Christmas-themed games aren’t incredibly popular among the gaming masses. Sure, there are those knock off bible games for the NES, but an actually enjoyable Christmas game is pretty hard to come by. That’s where Deathsmiles II comes in.
Released in 2009 in Japanese arcades, Deathsmiles II was developed by CAVE, a Japanese developer with a penchant for crafting some of the most punishing and addicting bullet hell games in existence.Nowadays, they spend their time making mobile games, but back in their heyday in the 90s and early 00s, CAVE were masters of all things bullet hell.
Deathsmiles II received an Xbox 360 port in Japan, renamed Deathsmiles IIX, the next year and wound up on the North American Xbox Live store in 2011.
The Deathsmiles series makes up 2 of only 3 games that they created featuring horizontally scrolling stages. Most of their ouvre consists of vertically scrolling shooters like DoDonPachi, Mushihimesama, Espgaluda, and Pink Sweets.
Someday, I’ll do an overview of all of their games, but for now, let’s just focus on the Deathsmiles series. The first game was released in 2007 and later received and Xbox 360 port that even made its way to the West.
The original game has a distinct Halloween vibe, but the sequel goes for a more horror holiday theme. This is where the whole A Nightmare Before Christmas comparison comes into play with its spooky demons, evil knights, and flying witches. However, it adds to that demonic cherub babies, monster snowmen, and pairs of Santa boots intent on crushing you.
Stages also have snowy or wintry themes that help drive the holiday mood home. Along with a story line about Satan Claws (yep) stealing some golden musical notes and the main characters having to chase him down and get them back.
The characters in this series are cute anime maid girls. Four of them return from the first game: Windia, Casper, Follet, and Rosa. While two other girls, Supe and Lei, are also added to the roster. Well, that should be one girl and one cross-dressing boy. Lei is in fact Supe’s older brother who through a series of coincidences ends up dressing as a maid and being hired at the same mansion as the other girls.
Each of these characters plays slightly differently. For example, Windia is the balanced new player’s choice, Supe features a powerful shot with low scoring capabilities, Lei is weak but can rack up multipliers to increase score faster, and so on.
The key to earning a big score, which is what shoot em ups are all about, is getting right up in enemies faces. You see, the closer you are to an enemy the more rings it will drop. Collecting these rings increases the multiplier. However, collecting rings also makes enemies more aggressive, having them hurl more projectiles your way.
To counteract this, you have a special meter that when filled will activate a powered up state allowing you to shoot away certain bullets from the screen. These will then turn into more rings and the cycle can continue. A perfect run would involve never letting your multiplier run low and continuously entering a powered up state to collect more rings and boost your score.
This is easier said than done, but if you just want to play through the stages and have a good time, then you won’t have too much of an issue with Deathsmiles II. It’s a fairly easy game.
Lastly, the music is absolutely incredible. Even if you don’t like playing the game, you could definitely throw on the soundtrack as background music to your Christmas party if you’re looking to add an edge to things. But even with some of the baroque sounds that can be found on the track, there are some straight up good Christmas-themed tunes as well.
Deathsmiles IIX Xbox Live store is still available on the , so if you’ve got your Xbox 360 handy, you can download it right now, so go on and get your Christmas gaming fix.