Why we are not perverts for liking DeathSmiles

Gothic Lolitas in lacy outfits face bullet hell in Aksys Games’ Deathsmiles. From what we’ve seen so far, the 360 port of the Japanese arcade shoot ‘em up (or shmup), features gorgeous levels and thick waves of bullets to needle your way through as you pilot your fashionable princess past bosses and enemies. But really, it’s the game’s sexualized Gothic Lolita girls – not the actual game or its gameplay – that seems to be getting all the attention recently.

From left to right: The bookish one, the innocent princess, the tough girl, and the flirty seductress. Looks like the all the sub-fetishes are covered

This is a bit of a shame, but isn’t surprising. Despite the complete lack of adult content, the game’s promotional art is full of sexually charged images, like the box art on the right, which shows the main characters cuddling with each other on a bed of roses. Fortunately, once we made our way past the knee-high boots and frilly skirts that dominate the menu screens, we found a straightforward, yet solid, shooter that should satisfy shmup fans, regardless of whether or not they're into DeathSmiles Gothic Lolita gimmick.

You’ll be able to switch between shooting to the left and right sides of the screen as enemies assault you from angles. You’ll also get extra points for grabbing items from fallen enemies, which boost your score multiplier – and the usual “bombs” that clear the screen whenever you find yourself in a tight spot. In this sense, DeathSmiles is a fairly conventional shooter. But the game’s real attraction is its lush background art and bizarre bosses.

Above: Saying that DeathSmiles is just a game about sexualized little girls is like saying that Lolita was just a movie about a pedophile

Above: This creepy boss reminds us of something you'd see in Altered Beast

Expect to fly past everything from colorful Victorian cities, to gloomy graveyards and ballroom dances. One of the game’s more unique bosses takes the form of a hideous face that emerges from a mountainside to spit rocks. Another boss battle finds you struggling to keep a raging bull at bay as it chases after you.

After playing through a recently released preview build, we found it  a little disappointing that a horizontal scrolling game like this doesn’t take full advantage of a widescreen monitor. Instead, it pads the left and right hand sides of your screen with background art.

Above: You only take damage if a bullet or enemy hits the heart at the center of your character’s sprite, which means that you’ve got more room to play with

Even though you can choose your own route through the game, the singleplayer mode still seemed a bit short. But we expect that the online leader boards will add a lot of replay value to the otherwise short, but sweet, shooter. Even casual shooter fans should be able to blast through the singleplayer story mode with few continues, but if you crank up the difficulty level to boost your score, the game will smother you with thick swarms of enemies and bullets - and it’s these sorts of impossible situations that call for pinpoint precision that hardcore shmup fans will really love, and they’ll be rewarded for surviving these scenarios with lots of extra points to help them climb the leaderboard.

Here’s to hoping that DeathSmiles will join Geometry Wars and Ikaruga on our list of games that we’ll keep on playing long after we’ve beaten it just to improve our rankings on Xbox LIVE. DeathSmiles is already out in Japan, but it’ll be available for the 360 in North America on June 29.

May 7, 2010


  • Burningblade04 - July 16, 2010 11:40 a.m.

    youre all have been missing a few points of what this game really is 1. it's made by cave. they've been known for making bullet hell shmups since the arcade times 2. its got a solid soundtrack(gothic metal is a rare genre in video games) I don't think anyone should ever judge a book by their covers, you really should trust the developers on this.
  • Apollomon - May 11, 2010 10:49 a.m.

    honestly i would not have said any of the images on this screen are that provocative...i can see the style and theme, but they very "softcore" even for seductive anime style the gameplay maybe good but agreeing with vadorsoul...i could not walk up to a checkout with this
  • MaynardJ - May 10, 2010 8:47 a.m.

    Looks like a boxed game... at a discount price I might get this. Like all other games I bought in the last 10 years.:-)
  • EnragedTortoise1 - May 9, 2010 8:44 p.m.

    I'm turned on by these... don't hurt me. Again, my usual response: Gah, I wish I had a 360, blah blah blah, not worth the 300, blah blah...
  • tommat93 - May 9, 2010 6:14 p.m.

    Gameplay is all well and good, but will there be something I can jerk to? Just askin' for a friend. *relieves himself and leaves*
  • thephntm - May 9, 2010 4:07 p.m.

    @Ded: Yeah someone I know (wink wink)
  • Clovin64 - May 9, 2010 10:41 a.m.

    Kinda looks like "Metal Slug: Pheodophile Edition". Also that cover art made me feel funny. But I have no life, so thats a valid excuse, right? I need therapy.
  • vadorsoul - May 9, 2010 6:57 a.m.

    yeah.... it could be the best shmup ever, but i dont think i could ever forgive my self if i was had to walk up to a checkout counter with this.
  • CH3BURASHKA - May 9, 2010 6:19 a.m.

  • R3DRUN - May 8, 2010 6:18 p.m.

    @johngrybos LOL, they should publish Cho Aniki for PSN and XBLA, they would make so much "i am not gay for buying, just a perv" money.
  • johngrybos - May 8, 2010 4:26 p.m.

    Yeah, and you totally aren't gay if like Cho Aniki. Perv.
  • H311DUCk - May 8, 2010 2:49 p.m.

    Looks interesting anyone know if it's going to be an XBLA game or box release?
  • Ded - May 8, 2010 10:01 a.m.

    @thephntm Someone you know, huh? ;) I love the bizarre looking enemies :D this looks interesting!
  • Ravenbom - May 8, 2010 6:56 a.m.

    I don't know why, but I tend to like overhead shumps more.
  • Setre - May 8, 2010 5:34 a.m.

    Can't wait for this game. Never been a huge fan of shmups but I'm digging the art style. Figure Death Smiles is good as any place to start.
  • thephntm - May 8, 2010 12:38 a.m.

    cool. Is it still wrong if someone i know is turned on by lolis, even if they're 14?

Showing 1-16 of 16 comments

Join the Discussion
Add a comment (HTML tags are not allowed.)
Characters remaining: 5000