Danmaku Unlimited 3 ($4.99) by Sunny Tam in collaboration with Doragon Entertainment is the latest genuine Japanese bullet hell shoot-em-up (shmup) experience on the App Store. It’s the third major installment of the Danmaku Unlimited series of games, and one that is a must for newbies and veterans alike. If you enjoyed games like DEATHSMILES from CAVE, or even the previous Danmaku Unlimited games, then you will love Danmaku Unlimited 3.
Ever since I got into Japanese culture in high school, I found a love for their incredibly tough-as-nails bullet hell shmup games. I would play these types of games at the arcade, or even at friends’ houses if they had some titles. While bullet hell shmups aren’t for everyone, I fell in love with the challenge of dodging a hundred brightly colored neon bullets at once, and the explosions from blown up ships is just an amazing sight to see.
When Apple introduced the App Store in 2008 and the slew of games that came along with it, I had a feeling that the touch screen was perfect for bullet hell games. I picked up all of the previous Danmaku Unlimited titles, the offerings from CAVE before they shut down, and plenty of other, more Western style shooters. While it may seem like I have had my fill, I can’t help but keep an eye out for new releases. When I saw Danmaku Unlimited 3 was out on Steam a few months ago, I was eager for the mobile release. Now that it’s here, I can say that it was well worth the wait.
App Feels Like
App Feels Like
Visually, DU3 is downright stunning. While it’s hard to appreciate the true beauty of the game as you’re dodging what seems to be a million bullets at once, believe me, this is superb eye candy. Everything is rendered in 2-D, but there is a bit of depth to the graphics due to the layering of the background, ships, and the bullets.
If you played the older Danmaku games, then you will see the improvement in visuals — everything is much more polished and detailed, including the modernized menus. It’s easy to tell apart your ship from the enemies, and the lasers and bullets are bright and colorful. Enemy bullets are easy to see thanks to the vibrant neon hues, so dodging and grazing should not be a problem. All animations in DU3 are smooth and fluid, with no issues of lag or choppiness on my iPhone 7. To top it all off, DU3 has a adrenaline-pumping soundtrack that will get you going, and it’s a perfect match for the chaos that will ensue.
There are two game modes in DU3: Spirit and Graze. Spirit is the classic Danmaku experience, which means balanced in terms of challenges for players of all skill levels and it’s recommended for beginners. Graze is the more difficult mode, aimed towards veteran bullet hell shmup players. While Spirit features Easy, Medium, Hard, and True difficulties, Graze only has Hard and True. Those of you seeking a real challenge will want to dive headfirst into Graze mode. If you’re completely new, a tutorial stage walks you through all of the basics.
Before players start a game, you’re asked to choose your ship customization. This means picking your primary and beam weapons. Both options have five options, with only the first two (A and B) available from the get-go, and the rest get unlocked by meeting specific requirements. There are 25 possible weapon combinations total, so there is plenty of reason to keep coming back to DU3. There’s also an option to toggle automatic or manual activation of Trance Mode. Once you’re satisfied with your settings, then it’s time to launch.
Controls in DU3 are simple enough, but I recommend viewing the tutorials to understand how to switch between your primary and beam weapons. To move your ship, all your need to do is move your finger on the screen. The ship moves around freely, so having all of that space for your finger means a lot of leeway when it comes to maneuvering and dodging bullets.
Shooting the primary weapon automatically happens without any input from the player. To switch to the beam, just swipe down, and repeat to go back to the primary. You can manually deploy and detonate bombs (stock’s shown on the right) by swiping up. If your ship’s core is about to get hit by enemy fire and you have bombs available, it will detonate automatically but use all of your bombs in the process. Once your ship’s core is hit, it’ll explode and you’ll pick up with a new ship. If you have no more, you can choose to continue, but your score is reset.
The key to DU3 is grazing bullets, which means flying close enough to enemy fire to just barely miss getting hit by them. Grazing bullets adds to your Graze Counter, and once that is full, your ship enters Graze-High mode. This means destroyed ships’ bullets become harmless spirits, and you can collect these to refill your Trance Gauge.
When the Trance bar is full, you go into Trance Mode (swipe up or it happens automatically depending on setting), which powers up all of your weapons to dish out more damage. Another bonus of Trance is the fact that destroyed foes’ bullets leave behind gems, which add to the Graze Counter and lead to high scores.
DU3 features five stages for both modes. While this does not sound like a lot, the game is fairly difficult with the enemies and boss attack patterns. Plus, with the two modes and multiple difficulty modes, there’s a lot of replay value here, so you do get your money’s worth. And if that isn’t enough, there are Bonus Modes for Spirit and Graze, so you can do Free Play or Boss Rush.
Danmaku Unlimited 3 is a superb bullet hell shmup experience on mobile and should be in everyone's game collection.
DU3 is a superb bullet hell shmup experience on mobile, and it feels natural on the platform. The graphics in this new installment are top-notch, so you can expect to get wowed by the stunning visuals on your device’s Retina screen. The soundtrack is excellent as well, so make sure you have good headphones. The controls are simple and intuitive, so anyone can pick this up and play immediately. It also packs in a lot of various levels of challenges for both newbies and seasoned gamers, and the replay level is high.
There’s definitely more good to DU3 than there is bad. However, I do notice that just like other bullet hell shmup games, my thumb still blocks part of the screen, so it may be hard to see at times. But I’ve come to expect this from the genre on mobile, so it just takes a bit of practice to perfect. Perhaps a larger screen works better for the game (I only have an iPhone 7).
I’ve been a big bullet hell shmup fan, so DU3 is a welcome addition to my game collection. The visuals are gorgeous and polished, and the music is amazingly fun to listen to. As I’m familiar with the genre already, I just dove right in to the game without viewing the tutorial first, but I still recommend checking it for an explanation of all game mechanics. The customization of your ship, multiple modes and difficulty levels, and bonuses just give this game a ton of replay value. For the price, you totally get your money’s worth here.
I highly recommend Danmaku Unlimited 3 if you’re a fan of bullet hell shmups or just want a fast-paced shooter arcade game. Danmaku Unlimited 3 is on the App Store as a universal download for $4.99. There are no in-app purchases.