Given the high praise this game received, particularly as a smart phone game, I was curious to check it out on the PC. Sadly, I fell rather disappointed by this game, and consider it to be severely lacking. Even among independently developed games it can’t measure up.
The game itself seems okay at first sight. You get a modifiable fighter plane with weapons — straight shot, homing shot, wide shot — that you can mix and match. There are two scoring modes, Burst and Classic, and four difficulties each. Following STG convention, the game has five stages, with mid and end bosses, and if you finish the game on one credit on at least hard’, you’ll face a ‘true last boss’ as well. As a bonus, there is a boss rush mode, and a free play mode for those who like to credit feed through the game.
While Danmaku Unlimited 2 follows the STG formula in broad strokes, it sadly goes awry in many, many areas. Let me describe some of the problems I’ve had with it one by one:
1) The music is incredibly bland and does not synchronise with the action on screen at all.
2) There are very few sound effects, not even for basic actions like shooting.
3) The shield system is poorly thought out. If effectively acts as a life bar, meaning that you can take several hits. However, if you slip, you lose the ship. This seems needlessly punishing. As I'll describe later on, there are situations where it's easy to trip up due to design flaws of the game.
4) Bullet visibility is pretty poor. While you can tell bullets from the background, there is not enough contrast. Have you ever wondered why in Cave games the bullets have garish colours, while the backgrounds may even seem a bit washed out? Here, bullets and background are often in similar colors. This problem might have been prevented had there been actual background images instead of mostly static colors.
5) Further, I am not fond at all of how some of the bullets overlap. There are instances where smaller bullets move underneath larger ones, so while you focus on avoiding the larger ones, you may get hit by a small bullet that just emerged underneath it.
6) In many STGs, there is a dead zone around turrets, meaning that if you’re getting close, they won’t fire. In Danmaku Unlimited 2, this is not the case, which means that as you move past a large space ship, you may just get hit without expecting it.
7) What I also find very unfortunate is that smaller enemies don’t get invincibility frames. Particularly in stage 5 it may happen that you get hit because you didn’t memorise yet that you entered a part of the stage where a swarm of small enemies enters from the side. Those deaths through collision punish players who have not yet memorised a stage, and are a sign of poor game design, in my opinion. A good counter example on Steam is Crimzon Clover, by the way, where enemies that fly into the screen can’t hit you for a few frames.
8) Overall, the difficulty is really uneven. Some boss patterns in later levels are laughably easy, just to be followed by much trickier ones. In a carefully balanced STG I expect something different.
9) I strongly dislike that I have to unlock game features. This means that you start out with an underpowered fighter, and have to earn in-game currency (thankfully no IAP), to unlock more lives, continues, or more powerful weapons.
10) There seems to be a bug: When you 1cc the game, you end up at the title screen, but you don’t unlock any achievements, or get any of your in-game currency. However, if you then enter a new mode, and exit prematurely, then the game records your progress.
11) Minor quibble: I would have appreciated if the game let me skip the credits.
12) The high score boards are hacked, which is always unfortunate, as it shows a lack of support of the developer.
13) The scoring system is poorly thought out, since a few successful actions completely negate the entire rest of the game. Some people are upset because in Cave games it is often the case that you score more in stage 5 than in the entire rest of the game, even though stage 5 normally is a lot longer and has a lot more enemies, so it’s pretty much justified. In Danmaku Unlimited 2, though, your score depends on something like a minute or two of play time in total.
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14) The achievements with point values seem broken. I just reached 1 billion in total, but it didn't activate.
15) Some bullets, like the hexagons, are incredibly poorly designed. Those only harm you if you get hit by the center, meaning that the hitbox of your ship can safely sit on a large part of the area of those bullets. Another example are the large bullets in the last phase of the stage 5 boss. However, those have no demarcated center. Just like with the other bullets, if you don't know this, then you think those boss patterns are a lot more difficult than they are.
16) The transition from iPhone to PC should have led to changes in the control setup. On the phone, the speed of the ship is relative to the speed of your finger. In this version the ship has a relatively high default speed, and to slow it down, you have to use the burst shot. This is fine in Classic mode, since that shot is available without limit. However, in Burst mode, you can only slow down by activating a burst shot with a separate gauge that has to be filled. If the gauge isn't high enough, the ship does nothing at all. This means that some boss fights, where you have to weave though tight patterns, are incredibly tedious, and take a lot longer than they otherwise would.
Considering all those issues, some minor, some large, I simply cannot recommend Danmaku Unlimited 2. There are other STGs of much higher quality available on Steam, or on consoles. My personal recommendation on Steam is Crimzon Clover: World Ignition, which is also independently produced, and one of if not the best STG around.
I'd recommend this game to people who think that touch screens are a superior input alternative for STGs, those who think that superplayers can dodge rain, and those who consider Touhou to be the pinnacle of this genre. Danmaku Unlimited 2 is not the bullet hell you need, but the one you deserve.