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Video Game / Death Smiles

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And this is one of the milder pieces of official artwork.note 
Death smiles at us all. Lolis smile back!
— The North American Tagline for Death Smiles

Death Smiles is another one of CAVE's bullet hell shoot'em ups, 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. A Windows port based on the Xbox 360 version was released on Steam in March 2016.

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.


A Compilation Rerelease of both games for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch by City Connection, Deathsmiles I & II, was released on December 15 and 16, 2021 (depending on time zone) for all major regions, except for the North American and European Switch versions which were released on December 30, 2021. This release finally translates Deathsmiles II into English, and features characters from the mobile spin-off Gothic wa Mahou Otome as paid DLC. A PC port is slated to come on June 23, 2022.

Come check out the character sheet!


Tropes smile at us all. Tropers smile back!

  • Abusive Parents: Jitterbug, who has no problem magically bashing his daughter when she tries to reason with him.
  • 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...
  • An Ass-Kicking Christmas: The second game, which takes place at Christmas time and involves another round of blowing up a bunch of demons.
  • 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.
  • Anti-Grinding: Points do not accumulate during boss fights, so you can't just farm lesser enemies for points until the boss timer runs out for a higher score.
  • Arrange Mode: In the "Mega Black Label", you can activate the Super Mode at at least 500 itemsnote , and the Ice Palace is added as a new stage, as well as a Harder Than Hard Level 999 difficulty, a new True Final Boss, and Sakura, a new playable character who breaks the game even more than Rosa. The Xbox 360 port also includes "Version 1.1", a mode that allows you to move your familiar independently of your character, but makes it so that bosses and enemies release counter bullets when attacked. In addition, you can activate the Super Mode at 100 items, and canceled counter/suicide bullets become collectible items.
    • Deathsmiles II has an arrange reminiscent of the first game's "Version 1.1" arrange. In it, the Lock shot is replaced by a button that throws your familiar, which can not only lock on to enemies but also cancels bullets as well. In addition, the Super Mode is activated automatically, collecting blue rings builds up a "Tension" meter, which increases enemy bullet density, enemies killed via the lock-shot shoot homing bullet-shooting skulls which are destroyed by the player's main shot, and destroying bullets and skulls builds up a "Magic Gauge" which gives you an extra Smart Bomb when filled.
  • 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.
  • Bad Santa: Satan Claws in the sequel.
  • Ballroom Blitz: The Final Stage. Complete with killing dozens of dancing ghosts.
  • Beat Still, My Heart: In Jordan's final form, he launches several pulsating hearts for bullets. Yuck!
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • How your character makes an entrance at the Port or Lake Village Stage.
    • Sakura and Gilverado's Angels saving Princess Tiara from total obliteration by Mu.
  • Brutal Bonus Level:
    • The Gorge in all versions, the Ice Palace in Mega Black Label. The former is extremely hard, not recommended even on a scoring run unless you can finish it.
    • 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...
  • Bullet Hell: It's a CAVE game.
  • 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.
  • Compilation Rerelease: Deathsmiles I & II, released for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, packages both games together into one release.
  • Continuity Nod: Supe from the sequel has the ghost of Tyrannosatan as her familiar.
  • Convection Shmonvection: The entirety of the Volcano stage. It even has rising pillars of lava, but you're fine as long at they don't touch your hitbox.
  • Costume Porn: The outfits are very detailed and fancy.
  • Creator Cameo: Junya Inoue voices Jitterbug, and a boss in Deathsmiles II.
  • 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.
  • Cute 'em Up: Downplayed. Although the series does have some cute elements, it comprises monsters that are downright scary and genuinely evil Big Bad villains, as well as an otherwise serious plot.
  • Darker and Edgier: The story of the second game, which involves the death of the Big Good right at the start. Fortunately, there is a way to undo that.
  • Deadly Walls: Averted. Even if you get squished between a wall and a screen edge, you'll simply be harmlessly shoved to where there's open space.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: The final boss of the first game is a gigantic, bony, demon from hell known as Tyrannosatan.
  • 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 places. In response to player complaints, a patch is available for the North American version that brings the level of slowdown closer to the Japanese Xbox 360 version.
  • Dragged Off to Hell: Satan Claus in the end.
  • Dual Boss: The optional bosses of the second game.
  • Dynamic Difficulty: The difficulty can be chosen before each stage. If you select Level 3 five times, enemies will start spitting out suicide bullets.
  • Easier Than Easy: Level 1 difficulty.
  • Easy-Mode Mockery: Outside of Arcade Mode, don't expect to extend your life gauge. In Arcade Mode, you only get to pick it twice.
  • Egopolis: The second game's bonus stage is dedicated to Satan Claws.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Several. Satan is the biggest one.
  • Eldritch Location: The final stage of the second game. That castle has M. C. Escher inspired architecture covered in giant chess playing fields. It also has a nice view of the planets in the solar system. Up close.
  • Elegant Gothic Lolita: The game's most prominent cosmetic element.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin:
    • The back of the box: 'Death smiles at us all. Lolis smile back!
    • Most of the bosses are given cool-looking subtitles. Mary, on the other hand, is simply subtitled "Giant Cow".
  • Fairy Companion: Every heroine gets one. Sakura gets two.
  • 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.
  • Fanservice Pack: In the second game, Rosa's and Follet's proportions are noticeably altered.
  • Fluffy Fashion Feathers: Some of the outfits are feather trimmed.
  • Fluffy the Terrible: Mary the Giant Cow. Later, Lili the Giant Reindeer.
  • Giant Space Flea from Nowhere:
    • 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. On the other hand, he likely is the demon in charge of the invasion of Gilverado.
    • Mary the Giant Cow qualifies for this trope better. Seriously, you're fighting off demons, ogres, ghosts, etc. and suddenly you're attacked by... a giant cow. What?
  • Gratuitous English: The final boss theme for II X is a version of "Joy to the World".
  • Godiva Hair: Possessed by the goddess at the end of the second game.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Casper's Real World ending. Oh, she's how she's gonna wreck those men...
  • Guide Dang It!: Non-Arranged True Final Boss Bloody Jitterbug. Here's the requirements to fight him:
    • Clear the first six stages on rank 999 without being damaged. This makes Bonus Dungeon Ice Palace Rank 999.
    • Clear Red Background Ice Palace without being damaged. This makes The Gorge Rank 999.
    • 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.
      • Unfortunately, you only get the Achievement on the Non-Arrange mode. Now why isn't this Achievement's value at least 4 digits long?
    • The US version adds one secret Achievement not found in the Japanese version. Good luck figuring that one out, especially if you are a real loner.
      • To make this even worse, that one secret Achievement has a description that sounds like a translated version of one of the Japanese version's normal Achievements, despite it being triggered by something different. With Sakura as one of the players, you must go through the gate in Two-player mode. Because of how the game handles having two players, Sakura gets her third ending instead of the normal "stay" ending.
    • 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.
  • Halloweentown: The Nightmare Before Christmas is Big In Japan. References are abound in both games.
  • Harder Than Hard: Level 999 in Mega Black Label. Death Mode in both versions.
  • Haunted House: One of the fields in the second game.
  • 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.
  • Hospital Hottie: Follett wears a nurse hat and is one of the better-developed characters.
  • Horizontal Scrolling Shooter: Unusually for Cave; their last horizontal shooter was Progear no Arashi released in 2001.
  • Hot Springs Episode: In Follet's second ending in Deathsmiles II X.
  • Hurricane of Puns: The Achievements in the US release.
  • 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.
  • Improbably Female Cast
  • I Read It for the Articles: Among fans, the controversial character design often takes second chair to the gameplay.
  • I Was Told There Would Be Cake: Keeping in tune with the theme, health can be restored with parfaits and cake.
  • 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.
  • Lethal Lava Land: Stage C-2 takes place inside a volcano.
  • 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.
  • Lighter and Softer: The second game's character art.
  • Make My Monster Grow: Satan Claws.
  • 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.
  • Meido: Follett wears a maid outfit.
  • More Dakka: Much more.
  • Multiple Endings: Two per character.
    • But Now I Must Go: Enter the portal and return back home. Usually reunites the girl with their family, but they'll never see their friends again.
    • I Choose to Stay: Stay in Gilverado with your friends. They'll never see their family again, but the girls are close friends nonetheless.
      • Sakura has 3 endings, her normal "Stay" and "Leave" endings as well as a special 2nd "Stay" ending which can only be accessed with 2 players where one plays Sakura and the other chooses the "Leave" ending, in which she is much more isolated from the others and focuses more on leaving herself in the future. As a result of her 3rd ending, she can only make her own choice if she is alone.
  • 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!
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The Final Boss is Satan? Worse. Demonic Imperator Tyrannosatan.
  • Nintendo Hard: Mostly on Death Mode and Level 999
  • No Fair Cheating: ZigZagged on the Xbox 360 version. Decreasing the difficulty as well as 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, and you can't even try to impose a harder challenge for yourself. Not the case for 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...
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Most of the dresses are very frilly.
  • 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).
  • Pretty in Mink: Some of the outfits are fur trimmed in II X.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: The last boss in a shoot 'em up game is fought to Bach, Toccata and Fugue. And it's awesome.
    • The second game puts a dark twist on Joy to the World and a techno spin on Ave Maria.
  • Random Drop: Many items in Deathsmiles iPhone.
  • Recurring Boss: Sort of.
    • About 30 seconds into the Final Stage, you face a wave of Deathscythes (the boss of Stage A-1).
    • Mary from Stage C-1 appears later in the same stage for about 10 seconds to drop towers of blocks.
    • In the first game, you fight Tyrannosatan. In the second game, you fight Satan Claws.
    • In the Mega Black Label versions of the first game, the True Final Boss is Bloody Jitterbug. In the console port of the second game, the True Final Boss is Pigeon Blood Jitterbug.
  • Recurring Riff: The BGM of a -2 stage is sort of a rearrangement of its -1 counterpart.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Supe and Lei.
    • 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.
  • Retraux: Deathsmiles II X Music Pack Field A.
  • Running Gag: The first game has you fighting a giant cow. In the sequel, you fight a giant reindeer.
  • Satan: Or should I say, Tyrannosatan?
    • Satan Claws in the sequel!
  • Sequential Boss: Deathscythe of Stage A-1 has two forms, each with their own separate Life Meters. Or three, on Level 3 and up.
  • "Simon Says" Mini-Game: In the iPhone mode of Deathsmiles to banish bosses.
  • 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.
  • Tea Is Classy: Princess Tiara is a spoiled young royal who enjoys having tea parties.
  • 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.
  • True Final Boss: Bloody Jitterbug in Mega Black Label.
    • And Pigeon Blood Jitterbug in Deathsmiles II X.
  • 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.
  • Video Game 3D Leap: Deathsmiles II uses a presentation upgrade, giving the game 3D visuals but retaining the 2D gameplay.
  • When the Clock Strikes Twelve: When the clock hits midnight on Halloween, the door to the demon world leads to the real world instead.
  • Widget Series: How often do you see a shoot-em-up involving demon-slaying gothic lolita?
  • The Wonderland: Gilverado. People who are on the brink of death are sometimes spirited away to Gilverado instead.