller ships and some mid-bosses appear, each one firing a volley of bullets in small clusters. They're generally easy to avoid on their own, but it doesn't take long before enough of them appear on-screen that it becomes a daunting task to bob and weave through the field. Luckily, only the core of the ship is susceptible to damage, so tiny gaps in the bullet patterns that would normally destroy other crafts present you with a window to squeeze through the carnage. Each of the five levels in the game ends with massive bosses that present wild bullet patterns that change in each phase of the fight.


For your part, DU3 provides some equally intense firing patterns of your own. Armed with satellites, you can opt for a few automatic firing phases, from a straightforward shot with a fairly wide berth or a spread pattern that almost encompasses the entire screen. You can also use the fire button in conjunction with a beam button that produces a stronger, more concentrated column of bullets that either go in a regular or enemy-seeking variety, albeit coming at the cost of your maneuverability speed. You also have standard screen-clearing bombs that get you out of a pinch but do so with a smaller blast radius than you'd see in other titles. While you can manually detonate those bombs, they'll also automatically go off if you're hit with a bullet; they act as a limited shield of sorts and make each life last a bit longer than usual.

The game adds two new mechanics that'll please both genre newcomers and veterans. The first is the idea of the spirit bullet, where bullets launched from enemies become safe to touch once the enemy that launched them has died. Think of it as similar to the bullet color idea from Ikaruga, without the need to change your ship color to be safe. The other new mechanic is grazing, which is getting enemy bullets close to your ship's core without actually making contact. It's typically for genre masters who want to show off, but that now comes with some benefits. Both grazing regular bullets and collecting spirit bullets fills up a meter which, when activated, makes your shots extremely powered for a limited amount of time. It also ensures that bullets from destroyed enemies turn into gems, which help tremendously with attaining high scores.

Both mechanics are given their due in the campaign, depending on which mode you select. Spirit mode gives you multiple difficulties to contend with as well as all of the various features mentioned earlier. Each difficulty varies in terms of how many bullets the enemies are able to pump on-screen, with the mode's Normal difficulty being considered perfect for genre beginners. Meanwhile, Graze mode reduces the difficulty selection to just two: Hard and True. It also reduces the effect of spirit bullets unless bombs are used, so bullets from fallen enemies remain deadly. Getting hit by a bullet will still automatically deploy bombs, but all of them will be detonated at once instead of only using one at a time. Finally, the meter for your superpowered shots has to be manually activated instead of automatically, like what occurs in Spirit mode.


Beyond the dual ways of playing the main campaign, there are a few things to incentivize fans to keep playing. There's also a boss rush mode and a practice mode for those who want to learn specific stages before trying the real thing. Completing the game or hitting specific milestones, like grazing a set number of bullets, also opens up different firing patterns that effectively change the way the game is played.

Despite all of that, the main reason that people will give DU3 more time than most other bullet hell shooters is because the game isn't easy at all. It isn't outright impossible, but it also doesn't let you get away with burning through an endless supply of continues. Their limited nature, along with the difficulty of gaining more continues, means that you have to develop some skill to progress and see the end of what is otherwise a short campaign. It also helps that the tricky patterns fired by bosses and mini-bosses provide enough incentive for players to want to improve their skills to see what creative bullet patterns will come next.

Just like before, the presentation is very well done. The graphics do a great job of presenting both interesting ship designs along with the ability to throw lots of items on-screen without struggling. Elsewhere, the sound effects are fine, but the real highlight of the audio is in the soundtrack. Composed by Japanese indie band Blankfield, the score is littered with hard rock that does a great job of accentuating the action without becoming an assault on the ears.


On the Switch, the main advantage comes from being able to easily go with a vertical orientation instead of a horizontal one. Provided you have a good way to prop up the screen while using your detached Joy-Cons, the system works quite well. For those who still want to hold the system normally, there's now the option to widen the playfield so it doesn't feel like there's real estate devoted to backgrounds. The only thing missing is the online leaderboard, which is a real shame, but others would argue that the various screen options make up for that omission.

Danmaku Unlimited 3 is another excellent shooter on a system that's quickly becoming an appropriate home for them. The frantic action you'd expect from a bullet hell shooter is improved with interesting attack patterns and a set of mechanics that rewards both quick kills and exhibits some flair during gameplay. There's a nice balance for both veterans and genre newcomers, with the latter being served especially well since the game's difficulty and lack of continues foster a need to improve while ensuring that death isn't immediate. Topped off with a great presentation, DU3 is a high point for the genre, and despite the deluge of shooters on the Switch, it's a title that fans shouldn't miss.

Score: 9.0/10



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