Developed by Doragon Entertainment Published by Doragon Entertainment Reviewed on Nintendo Switch (also available on Steam, iOS App Store, and Google Play)
During the ‘90s and 2000s, vertically scrolling shoot-’em-ups’ intensification spawned the “danmaku” subgenre. The term “danmaku” translates to “curtain of fire” or “bullet hell,” which both aptly describe the subgenre’s onslaught of screen-filling bullets. While Danmaku Unlimited 3 heavily draws inspiration from established shoot-’em-up mechanics, it is a worthwhile game full of replayability. It provides frenetic action, multiple ways to play, and over-the-top firepower in a familiar yet captivating way. The vivid visuals and rocking tunes also compellingly accompany the action. Despite a few minor quirks, the game provides a satisfying experience that both newcomers and veterans can thoroughly enjoy.
Danmaku Unlimited 3 fundamentally follows familiar shoot-’em-up structure, but a few twists set the game apart from its brethren. The player controls a ship that can freely move in eight directions, and the main goal is to overcome each stage’s incoming enemy waves and defeat the boss. Each of the five stages provides plenty of unique enemy bullet patterns for the player to dodge. The ship has plenty of screen-spanning weaponry such as spread shots and lasers that can trounce incoming foes. As with every other “danmaku” game, the player’s ship will only incur damage if the core is hit. This core is designated by a glowing yellow sphere that always appears in the center of the ship. The game has a primary spread-shot fire button and a bomb button, and the player can also move slower with focused fire by holding a laser button.
Danmaku Unlimited 3’s twists come with the selectable Spirit Mode and Graze Mode, which are essentially simple and advanced ways to play the game. By flying close to bullets, the player will “graze” them, and the results differ between Spirit Mode and Graze Mode. In Spirit Mode, flying close to bullets or obtaining spirits from destroyed enemies will build a Trance meter. Filling this meter will automatically send the ship into a powered up Trance Mode, which increases attack power and causes destroyed enemies’ bullets to turn into score-boosting gems. Graze Mode has a bit more complexity and provides finer control for advanced players. Grazing bullets instead fills a separate gauge that leads to a “Graze High” state, and destroying enemies will then fill the Trance meter. A full meter allows players to manually trigger the powered-up Trance Mode. Learning how these modes work can take a little bit of practice, but they are intuitive and they allow players of different skill levels to enjoy the game.
Much like other shoot-’em-ups, Danmaku Unlimited 3 provides plenty of replay ability via achieving high scores, but one notable aspect is the multiple unlockable weapons as well as a wide range of difficulties. Before each run, the player can select between different patterns for the primary spread-shot and the laser. The player only starts with two options per firing mode, but fulfilling criteria such as beating the game and grazing a certain number of bullets will unlock new patterns. The criteria can seem a bit daunting, but the presence of concrete goals is a welcome inclusion. The game has four difficulty levels, and with each harder level comes a more intense amount of bullet-infused challenge. These levels are no pushover, but the game is always fair about the way it fills the screen with firepower.
Danmaku Unlimited 3 provides a robust experience that is optimized for the Switch hardware and utilizes its strengths. With 60 frames per second in handheld or docked mode, Danmaku Unlimited 3 always feels satisfying to play at home or on the go. Different display modes such as two widescreen aspect ratios also give considerable control over the game’s look. The game has built-in rotation options so that players can turn the Switch on its side and experience full-screen vertical action, which works wonderfully. Being able to adjust how controls function in vertical mode is also helpful. One minor quirk is that the game’s pause menu is rather bare bones and lacks the ability to change display or control options mid game. If a player is playing in vertical mode and has to re-attach Joy-Cons mid game, the controls may feel pretty strange.
Despite its simplicity, the game’s audiovisual experience is stylish and functional. The most important part about any given shoot-’em-up visuals is bullet visibility, and fortunately the enemy attacks are distinct from the surrounding environment. One quirk is that the bullets’ wide variety of red white, and violet colors can sometimes be a little mesmerizing. Furthermore, the mechanical designs are sleek if a bit basic. While the environment design is a bit a little minimal, it always allows players to have a clear view of the action. The rock-infused high tempo tunes are generally appropriate given the nature of the game. The boss fight track’s riffs might even be a bit too intense and rapid for the game’s pace , but they are still enjoyable nonetheless.
Danmaku Unlimited 3 is a worthy part of the “danmaku” subgenre as well as an enthralling action game in its own right. It is a fantastic addition to the Switch library, and not only does it have plenty of replayability but it also caters to a wide variety of skill levels. Anyone remotely itching for a shoot-’em-up on the go or at home will certainly get a kick out of Danmaku Unlimited 3.