Death Smiles is another one of CAVE's bullet hell shooter series, this time with a loli-goth theme. Of note is that this game scrolls horizontally instead of vertically, and that you can select the difficulty per stage rather than per run. This is also the first home console release of a CAVE game to be released outside of Japan by Aksys Games. Character designs, writing, and planning were done by longtime CAVE collaborator "Joker" Junya Inoue. A drama CD series was released in 2010.An iOS port with a radically-different additional gameplay mode was released on July 7, 2011.The second game, Deathsmiles II: Hell's Christmas is the sequel. It received a greatly-expanded port for the Xbox 360 named Deathsmiles II X. Unlike the first game, Cave did not localize the game. Instead, they sold the game for $29.99 Xbox Live's Games On Demand, without localization or even textual translation.Come check out the character sheet!
All There in the Manual: The manual in the localized US version explains every aspect of their game with tender, loving care. Quite unusual for a shoot 'em up. Character and world backstories, point systems, variations between modes. The manual even gives you the game's own exploits for finding 1-Ups and getting your score really high.
It also advertises Ice Palace as a Bonus Stage, and it's somewhat right, as in the majority of the points in most score runs are gained from it. Just hope you don't end up with a red background when you enter it...
Animal Motifs: Each character's wings matches their Fairy Companion. Windia is an owl, Casper is a bat, Follet is a dragon, Rosa is a fairy, and Lei is a cherub. Sakura is a "witch", not an "angel" and instead flies on a classic broomstick. There's also Supe. Since her Familiar is the ghost of an undead demonic monster, she has strange, bony wings with ragged-looking membranes a worrying shade of red-purple stretched between them. She manages to make them look cute, though.
Art Shift: The first game is more typical of Junya Inoue's art style. The characters' proportions, and the sizes of their heads and eyes, are greatly altered for the second game. The smartphone mode of the first game has re-done artwork by Yukinatsu Mori.
Ascended Meme: The Achievement for defeating Mary in the iOS port of Deathsmiles is "Boss Milking", referring to the fan nickname for the practice of taking as long as possible to kill a boss for the purpose of high scoring.
Author Appeal: Young girls have always featured into games with artwork by Junya Inoue, but this time, the whole story and concept of the Deathsmiles series were also done by him.
Badass Adorable: All the girls count, but story wise, Casper is the youngest, yet strongest, and most violent.
Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: Bosses get an entrance in Deathsmiles II X. Because they are loud and take up time, you have the option to turn these scenes off.
The Ice Palace could almost count as a Bonus Stage, if not for failing some of the major criteria — if you walk in there capped at 1,000 items, expect to STAY in super mode for the bulk of the level. and max out your Life Gauge, too. 11,918,736,259 points in one stage at the cost of increasing the difficulty a bit? Let's Get Dangerous!
The sequel has a Circus of Fear. It actually isn't that much harder than the normal stages (mostly due to intentional slowdown). Then you reach the boss...
Call Back: Meta example: In the Xbox 360 version of the first game, you get an Achievement just for pausing the game. One of the Achievements in the next game requires you to briefly check the pause screen by double-tapping start. The name of it lampshades this.
When fighting Tyrannosatan, one of his attacks has him fly to the top of the screen and drop bombs on the player, changing the camera angle to be more reminiscent of the vertical scrolling shooters that Cave is known for.
Chess Motifs: In the second game, the first half of the final stage is covered in chess patterns and contains animated chess pieces as enemies.
Circus of Fear: The second game's bonus stage is this, complete with a pair of giant creepy dolls as the bosses.
Clipped Wing Angel: Satan Claws's first form is widely considered harder than his second, mostly due to his ability to block your shots with his spheres and make you use bombs just to get close enough to hit him.
Collision Damage: Which only does half a bar of damage rather than a full one. Power-Up Mode ignores it for the duration of the boost.
Coming-of-Age Story: Growing up, coping with loss and making one's own decisions is a recurring theme. Rosa in particular.
Creepy Doll: In the second game, two optional bosses in the form of a gigantic teddy bear with a big bulge in its crotch and an eye hanging out, and a gigantic rabbit doll. The final stage has a number of evil cherubs with red glowing eyes who laugh while their heads spin around Exorcist''-style.
Difficulty By Region: According to test runs by some players, the US version has less slowdown, making it more difficult than the Japanese version. In some cases, the US version runs at an average speed of 150% that of the Japanese version. This leads to some Fridge Logic when you consider that American players on average have less experience with Bullet Hell games than Japanese players.
Cave eventually admitted to optimizing the code for the US region, and in turn, removing slowdown in numerous spaces.
As of this writing, a patch has just come out for the North American version and according to players it brings the level of slowdown closer to the Japanese Xbox 360 version.
Fanservice: Rampant when it comes to the art (the main menu screen gives a clear shot of Follet's considerable cleavage, among other things), but mostly absent from the game itself with the exception of one of Follet's endings.
And then there's pure angel, dark devil, nurse, maid, stripper, bondage, fairy, witch, half-fallen angel, a variety of hairstyles...
In the second game, one of the stage-complete pictures is of Casper getting dressed.
Fan Service Pack: In the second game, Rosa's and Follet's proportions are noticeably altered.
Giant Space Flea from Nowhere: Arguably Tyrannosatan. He has no real relevance to the plot; he simply shows up from the portal to the demon world without warning and eats the Big Bad after you've beaten him.
Debatable. Although Jitterbug opened the gate for him, it's very likely he's the mastermind behind the invasion that resulted.
Mary the Giant Cow qualifies for this trope better. Seriously. A GIANT COW.
Clear Rank 999 Gorge without being damaged. This... well, you get the idea.
Reach Tyrannosatan without being damaged in Rank 999 Hades Castle. You can take damage, or even continue once Tyrannosatan appears.
Fortunately, The Arranged version makes it a hell of a lot easier, requiring that you only reach Tyrannosatan on your first credit, and you don't even have to touch Ice Palace, meaning you don't have to go through all those hoops to get Hades Castle at Rank 999.
On a different note, determining the correct shot to use for each enemy in order to maximize items earned from each one. "Popcorn" enemies and stronger ones are simple enough: use weak shot for the former and strong shot for the latter. But then there comes the enemies where you get the most items by using your targeting shot, an action that DECREASES your item counter.
With Deathsmiles II X untranslated, and a lack of the high-quality instruction manual of the first game, the game's learning curve soars, leaving players to hunt on YouTube on how to score high.
Hello, Nurse!: Follett wears a nurse hat and is one of the better-developed characters.
Hitbox Dissonance: Your hit-box is a heart emblem with a swirling glow inside. If anything hits that, you lose life. The rest of your character's body goes through bullets, walls, enemies, obstacles, etc.
I Choose to Stay: Each ending gives your character an option to return to the real world or stay in Gilverado. The sequel makes the "stay" option canon for every character.
In the second game, at first the only playable characters were Windia, Casper, Supe and Lei. Rosa and Follett return for the consoles, making the canon up in the air — well, except for Rosa; she may not be playable, but she clearly appears as an NPC in the introduction for Supe.
Lethal Chef: Sakura may or may not be this. Her "stay" ending says that her cooking seems to be really popular, but the descriptions of the food aren't very appetizing. Casper doesn't seem to have much confidence in her cooking either.
Life Meter: In place of lives. You start with three boxes. A bullet takes off the rest of your current box, and collision with enemies and non-bullet projectiles will take off half. However, when your life meter runs out, Game Over.
The Magic Goes Away: Subverted. Some characters have endings in which if they return to the Real World, they keep their powers. Casper finds her kidnappers and enacts sweet vengance. Sakura and her father turn to a VERY successful life of crime. But the sequel canonizes the characters staying in Gilverado.
Magic Music: The plot of the second game is focused on this. The magic music is literally a bunch of gigantic golden music notes, named the Wish Notes, that can be grabbed physically. When collected together, they can grant one wish.
Multiple Endings: Two per character. Some naturally dark. And that's just in single-player.
Mythology Gag: Deathsmiles iPhone has a lot of references to other CAVE games, including weapons that work similarly to the way they worked in their original games. Even the Tiger Schwert's laser weapon works the same way. Even the 5-chip item is in as an equippable accessory!
No Fair Cheating: ZigZagged on the Xbox 360 version. Decreasing the difficulty blocks Achievements. Increasing the number of lives blocks Achievements. Fair enough. Decreasing the number of life bars blocks Achievements. Well, given one Achievement, that's fine and dandy. Increasing the difficulty blocks Achievements. Let that last one sink in a bit.
In other words, the only way to get Achievements on the Xbox 360 version is to play at factory default settings. Even if you change to settings to where EVERY Achievement is more difficult to fulfill the conditions of, you can't play using modified game settings.
And then it gets subverted for Death Smiles II X, where you are allowed to change ALL of the options in your favor and still get at least one of the True Final Boss Achievements.
Oh, Crap: Your familiar starts freaking out and advises you to get the hell away when they see Tyrannosatan emerging from the portal.
Ominous Latin Chanting: The Final Stage of Deathsmiles II X is set to rock with Ave Maria'' in the background...
Pinball Scoring: Any mode that isn't vanilla Arcade or 360 mode, in which high-scores tend to be in the 8-9 digit range. Mega Black Label Xbox 360 / Arcade is in between Xbox 360 / Arcade and v1.1 as far as craziness goes (between 100 million and 2 billion). v1.1? There's a reason the first extend is at 30,000,000 and the second is at 1,000,000,000. Mega Black Label v1.1 scores tend to have eleven digits. Pretty much the only other commercial shoot 'em up that exceed this kind of scale are Takumi's games (Giga Wing series and Mars Matrix).
A dual boss Mad Teddy and Mad Bunny, who do not notice the player. Instead they fight each other hilariously, spreading blue and red bullets that the player must avoid.
Regional Bonus: The Japanese version requires you to buy Mega Black Label and Mega Black Label 1.1 separately. The North American version comes with them both, a Soundtrack CD, and a faceplate (for the old Xbox 360 model) that was never even released in Japan, all for less than the Japanese standard edition.
Sequential Boss: Deathscythe of Stage A-1 has two forms, each with their own separate Life Meters. Or three, on Level 3 and up.
Sequel Difficulty Drop: The second game features more slowdown, a smaller hit-box, a more easily filled super meter, easier extends, a much simpler scoring system, easier to obtain Life-Up items and a much, MUCH easier route to the True Final Boss. Arrange Mode is also much easier; you don't have the ability to independently steer your familiar any more, but it can now eat ALL bullets (except large boss projectiles) instead of just suicide bullets.
Sleep Cute: In one of the second game's stage-complete images, Windia is shown taking a nap after making some paper snowflakes.
Super Mode: When your item counter reaches the cap of 1,000, you can go into a powered-up mode in which your firepower is temporarily enhanced. In Mega Black Label, you can activate it at 500, or wait for an even stronger super mode at 1,000.
In both, the v1.1 Arranged Mode allows you to switch into the weak Super Mode at 100, but without the bullet-to-point-item effect.
Token Mini-Moe: Although arguably the entire cast qualifies, Casper was, at 11, originally the only child among a group of youthful-looking teens. Then Supe came along as a playable character in Deathsmiles II, as well as getting a cellphone game. She's only 7-years-old, and so cute that it hurts. Supe is quite possibly the Grand Duchess of Token Mini-Moe.
Turns Red: Most bosses do this in Level 3 stages. Also Bloody Jitterbug.
Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Most people won't pay attention to Jitterbug falling out of Tyrannosatan's mouth. At least, until he doesn't and then they fight Bloody Jitterbug.
Vanilla Edition: Averted with the initial North American release; the only edition of the game comes with the perks of a Limited Edition set — at $30-40 — which is even less than the price of the regular edition.