On the 20th of December last year (i.e. a few weeks ago) I picked up my second danmaku/bullet hell world record, this time in the excellent Steam game “Danmaku Unlimited 2”. This is the second WR I got in 2015 after the Xbox 360 game Score Rush, and didn’t take me quite as long, although learning the more complex scoring system (see below) and relearning how much a given controller movement relates to my ship’s movement (again, below) made this more challenging than I expected. My ability to “read” the screen and predict the flow of bullets was unchanged, but my ability to play was impacted to a much greater extent than I had anticipated by the slight differences between the two games. Either way: much like last time, I’ve written up a little analysis post for you all. I recognize clearly this is predominantly a roguelikes blog, and there isn’t exactly a massive amount of overlap between the two genres, but danmaku games often do some very interesting things with space (just as the best RLs do) and always have enough detail to merit a close analysis. For those of you who aren’t keen danmaku, though – not to worry, next week we’ll be back with a major URRpdate, either about AI (finished?) or clothing (finished???) as we move towards starting the dialect generation and the conversation system towards the end of January. Otherwise: enjoy! Here’s the video – the previous record was 1.6 trillion and the video is 1.9 trillion…
…and here’s the analysis:
Controller Movement and Ship Movement
The first challenge was adapting to a new input system. In Score Rush, you could push the control stick any amount and your ship would move at an appropriate speed – the slightest touch would make your ship inch across the screen whilst pushing it as far as the stick goes resulted in far speedier traversal of the game space. The other difference lay in the potential movements, and again, Score Rush has a far greater range of allowed movements than DU2 – you can move at any angle the controller recognizes (I believe the 360 controller does, indeed, recognize 360 different angles, but perhaps somebody can correct me on this?). By contrast, DU2 allowed you to move in only the eight compass directions. To visualize this, therefore, imagine the ship is in the middle of these circles, and the red areas show both the directions the ships can move in, and the speeds they can move, where a red area closer to the edge is faster, and nearer the middle is slower:
This, although it might seem subtle, required a significant re-learning on my part of the movement within the game. You can only move in eight directions, and either you don’t move, or you move at full speed; this necessitated a less fluid form of movement and a form of movement based move on “tapping” the controller rather than gently pushing the controller. Honestly, I think I prefer the Score Rush style of movement, though I did get used to the DU2 movement in the end. It was nevertheless surprising how incredibly different it felt to control two apparently similar games!
Firstly, this game has a scoring system which is vastly more complex than that of my previous world record game, Score Rush, and this took me a little while to fully figure out. There are three counters – “TM”, which goes up based on (I think) the number of gold stars you collect in a level, and only resets to 0 after a death; “Grazed”, which lists the number of bullets you’ve been grazed by without being killed by them, and gives you a bonus to every ship you kill, and increases your trance gauge (more on this shortly), but resets to 0 after a single hit,; and the largest multiplier, which I’ll just call “X”, and is reset automatically on each level and is increased by killing enemies up-close, collecting the diamonds they drop, and serves as a multiplier for that level (and might have some relation to the value of the gold stars?). Then there is the trance gauge – activating it when full transforms all bullets in your vicinity into diamonds (for improving that level’s “X” multiplier) and causes your extra points earned from grazing to skyrocket, and the bullets from destroyed enemies to turn into gold stars – which, as above, contribute to your overall “TM” multiplier. Confused about what the optimal way to play this is? Me too. I found this a fairly puzzling system, but some experimentation suggested that the best way forward was to quickly stack up a lot of grazing on the first level when you can’t score highly anyway (because your TM is low), and then otherwise to close distance with enemies extremely quickly, never use a trance too early in a level, and only activate the trance when you’re absolutely surrounded by bullets, in order to optimize the number of extra diamonds you get. What this means is that at the start of each level I tend to focus on killing close-up (for “X”) and sometimes grazing (to build up a trance), and then later in the level I use the trance ability every chance I get. It’s possible that there is a slightly more efficient method, but a) I haven’t found it and b) my world record is more than 2.5x the previous world record, so I’m not too concerned.
Second Boss, Second Attack (6:02)
The first truly challenging attack in the game is the second attack launched by the boss of the second level, which is (in my view) a significant step up in difficulty from the rest of the level, and is harder than any attack of the third boss a level later! This attack fires out rapid circles of very closely-placed circular bullets, interspersed with thick blocks of diamond bullets and bursts of larger (and smaller) red bullets whose behaviour seems harder to predict (though I think it is nevertheless deterministic). This attack requires the player to nip between closely-packed lines of rapidly-moving bullets which also ensuring that the large wedges don’t get caught, and it’s surprising how much of the screen this attack “takes up” – nevertheless, I think this is a really good attack, although one that could have been made even better (and tougher!) had the large wedges of bullets been more varied in their trajectories. As you’ll see in the video, it isn’t too tricky if one remains near the middle of the screen for the second half and makes sure to move quickly.
Third Level, Opening (7:35)
The next challenging section comes about two-thirds of the way through the third level. A large set of ships spawn that quickly fill the level up with bullets, or fire bullets in a spinning pattern extremely quickly, or fire large “blocks” of bullets that unfold themselves towards the enemy. Although it perhaps might not look it in the video, this was one of the first major roadblocks I encountered to getting the world record until I was able to find a strategy for navigating it all; and even then this resulted in a death a decent amount of the time. A very tough opening, and much harder than the rest of the level, due primarily to the massive volume of bullets, the speed of some of the bullets, and the amount of the play area removed by some of the attacks. A good bit of the video, though!
Fourth Boss, Most Attacks (16:33)
The fourth boss is really tough, particularly due to the attack below, which is incredibly challenging. We have a massive range of lines of red diamonds being fired from the boss, pairs of large purple bullets being aimed towards the player, and these large purple bullets then fire out smaller, pink bullets. This attack is quite clever, however, because what would ordinarily be the tactic, i.e. taking it slowly, becomes impossible when you have the large purple bullets being aimed at you; it forces you to move quickly around the stage and makes it much more challenging than it would otherwise be, since you can only look so far ahead. Even whilst attempting the record I would estimate I lost at least a quarter of all my attempts on this exact attack – it’s just that tough (though happily in the record playthrough, it comes off without a hitch!).
Fifth Level, Fleet (18:20)
Immediately after the opening on the fifth level comes a very interesting section – the player navigates through a fleet of massive ships, interspersed with various smaller ships, that fire in all kinds of directions and cut across the screen either diagonally, or top to bottom. This is one of the most complicated parts of the game and, unless one is very careful and very efficient, the player will be faced with a massive volume of bullets coming from almost every direction. The best strategy I found here was to use two “super charges” when dealing with the diagonal ships, and then attempt to do so as many times as possible in the second phase; nevertheless you’ll see me weaving very quickly between and through a lot of ships before we then get to the miniboss/midboss, which segues nicely into our next section…
Fifth Level, Midboss (19:45)
Whew. This is where things get really nasty. The first attack of this mid-boss is tough, but not impossible – lines of large red bullets with small gaps are fired out, with purple diamonds that cut back across the screen in the opposite direction from the red bullets. This needs a lot of quick thinking to keep track of the speed of the purple diamonds and see when (if at all) they’re going to intersect with the part of the red pattern you’re currently navigating.
This one took a little working out, but tracking right-to-left like I do in the video proved to be the best way to deal with it. At the end things can get a little confusing with the additional streams of red diamonds that emerge afterwards clashing with the remnants of this first attack, but it’s not ordinarily too much of a problem. However, this midboss then unleashes by far its more deadly attack – this incredibly fast burst of bullets:
This one took a lot of figuring out. I find it too fast to actually dodge on the fly, particularly since the bullets aren’t coming straight down the screen, and they’re diamonds instead of circles – those might seem like small things, but they’re very significant at this level. To deal with this attack I first experimented with the validity of hiding in one of the corners, but they always got hit; then I tried to find a bunch of other “safe spots” but I couldn’t find a single location on the map that a bullet never went through during its attack (I’m sure they exist, but I didn’t feel like playing “hunt the pixel” any longer). Instead I found a two part strategy; to follow the inside track of the diamond bullets until twelve have gone past me (in the video at 19:59 you’ll see what I mean), and then hug the right-hand side of those bullets, wait until the final moment, and then move up; that dodges all the shots without having to move too much, as some of these bullets are frankly too fast (and coming at too unusual an angle) to dodge on response/reaction with any kind of regularity.
Fifth Boss, Sixth Attack (24:44)
The “final” boss has some tough attacks, and some less tough attacks, but one of the toughest (and most creative) is the one below. The boss fires a ring of bullets around the player, reducing the play space the player can move in to less than 50% of the usual room, and then fires large purple bullets at the player. These leave trails, and the trails then turn into diamonds, set at 90 degrees from the direction of the trail, that then start moving. The result of this fairly complex description is being trapped in a tiny area with a large number of bullets coming at you at fairly high speed from all kinds of directions! Again, in this playthrough I don’t take a single hit here (though I do super charge at one point to clear the screen out), but it’s a really fiendish and really interesting attack.
“True Last Boss”, Everything (25:50)
The “True Last Boss” or TLB appears after the “final boss” if one is playing on the highest difficulty and hasn’t needed a continue up to that point (both were the case on this record playthrough), and has three very nasty attacks. For the first, the thick lines of purple bullets, the player has only a few fractions of a second to sneak between them as they fire. For the second, the circles of pink bullets, they move in a confusing and visually painful pattern that required me to adopt a rather strange way of viewing the screen – it’s hard to describe, but once I learned to “zoom out” with my eyes and see the screen as a whole, weaving between these immensely fast bullets being possible. The third, the orange diamonds, are very hard to keep track of since the player has to circle rapidly and keep an eye on the trajectories of each set of bullets; like the others, this was hugely tricky at first, but I got the hang of it by the end by trying to move “forward” by one bullet each time a bullet goes past me (watch the video and this sentence will make more sense). Once this phase is finished, the TLB switches to one final attack, which is pretty crazy – I normally do it without taking a hit, and I confess to being slightly miffed by taking a hit in the world record playthrough, but such is life. I think this final attack is tremendous and really needs the player to split their attention between the regularity of the diamond bullets and the semi-unexpected trajectories of the circular bullets, as they come in from a different angle. A very tough attack, a fitting conclusion to the game, and a very visually striking minute.
So there we are! That’s my second world record, and hopefully the second of what will soon be a much larger money. However, this game has two game modes – the same game but two different scoring systems. This mode is called “Classic”, whilst the other is called “Burst”, and I will probably go after this record too. Having done all the work to learn the game and the movement system and so forth, it would seem rather peculiar not to even bother with the other game mode, since I should already be reasonably close to getting that record just from my general ability at the game. When I get the “Burst” world record, I won’t post another analysis entry, since the game is basically the same even if the scoring system is slightly different;however, if it takes too long, I’ll just move onto Blue Wish Resurrection a little bit earlier(screenshot below shamelessly lifted from Youtube)…
Right! That’s enough danmaku for now. Next week we’ll be back to URR, and I’ll see you all then. Hope you enjoyed the video!