Archives by Day

June 2024

Danmaku Unlimited 3

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4
Genre: Action
Developer: Doragon Entertainment
Release Date: June 13, 2023


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

PS4 Review - 'Danmaku Unlimited 3'

by Cody Medellin on June 16, 2023 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

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

Danmaku Unlimited 3 was first released on the PC to critical acclaim, something that wouldn't surprise anyone who's familiar with its prequel. A year later, the game was released on the Nintendo Switch, and while it was unchanged in just about every area, it remained a perfect fit for the console given its portable nature and the ability to get a true vertical screen when playing in handheld mode, especially if you had something like the FlipGrip to accomplish that task. That was presumably the end of things; there were no more announcements of the game coming to another platform, and many had presumed that work was being done on a new sequel. A new sequel is coming, but Doragon Entertainment surprised everyone with a stealth announcement of Danmaku Unlimited 3 coming to the PS4, over five years since the Switch release. Despite arriving late enough and on a previous-generation console with a successor that will soon celebrate three years in the market, the game hasn't aged a bit.

For the most part, the core mechanics match up with what's expect from any game with the "bullet hell shooter" designation. Loads of smaller ships and some mid-bosses appear, and each one fires a volley of bullets in small clusters. They're generally easy to avoid, but it doesn't take long before enough of them appear on-screen that it can become a daunting task to bob and weave through that field. Luckily, only the core of your ship is susceptible to damage, so tiny gaps in the bullet patterns that would normally destroy any other craft present you with a window to squeeze through the carnage. Each of the five levels concludes with massive bosses that have wild bullet patterns, and those patterns change during each phase of the fight.

For your part, Danmaku Unlimited 3 provides a variety of firing patterns. Armed with satellites, you can opt for a few automatic firing phases, including a straightforward shot with a wide berth and a spread pattern that almost encompasses the whole screen. You can also use the fire button with a beam button that produces a stronger, more concentrated column of bullets (regular or enemy-seeking variety), albeit at the cost of your maneuverability speed. There are also screen-clearing bombs to get out of a pinch, but they have a smaller blast radius than in other titles. While you can manually detonate those bombs, they'll also automatically go off if you get hit with a bullet, so they act as a limited shield of sorts and make each life last a bit longer than normal.

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 dies. It's similar to the bullet color idea from Ikaruga, minus the need to change your ship color to be safe. The other new mechanic is grazing. It is something that comes normally to genre masters that want to show off, but there are now benefits to getting as close as possible to a bullet without having it hit you. 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 can help tremendously with attaining high scores for the various online leaderboards.

Both mechanics are given their due in the campaign, depending on which mode you select. Spirit mode provides multiple difficulties to contend with in addition to all of the 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 two: Hard and True. It also reduces the effect of Spirit bullets by eliminating them unless bombs are used, so bullets that come from fallen enemies remain in their deadlier form. Getting hit by a bullet automatically deploys bombs, but all of them will be detonated at once instead of only using one at a time. Finally, the meter for super-powered shots must be manually activated; it's automatic in Spirit mode.

Beyond the dual ways of playing the main campaign, there are a few extra things to give fans the incentive to keep playing. Aside from the previously mentioned online leaderboards, there's also a boss rush mode and a practice mode (for bosses and levels) for those who want to learn specific stages. 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.

The main reason that people will give it 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 endless continues. Their limited nature, along with the difficulty with which more continues can be gained, means that you have to develop some skill to advance and see the end of what is otherwise a short campaign. It also helps that the tricky patterns fired by bosses provide enough incentive for players to want to improve their skill so they can see what creative bullet patterns will come next.

The presentation in Danmaku Unlimited 3 is very well done, even when taking into consideration how old the game is. The graphics do a great job of presenting interesting ship designs and the ability to display lots of items on-screen without struggling. The graphics also scale well to many monitor resolutions, so there's no issue of the main playfield being too small or certain elements getting hidden away. Elsewhere, the sound effects are fine, but the real highlight of the audio is in the soundtrack. Composed by Japanese indie band Blankfield, the soundtrack is littered with hard rock that accentuates the action without becoming too much of an assault on the ears.

As in the Switch version, you have the option to rotate the screen in 90-degree increments. It isn't exactly ideal to do this unless you have a PC monitor that manually rotates, but the option is nice to have. The same can be said for other screen options that replaces the static wallpaper either with a black space or with a zoomed-in mode, similar to what you see when news organizations broadcast video that was originally shot vertically on a phone. Really, the only thing that's different here compared to the Switch version are Trophies, which were present in the Steam version.

Danmaku Unlimited 3 is a gem of a shooter that has arrived fashionably late to the PS4. The frantic action that's expected from a bullet hell shooter is improved upon with interesting attack patterns and a set of mechanics that rewards quick kills and exhibiting some flair during gameplay. There's a nice balance for veterans and genre newcomers, with the latter being served especially well; the difficulty and lack of continues fosters a need to improve, while ensuring that death isn't as immediate as in other games. Topped off with a great presentation all around, Danmaku Unlimited 3 is a standout in the genre that fans shouldn't miss.

Score: 9.0/10

More articles about Danmaku Unlimited 3
blog comments powered by Disqus