Danmaku Unlimited 3 has to be the most bullet hellish game on the Nintendo eShop for Nintendo Switch at the moment. Even its name somewhat translates from the Japanese term into English. However, this is not a Japanese developed game but a Canadian project developed by someone who is obviously a huge fan of the genre. This is Sunny Tam’s third baby from his one-man development studio, Doragon Entertainment. And yeah, it’s pretty goddamn mental as you would expect.
Danmaku Unlimited 3 doesn’t bore you with a plot. Nor does it shove any kind of cutscene in your face for you to spam the skip button with. It is an arcade game through and through, throwing you headfirst towards an intimidatingly large swarm of bullets. There are no save points, your continues are limited, and you can beat it in less than half an hour. That is, of course, if you can even make it to the end.
You have two methods of gunfire at your disposal, both of which can be upgraded and combined if certain achievement conditions are met. You have your main set of screen-filling blasters, which can be drawn together to form a girthy cannon that slows down the movement of your ship. This comes in handy when navigating through tight spaces between bullets, making your gunfire a useful tool as a tactical measure of navigation.
While it’s predominantly a one-hit death affair, you do have bombs at your disposal that you can either drop to deal damage or hoard to be used as a lifeline as such. If you have a number of them at hand, they will set off automatically the instant you are hit. This not only saves your life but also clears you some space to gather your bearings.
Speaking of narrowly avoiding death, in Danmaku Unlimited 3 you are rewarded for grazing bullets with the orb that centres your spacecraft (basically skimming bullets with your hitbox). This fills a meter that will temporarily boost your weapons and explode enemy ships with a cluster of collectable gems. You can boost this meter by collecting spirit bullets too, which are the ghosts of ammo that is left behind from fallen enemies mid-trajectory. This clever little mechanic helps you work out on how to carve your path forwards, as you begin to learn and understand your enemies deadly patterns.
You do have the option to keep the bullets on the screen for that extra challenge if you are good enough at skimming them. This is found in a separate mode called Graze mode. It’s obviously the more difficult route to take, but by grazing a substantial amount of bullets does reward you with new weapons. There’s a high score potential here too, as each enemy ship bursts in a confetti of gems. So regardless how far you get, you can always at least aim to better your last score attempt.
Unfortunately, there isn’t an online leaderboard to compare your best with. This is a shame for obvious reasons, more so if you have a circle of mates that are into the genre. Other features that aren’t present is HD Rumble support and lack of a local multiplayer. While the lack of multiplayer isn’t something to frown too much on, the trailer that is promoting the game can easily mislead you into thinking that one is available. (Well, it got me thinking about a split-screen score attack option after seeing it at least.)
There are a decent amount of game options available though, like changing the gem visibility, and a TATE mode so you can prop your screen on its side in the spirit of a true Japanese mini arcade cabinet. It’s easily the best method to play, given you have a rotating TV bracket or a little stand for your Nintendo Switch. You can also choose a certain stage to master, along with a boss mode to help you break down your approach for when you attempt a single run through. These are all very welcome features, especially when it comes to studying bosses and their crazy kaleidoscopic bullet patterns.
Visually, it’s quite simple in design, but perfectly practical in execution. What I mean by this is that the game looks far better when you are actually playing it. You feel like you’re moving at breakneck speeds and the bullets are incredibly easy to see amidst all the chaos. The colour choices here are obviously well thought of, as separate patterns of bullet swarms are easy to tell apart to the point where you can actually read what’s going on with the corner of your eye. The only little gripe I really had was despite being an absolute blast to fight against, the bosses do look a little too generic and similar in design to one another.
While the game is Canadian born, the music itself is from Japanese metal band Blankfield. It’s all high octane shredding of electric guitars and drumming throughout, really setting the tone perfectly for a game like this. At times when I was away from my Nintendo Switch, as soon as one of the tracks would enter my head, it made me pine to just ride the bullet waves once again.
If you are not into this sort of game, then it’s unlikely that Danmaku Unlimited 3 will change your mind. However, even if you are curious about what a bullet hell game is really all about, then you can’t really go wrong here. It’s actually quite approachable for beginners to the genre, due to its gradual learning curve and spirit bullet mechanic. While the more hardcore will certainly get their fill by how incredibly chaotic it can all get on higher difficulties. Overall, Danmaku Unlimited 3 is a great little game that’s well priced, thumb blisteringly addictive and one of the most hardcore arcade titles you can get on your Nintendo Switch at the moment.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Doragon Entertainment