Fukubukuro 2010 #1 Deathsmiles GOTY 2010


Way back in October [2010], I had plans to write my own Fukubukuro, because I would read one if one existed regardless of who wrote it.  Life and Laziness intervened and now it is May 2011.  I did end up writing a few articles of a planned 10.  Maybe this will inspire me to write the others.  I’m not going to bother to re-read the ones I have already written so I’m going to start off our Deathsmiles one with a few sentences I thought of today.


Shooting games have drawn themselves into a nitch that seems pretty hard to get out of.  You have to keep making them harder.  Deathsmiles is great because at any stage it is as easy or as hard as you like.  It brings balance to the genre.  The hardcore and the beginner both have oppurtunity to enjoyment.  You give any normal human being DoDonPachi DaiouJou and by the time they get to the transforming girl robot boss thing and have continued 3 times they might just tell you and the game to fuck each other.


I made a pretty fatal error in gaming in 2008 and 2009.  That was not playing Deathsmiles every possible time I could play Deathsmiles.  I was living in Tokyo, working a job that was paying me sporadically and I couldn’t be damned to care enough to quit.  I ended up not quitting that job until I had to come back to America.

Last time I called the company, it said the line had been disconnected.  I suppose the 3000 dollars they still owed me is also disconnected.  Despite whatever money troubles I was having back then I was still wandering arcades.  Half the time it was to check the theory that every Tekken player had a 50% W/L ratio.  That prove to be right 80% of the time.  Actually playing games in an arcade was regulated to Maximum Tune.

Which is to say, I wasn’t playing Deathsmiles.  Deathsmiles is moe.  Deathsmiles was part of why I hated going to Akihabara.

That and a whole host of other reasons.

I didn’t want to control little girls.  I wanted to be a spaceship and fighting robots.  This seems particularly weird in retrospect, considering how much time I’ve sunk into Imperishable Night over the years.  That game has brilliant bullet patterns and even more brilliant music.  IP is from a series of games made by one Japanese guy at one point.  I never really look into the series before or after that.

The man’s music and “universe” is so well respected that whole sections of the Japanese doujin scene are now doujin of his stuff.  The sure mass of purchasable remixes is frightening.  That’s sort of where Akihabara is.  It’s now incredibly recursive.  Haruhi and Lucky Star are anime about pandering to the audience by pandering to the audience.

I’ve been to a few maid cafes.  As a student it was usually to take someone else so they could have the experience.  I guess the last time I went it was the same.  My french friend kept declaring “Yes We Can!”  My American friend kept speaking bad Japanese, I kept speaking jibberish french.  The maid ________ wasn’t understanding any of it.  We were finding ourselves hilarious and glorious.

The maid used her minimal English skills to find out what we were doing in Japan.  I think I said I was homeless, and my friends lived in tea.  Our maid ____ gave a blank look of confusion.  The elevator dinged and suddenly we were Irrashaimase’d and sat at table and a picture menu.  The menu items were named in katakana but equipped with an incomprehensible low quality jpeg of desserts.  I ended up getting a Rabbit sundae and a coke.

The other white person in the restaurant started leaving as soon as he saw as at the elevator.  I love breaking the illusion of Japan by merely existing.  The illusion of this maid cafe was going to start breaking down around us.

At MGM Studios in Disney World, there’s a restaurant where your server is your Uncle.  Your Aunt and Grandma are in the kitchen.  He belittles you, he jokes with you,  you have to say hi and goodbye to everyone else in the restaurant.  It’s a glorious spectacle.  One time I didn’t get what I ordered because my uncle said I needed to eat more.  The staff and the customers are in on the joke at the same level.  The more the customers are in on the joke, the better the experience is.

The reality of my low level Jpeg was made up of just about everything I hate in deserts.  Mango, tapioca balls, and strawberry ice cream.  I ate as much of the 900 yen concoction as I could dare.  Because I was having money problems, and it wasn’t like I was going to drink those money problems away.  Before we could eat the food though, Our server maid had to make our food delicious with a moe~ chant.  We engaged in dialog with the made to make certain that the food would not be delicious until it was moe’d.  The maid, didn’t exactly get what we were going for, and it wasn’t a language barrier.

At maid cafe’s they call you “Master” and are supposedly your maid.  However, as I’m about to prove, it doesn’t exactly work out that way.    Return customers eventually get a photo taken with the maid.  The maid is actually probably slightly less attentive than a family restaurant waitress.  They are also paid less, which is the amazing part of this equation.  Maids (800 yen an hour) must actually like dressing up and serving otaku, otherwise they could be at Starbucks (1000 yen.)   You saw that ice cream price up there right?  Well I also spent 550 yen on a Coke.

This Coke, even after being made moe~delicious was flat as all hell. It took some doing with terrible non-textbook situation Japanese, but she got the picture.  She took the Coke away (all 6 ounces and filled to the brim with ice cubes.)  When my friends had finished their ice cream and had just about realized this situation was mildly depressing and not hilarious she came back to apologize poorly that they could not fix the situation regarding my Coke.

“Look, just have one of your ______ go to Don Quioxte and buy a tall can of Coke for 200 yen.  I know they are that much.  Bring it here, and I’ll pretend this was a fun experience.”

I ended up getting that Coke myself, depressed, frustrated and with 1500 less yen than I had.  “Don’t think I’m going to do that again.”   The reason the restaurant in Epcot works, is that the roleplay works both ways.  Given how little the maids are paid, it’s even more confusing how the whole enterprise works, and more where the hell is the money going?  My dessert was more than my server’s salary, and it was awful.

A year later, I was back in America, meeting Andrew Toups in Austin after once again missing his show.  I promise I’ll see you eventually on stage again Toups.  I heard they had actually opened an arcade in Austin.  We found it after a boring amount of loop arounds (Keep Austin Weird) .   I ended up watching Toups play Deathsmiles, I held off because of the moe~.  Then I felt like kicking myself because the game looked fantastic.

Outside of being able to play a french maid, the hook of Deathsmiles is that you can shoot left and right.  The screen is set scrolling, and you dance to face enemies coming from either side.  This mechanic and an excellent scoring system makes Deathsmiles:


Six months after that I had a friend’s Xbox and the special edition of Deathsmiles fresh from amazon.  Inside was a faceplate that wasn’t embarrassing because it featured little girls, but because it was a terrible cropped piece of art.  I tore into it day after day.  The moe aesthetic is mostly outside of the game.  You’re still playing little girls in it, but you’re also fighting Death, skeletons, and a giant photorealistic cow.

Each round you’re given a choice of two sets of three stages.  And here is the beauty, you can choose a difficulty rating of 1 to 3.  Level 1 is a very comfortable beginner’s challenge, while Level 3 is just difficult enough without being ridiculous.  In the home port’s 360 mode you’re allowed to chose any mode any number of times.  In Arcade mode (and at an actual arcade machine) you can only choose Level 1 and 2 once for each set of levels, but Level 3 any number of times.  If you choose Level 3 5 times you unlock suicide bullets.  Everytime something dies it throws bullets at you.  The game approaches bullet-hell hard.  If you choose to do the bonus stage, you will likely die in the first minute ascent.

The 360 mode is also equiped with online scoring and replays.  This is probably what influenced me to play the game so much.  Until right before I lost access to the 360 the top spots on most of the boards were not perfect insane runs.  They were imperfect enough for me go, “I can do better.”  Last I checked, I was number 6 on BL Arcade mode, and in the top 10 on several other modes.

One odd thing is that the bosses often do not display their most deadly bullet patterns unless you don’t kill them as fast as possible, which struck me as odd.  Death even has more difficult patterns on the lower difficulties.

I was fighting the glorious cow while my father was in the room.  He for the first time in my knowledge had a look of complete bewilderment at his son.  After I had defeat the cow and the fanservice flashcards came up I expected him to interrogate me about the moe.

“What did that cow do to you?  I don’t think this game has a good moral message!”


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