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Video Game / Ketsui

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Welcome to Special Round.
"They fight for the sake of a better future, one they themselves will never witness."
Opening demo, Ketsui Deathtiny

Ketsui: Kizuna Jigoku Tachi is a Vertical Scrolling Shooter by Cave released for arcades in Japan in 2003, more specifically on a CAVE variant of IGS's PolyGame Master hardware. Its title roughly translates to "Determination: Hell's Bonds."

In the year 2054, chaos grips the world as Global Warming has melted the ice caps, raised sea levels, and intensified natural disasters. With many nations consumed by the destruction, the sudden end of means to acquire all resources force the countries that remained intact, into World War III. Any attempt to cease hostilities by the United Nations is thwarted by an endless supply of technologically advanced weapons sold to both sides of every possible conflict. Investigations by UN are all traced to EVAC Industries, a weapon manufacturer and arms dealer that has been reaping tremendously high profits from the constant warfare. EVAC has even been known to directly intervene to prevent any progress towards peace. The company's profits are so massive, it has built its own cities, shipyards, defensive emplacements and even a private airport, in addition to assemble its own private army of well-equipped mercenaries. All attempts to negotiate with the board of directors have failed.

Unable to perform any official actions, UN sets up a strike team of four pilots, each pair given one of two advanced helicopters which were built according to stolen prototype blueprints and bear EVAC insignias and callsigns. Their mission is to stimulate a rebellion within EVAC's forces and destroy the company's headquarters where their most powerful weapons are being made. The mission cannot be traced back to UN, regardless of the outcome. Even if the mission is a success, both the helicopters and the pilots must be destroyed. To compensate for their sacrifice however, UN will fulfill their dying wishes.

Ketsui was released in the wake of the success of CAVE's previous title, DoDonPachi dai ou jou, on the same PGM hardware. It is known for being very difficult from the get go, with even Stage 1 having beginner-unfriendly enemy bullet patterns. The game's scoring system mainly relies on attacking enemies at close range to reap chips to build up Score Multipliers, most notably the iconic "5" chips. Unlike DoDonPachi, however, the scoring mechanics are considerably more forgiving at the same time, being far less punishing on mistakes (you don't have to run a chain throughout the entire stage). The game is known for not only having a second loop through the five stages that is more difficult, but having a special version of the second loop, known officially as the Special Round (or "Ura Loop", while the standard second loop is called the "Omote Loop") and which has extremely difficult qualifications with even more difficult enemies when you do make it. Making it to the end awards the player with Evaccaneer DOOM, the True Final Boss with the sheer bullet brutality that CAVE final bosses are known for.

Ketsui has received various ports and spinoffs throughout the years:note 

  • Ketsui: Kizuna Jigoku Tachi DX (DoComo mobile phones, 2004; Nintendo Switch, 2021note ): A compressed mobile phone version of Ketsui.
  • Ketsui: Kizuna Jigoku Tachi IKD 2007 Special Ver. (Arcade, 2007): A variation of the game designed by the game's programmer, Tsuneki Ikeda, made to be more difficult and to encourage more high-risk gameplay. Was only playable for one day, until it was released as paid DLC for Ketsui Deathtiny, 11 years later.
  • Ketsui Death Label: Kizuna Jigoku Tachi (Nintendo DS, 2008): A spinoff developed by Arika that focuses mainly on the bosses, featuring variants of differing difficulty. It comes packaged with a DVD showcasing a top-level performance of the original arcade game. Notably, this marks the first time a CAVE game was released on a Nintendo system; the next such game would be ESP Ra.De. Psi in 2019.
  • Ketsui: Kizuna Jigoku Tachi EXTRA (Xbox 360, 2010; PlayStation 3, 2013): The first proper port of the game, published and ported by 5pb (notably, the 360 version was released seven years after the original arcade gamenote ). It features an "Extra" arrange mode unique to this version and an arranged soundtrack produced by the Basiscape team.
  • Ketsui Deathtiny: Kizuna Jigoku Tachi (PlayStation 4, 2018 [Japan] / 2020 [Overseas]): Another port of the game, this time handled by M2 as part of their M2 ShotTriggers series. The most complete version of the game, it features three arrange soundtracks alongside the original (the EXTRA arrange, the Virt arrange from DoDonPachi Resurrection BLACK LABEL, and a new arrange soundtrack by Daisuke Matsumoto), the IKD 2007 arrange, a new Deathtiny arrange mode, a Challenge mode where the player takes on small segments of the game at a time, and a Bonds of Growth mode where the player practices sections they have died at. Deathtiny marks the first time that the game was released outside of Japan.

Furthermore, Ketsui has had crossover appearances in other games:

  • DoDonPachi Resurrection BLACK LABEL (Xbox 360, 2011; Windows PC, 2016 [Global]): The Xbox 360 and PC ports in particular feature an Arrange Mode based on Ketsui, borrowing its scoring concepts, featuring the Tiger Schwert as the player's ship, and using another arranged soundtrack, this time by Jake 'Virt' Kaufman. The True Final Boss Hibachi is replaced by HIVAC, a variant of Ketsui's own true last boss.
  • DoDonPachi Maximum (Windows Phone / iOS, 2012 [Global]): The plot of the game suggests that EVAC manufactured not only the enemies seen in Ketsui but also those in the DoDonpachi series. The player visits an EVAC facility and is invited to try a bullet hell simulator that features stages from past DoDonpachi games as well as a simulation of Stage 4 of Ketsui with remixes of its soundtrack by WASi303, and one of the unlockable ships is the Tiger Schwert.
  • Dariusburst Chronicle Saviours - Ketsui (2016 [Global]): The Tiger Schwert is available as a DLC purchase, and uses its own scoring system which is based on Ketsui's. When playing this DLC's dedicated missions, Ketsui music plays instead of music native to Dariusburst.

Tropes used in Ketsui

  • 1-Up:
    • Destroying all of the turrets, followed by the the main part of Vinogradov (Stage 3's midboss) without bombing nets you a 1-up. You can get a second one on Stage 5 by destroying the production model versions of the player ships, again without bombing. Unlike the point-based extra lives, these can be repeated in the second loop, allowing you to have up to eight lives in reserve.
    • In the IKD 2007 Special, you get extra lives by finishing stages with more '5' chips than '1' chips.
    • In the Deathtiny Arrange Mode, you always get an extra life at the end of each stage. This is important, as dying recharges your Deathtroy gauge, and having no spare lives left takes away DIE-DEATH mode if you've unlocked it.
  • Aggressive Play Incentive: Enemies drop larger chips if the player is closer to them upon destroying them.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • Death Label introduces tick marks on the bosses' health bars that show where they will change forms. EXTRA does not have them, but Deathtiny brings them back.
    • The midbosses of Stages 2 and 5 take place in an area with a looping pattern, and it is recommended to try to finish the boss right as this loop begins, since when the midboss is destroyed, filler enemies will spawn until the loop ends and the second half of the stage starts. Deathtiny has a meter exclusive to these boss fights that shows how much time is left in the loop, letting the player know when they should destroy the boss for the most filler enemies and thus the most points.
  • Arrange Mode:
    • In the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 ports, there is a new X-Mode, which makes small "popcorn" enemies not give chips until they are "activated" by the death of a medium-sized enemy, which also converts their bullets into chips.
    • In the M2 Shottriggers Updated Re-release, there is the "Deathtiny" mode, which makes chips give no multiplier, but in exchange, power the new "Deathtroy" Super Mode, which cancels all bullets, increases firepower, and makes the chips contribute to score. Activating the "Deathtroy" mode consecutivelynote  increases the level of the Hyper, the size and score of the chips, and the firepower of the player. Activating a Level 3 Hyper before the Stage 1 mid-boss, Seahorse (and any time after that by holding the bomb button), gives you the Die-Death mode, which intensifies the bullet patterns into Ura-Loop patterns, and increases the size and score of the chips when in "Deathtroy" mode. Die-Death is deactivated if you are hit (whether you have enough Deathtroy gauge to survive or just die entirely), but can be reactivated by holding bomb again, and will be disabled entirely if you have no spare lives left until you gain another life. There is only one loop, and Evaccaneer DOOM is always encountered at the end.
    • The M2 port also brings back the IKD 2007 arrange, sometimes known as the "Blue Label", that was only available to attendants of a Cave festival. In this mode, the distance required to get '5' size chips is decreased, and the player's firepower has been increased, encouraging more aggressive gameplay. In addition, enemy bullet patterns are more aggressive as well, and each life only has one bomb, instead of three. You get an extend at the end of a stage if the amount of '5' chips collected is higher than the amount of '1' chips.
    • Deathtiny has Custom mode, which is basically Create-Your-Own-Arrange-Mode. You can tweak various parameters including overall game difficulty (with the options including both the DIP switch settings as well as the AC Challenge difficulty levels), player shot power, auto-bomb, the conditions for the 1-Up tokens, and starting immediately on the 2nd Round or the Special Round. The end-of-stage bonus is adjusted according to how hard you set the options. There is a hidden mode called Die-Custom, which requires a specific combination of settings, most notably only 1 life, no extra lives, and starting on the Special Round. The stage clear bonus is set to be even higher than in the normal Special Round.
    • The second loops in the base game also count as this as well as an Unexpected Gameplay Change. Both the Second and Special Rounds give the enemies suicide bullets and shrink the size of chips to 1, but sealing enemy bullets in the Special Round allows you to gain extra chips. The Special Roundnote  is also how to access Evaccaneer DOOM.
    • Ketsui Death Label is primarily a Boss Game with Boss Rush modes. The Death Label course, in particular, has you face off against the bosses out of ordernote , with second-loop difficulty, and with the enemy shot colors reversed. It also has an "Extra Course", that puts you through a remixed version of Stage 5 that precedes an extremely difficult version of Evacaneer DOOM. Finally, "DOOM Mode" simply has you fight DOOM. Five times over. And every time you defeat it, the bullet count increases.
  • The Artifact: Like many other CAVE games, the game uses the ones digit of your score counter to indicate how many continues you've used. However this is rapidly made obsolete since the game actually uses the ones digit in score calculations, rather than just rounding all figures up to multiples of 10.
  • Ascended Glitch: If the player locks onto an enemy the moment it's destroyed, the chopper's lock-on laser will briefly lock onto what is now a nonexistent enemy and extract chips out of thin air, a technique known as an "empty lock" (or "air lock" in the Japanese community). The Deathtiny port has a gadget that keeps track of how many empty locks the player has performed in the current stage.
  • Attack Drone:
    • Both the Tiger Schwert and the Panzer Jaeger have four drones that attack anything the beam locks onto. Their inferior production models in Stage 5 also have four drones, but they fire strings of blue bullets instead.
    • Cinderella Amber, the Stage 4 boss, has a total of 9 drones; four triangular drones in the first phase, one spherical drone in the second phase, and four smaller drones in the third and final phase.
  • Boss Game: Ketsui: DEATH Label for the Nintendo DS.
  • Boss Remix: "NO REMORSE", the True Final Boss theme, is a fast-paced medley of "SCAFFOLD" (the standard Final Boss theme) and "DOOMSDAY" (the fighter select theme from the beginning of the game).
  • Boss Warning Siren: "Approach your target and attack! Your mission starts now! Are you ready?"
  • Brutal Bonus Level: "Extra Course" in Ketsui: DEATH LABEL is a modified version of Stage 5 from the original game. "Just" a lot, lot, LOT HARDER! And if by any chance you manage to reach the end of the stage, the game pits you against a modified version of Evaccaneer DOOM. It's basically the already hard True Final Boss Fight from the original game with its difficulty cranked up to eleven.
  • Bullet Hell
    • Taken to its logical extreme with "DOOM Mode" in Ketsui DEATH LABEL. The mode consists of you fighting against Evaccaneer DOOM. FIVE times in a row, and the bullet density increases ten-fold with each consecutive fight.
  • Butterfly of Death and Rebirth: DOOM definitely represents the death part.
  • Combos: See Short-Range Long-Range Weapon below.
  • Crossover: DoDonPachi DaiFukkatsu BLACK Label Arrange is the closest thing there is to a sequel to this game, complete with DOOM as the final boss.
  • David vs. Goliath: Done twice. The first mid-boss, Seahorse, and the first main boss, Bullfrog, are massive helicopters compared to your puny Tiger Schwert or Panzer Jaeger. Seahorse is a fairly big common helicopter with twin pontoons, while Bullfrog is absolutely humongous, having four propellers (plus a big back-up propeller) and absolutely dwarfing your copter of choice.
  • The Determinator: "Ketsui" roughly translates to "determination." This is further emphasized by the fact that, unlike most games in the genre, the entire game is a single continuous attack on the enemy base with no breaks between the backgrounds, meaning that the pilots and gunners never rest until the end.
  • Direct Continuous Levels: Once the Score Screen ends, the background transitions into the next level.
  • Doomy Dooms of Doom: Evaccaneer DOOM.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: The UN can't let EVAC know that it's them who's conducting the attack, so the four pilots instead fly in EVAC prototypes complete with EVAC callsigns, pretending to be rebels within the company's military.
  • Easier Than Easy: Super Easy in the Deathtiny port. It lowers the bullet difficulty as low as possible, makes your shots more powerful, and guarantees the two 1-Up tokens as long as you destroy the required targets. There is only one loop and DOOM is guaranteed at the end, but in a far less brutal form.
  • Every 10,000 Points: By default, you get an extra life at 20 million points and again at 45 million points.
  • Expy: DOOM is essentially Hibachi except less bee-themed and more butterfly-themed. Even the beginning of its theme sounds similar; compare Hibachi's "Deep Red Bee" theme with DOOM's "No Remorse".
  • False Flag Operation: The whole point of disguising the pilots as employees of EVAC is to make the pilots' attack look like a rebellion within the company, keeping the heat off of the UN.
  • Flawless Victory: In Deathtiny's Arcade Challenge mode, completing an area on difficulty level 10 (arcade difficulty) without dying or bombing awards a Gold Medal for the area.
  • Game Mod:
  • Gender-Blender Name: Alice Blackburn (pictured in the DEATH Label cover above) is male.
  • Global Warming: Part of the backstory. Global warming causes melted ice caps, which causes rising sea levels, which causes all manners of natural disasters and dramatic ecopolitical changes, triggering World War III.
  • Hard Mode Filler:
    • Complete all five stages with less than 6 bombs used and lives lost to unlock the Second Round (also known as the Omote Loop), in which enemies have more firepower and release suicide bullets and the scoring system dramatically changes (for instance, no more chips larger than 1).
    • Complete all five stages with no bombs used or lives lost and a score of at least 120 million points to unlock the Special Round (also known as the Ura Loop), which has even more suicide bullets. Should you make it through this, you get to fight the True Final Boss, Evaccaneer DOOM.
  • Hard Mode Perks: In Deathtiny, activating the "Die-Custom" configuration results in the end-of-stage bonuses being even higher than what they are in the Special Round.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The final part of the mission involves the pilots' lives being sacrificed in order to keep the United Nations' involvement a secret.
  • Kaizo Trap: When Black Draft (the mid-boss of Stage 4) is defeated on the Ura Loop, it fires exactly one suicide bullet after you destroyed it.
  • Last Request: As the mission to destroy EVAC Industry involves killing the pilots involved to avoid having the operation traced back to the UN, the UN offers to fulfill the last wishes of the pilots before terminating them, no matter what those wishes are.
  • Lost in Translation: The title of Ketsui Deathtiny. "Deathtiny" is meant to be pronounced exactly like "Destiny", hinging on the fact that both words have the same pronunciation when transliterated into Japanese as "th" sounds are transliterated as if they were "s" sounds instead. Expect Westerners not familiar with this limitation to attempt to pronounce the word as "Death-tiny". Similarly, "Deathtroy" — as in the Super Mode — is meant to be pronounced like "Destroy", but a Westerner may pronounce it as "Death-troy".
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: A rare heroic example. In the ending, after the pilots have shut down EVAC, the U.N. whips up the cover-up story that EVAC was destroyed in a weapons-testing accident.
  • Meaningful Name: Gem & Ini, the sub-boss(es?) of level 2 are a pair of tanks connected together.
  • Mega-Corp: The very being of EVAC Industries. It's a massive, corrupt corporation that profits off of World War III and interrupts any attempts at world peace to keep the cash flowing.
  • Mercy Mode: True to Death Label. Everytime you fail a course, the game permanently increases the number of lives you will start with in it.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast:
    • The True Final Boss is called Evaccaneer DOOM. Appropriately, it's the hardest boss in the entire game.
    • The Super Mode you can use in Deathtiny's exclusive Arrange Mode is called "Deathtroy". And if you feel like cranking the difficulty up, there is a mode called "DIE-DEATH", as if the game is telling you to die.
  • N.G.O. Superpower: EVAC Industry has the military capacity to force World War III to keep going, and has even managed to own large swaths of land in the process.
  • Nintendo Hard:
    • The game is very challenging from the get go, with plenty of difficult patterns even in Stage 1. Furthermore the scoring system encourages the player to get up close and personal to enemies, as it requires destroying enemies at close range to get the largest multiplier chips and thus get better scores. That said, the scoring is noticably more forgiving than many other CAVE games, as it does not require the player to chain entire stages at a time (and lose out on a lot of potential score over a single mistake) like DoDonPachi or perform obtuse and non-explained techniques for wild multipliers like Espgaluda II.
    • The IKD 2007 Special arrange is even harder, as enemies have stronger attacks, and you have to get even closer to them to get '5' chips. On top of that, you only have one bomb instead of threenote , and the only way to get extra lives is to end a stage with more '5' chips than '1' chips. Oh, and while the game is only one loop, DOOM is mandatory. Happy dying!
    • Zigzagged with Deathtiny's eponymous Arrange Mode, where you automatically activate Deathtroy mode if you get hit with meter to spare and it's easy enough to keep the meter topped up. At least, unless you try to play for score, which requires chain-activating Deathtroy mode and risking getting shot, and especially if you choose to activate Die-Death mode. Like with other M2STG arrange modes, it's designed to be an "easy to clear, but hard to score" mode.
  • No-Damage Run: One of the requirements for the Special Round. In addition to scoring 120 milliion points in the first round, you also must not get hit or even use bombs (as bombs can be used for invincibility).
  • Pintsized Powerhouse: Evaccaneer DOOM is the smallest of the bosses, but as the True Final Boss, it's also the hardest boss in the entire game.
  • Post-Defeat Explosion Chain: The game has defeated bosses getting covered in small explosions, and the final explosion shakes the screen.
  • Production Throwback: The Boss Warning Siren announcement in this game is quite similar to the one in DoDonPachi, which was also developed by CAVE. The siren sound effect itself is also very similar.
    DoDonPachi announcer: You are approaching the target of attack. Your mission starts now. Are you ready?
    Ketsui announcer: Approach your target and attack! Your mission starts now! Are you ready?
  • Rated M for Manly: This is CAVE's last game that uses a purely military aesthetic, and on top of that all named characters are male.
  • Score Multiplier: You have two, increased by getting chips:
    • An enemy multiplier that's capped at 999 and is used and decreased when destroying enemies with the lock-on shot.
    • A boss multiplier that builds up throughout the stage and is applied to destroying the boss's phases with the lock-on shot, only decreasing if you get killed or once the boss battle begins but at a much slower and more gradual rate.
  • Sdrawkcab Name: EVAC is CAVE spelled backwards.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The True Final Boss, Evaccaneer DOOM, is hidden inside of Evaccaneer, the Stage 5 boss. It's only unsealed if you defeat Evaccaneer on the Special Round.
  • Short-Range Long-Range Weapon: How you score points (specifically, build up your multiplier). You start by killing an enemy at close range with your standard shot, which sets what multiplier chips you'll be getting from enemies with your lock-on shot. Closer range yields larger chips (up to size 5). You then use your lock-on shot to rack up tons of those chips before your chip timer runs out, at which chips that you release drop back to size 1.
  • Smart Bomb: Your bombs are either shot forward or at a targeted enemy. It will only damage an enemy if it is caught in the explosion and will not clear the screen of bullets. Your ship, however, gets a shield of invincibility that lasts for a little over 4 seconds.
    • Ketsui DEATH LABEL provides the "Auto-Bomb" option. In the unlikely case you were hit, you won't die but your whole bomb stock will be depleted.
    • The Deathtiny Arrange Mode has a similar mechanic, where getting hit triggers the "Deathtroy" Hyper mode.
  • Spiders Are Scary: The Stage 4 Mini-Boss, Black Draft, is an attack vehicle that resembles a six-legged spider.
  • Super Mode: The "Deathtiny" Arrange Mode introduced in the M2 Shottriggers PS4 port makes chips contribute no multiplier, but in exchange, power the "Deathtroy" mode replacing your bombs. When activated, the "Deathtroy" mode clears all bullets, your ship gains increased firepower, and the chips now contribute score directly. It's essentially DoDonPachi DaiFukkatsu Black Label's Hyper Mode in all but name. The "Deathtiny" mode even has a "Die-Death" mode that makes the enemies shoot more bullets, similarly to the Red Mode; Die-Death is deactivated if you are hit (whether you have enough Deathtroy gauge to auto-activate it or are killed outright), but can be reactivated, and if you have no spare lives left it will be disabled completely until you gain at least one life back.
  • Super Prototype: The "AH-Y72 Tiger Schwert" and "FH-X4 Panzer Jäger". The player encounters inferior production models of their helicopters on Level 5.
  • True Final Boss: Evaccaneer DOOM awaits the player at the end of the game if they unlock the Ura Loop and make it to the end of that, immediately once the normal Stage 5 boss, Evaccaneer, is defeated. Subverted in the IKD 2007 arrange, and in the Deathtiny Arrange Mode and Super Easy mode, where DOOM will always appear at the end.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The game takes place in 2054, 51 years after the game's release date. There isn't really anything to suggest that global society has improved technologically; instead Global Warming has run its course and World War III has broken out. EVAC's extremely advanced and prolific military technology can be explained by the fact that they sell their wares to stimulate the war and produce more profit to further their development.
  • Uncommon Time: "SCAFFOLD", the theme for the standard Final Boss, starts off in the conventional 4/4 time signature before alternating between 7/4 and 9/4.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: The second loop dramatically changes the scoring mechanics. In the standard Second Round, all chips higher than 1 are now gone, and you don't get chips if you kill enemies close enough to seal their suicide bullets. In the Special Round, on the other hand, you get extra chips for sealing suicide bullets, but you still can only get '1' chips. In short, it's similar to the Arrange Modes of various CAVE ports, but mandatory if you unlock them.
  • United Nations Is a Superpower: Averted. The UN is not stated to have any sort of power to stop World War III from happening or the military or diplomatic power to stop EVAC Industry. They have to pick a few elite pilots to do the job and they have to avoid having the operation traced back to them.
  • Version-Exclusive Content: EXTRA has an Arrange Mode unique to it; not even Deathtiny has it, not even as DLC.
  • Violation of Common Sense: You actually want to destroy endbosses' non-final forms with your normal shot rather than your more powerful (and, if playing as the Tiger Schwert, much more focused) lock shot. With the lock shot, you apply the stage counter multiplier to the destruction of each form, but your stage counter and end-of-stage bonus decrease significantly. (The loss in stage counter does not apply if you use the lock shot to end the boss.)
  • War for Fun and Profit: EVAC's business model, selling weapons to all countries and breaking up attempts at peace just so they can keep funding themselves.
  • Welcome to Hell: If the special 2nd loop is unlocked, this text is presented in a menacing red font against a solid black screen, warning the player of the significantly increased difficulty ahead:note 
  • Wraparound Background: All of the boss fights have this, par for the course. But of note is the Stage 4 boss, Cinderella Amber. Apparently, EVAC's main runway is only as long as it needs to be for the boss fight.

Approach your target and attack! Your mission starts now! Are you ready?


Video Example(s):


Evaccaneer DOOM (HIVAC)

DOOM's back and better than ever!

(footage from DoDonPachi DaiFukkatsu Black Label Arrange, a crossover between DoDonPachi and Ketsui)

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / BulletHell

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