DonPachi (首領蜂 "Leader Bee", abbreviated: DP) is the first game developed by CAVE, and the first entry in the DonPachi series of shoot-em-ups. It is one of the first games in its genre to introduce a chaining system, which would become a well-known staple of the series. Alongside Batsugun (by Toaplan), DonPachi is considered to be one of the progenitors of the shooting game sub-genre known as "bullet hell". It also features a man named "Bob" as the primary VO of the game, and we love him very much.
DonPachi was originally released in the arcades in 1995. It was later ported to the PlayStation and Sega Saturn home consoles. (The ports of DonPachi are considered inferior to the arcade version of the game, and are typically not played for score.)
DonPachi was followed up with DoDonPachi in 1997, leaving CAVE's mark on the shooting game world.
DonPachi is a three-button shooter (although the C button is turned off by default, and can be enabled in the dipswitches in service mode).
There are five stages in the game, with a second loop beginning at the end of stage five. Upon reaching the end of the second loop, the player will fight the True Last Boss, Taisabachi. There are no requirements for entering the loop or fighting the TLB.
- A (Press): Fires the standard "spread" Shot weapon
- A (Hold): Fires the ship's "focus" Laser weapon (also surrounds the player with an Aura that deals severe damage)
- B: Releases a Bomb, clearing the screen of bullets and dealing massive damage to enemies on screen
- When pressing B by itself, the player will release a Spread Bomb, which damages everything on screen
- When pressing B while holding A, the player will release a Laser Bomb, which fires a massive laser blast from the ship that deals extremely high damage to anything in its path
- C: Auto-fire for the player's standard Shot. Shot frequency with C is higher than what can normally be achieved with putting auto-fire on button A. Therefore, some advanced chains are only possible with C
There are three ships in DonPachi. Playing on 2p side purely has cosmetic effects.
There are two types of bombs, Spread Bombs (press B while not lasering) and Laser Bombs (press B while lasering). Laser Bombs do particular damage to bosses so they are highly recommended here for survival players.
From the start the player holds 3 bomb slots. With every 3 bombs used, the bomb display is extended by 1 slot up to a maximum of 7 slots.
After the end of each stage, the player is rewarded with extra bombs depending on the stage number. These extra bombs only fill up the existing slots. If a player already has a full stock, no extra bombs will be added.
|1-1 & 2-1||1|
|1-2 & 2-2||2|
|1-3 & 2-3||3|
|1-4 & 2-4||4|
In the US version of DonPachi the player will always be rewarded with a full bomb stock regardless of the stage cleared.
There are two extra lives to be gained in DonPachi.
- By reaching 2,000,000pts the player is rewarded with one extra life.
- There is a hidden 1-Up item in the central building located at the end of the corridor with the stationary red ships to the sides in the second half of stage 1-4. If you use a bomb while destroying this building, the 1-Up item will not appear. There are no other requirements to make the item appear.
Note: The building only holds the extra life in stage 1-4. There is no extra life here to be found in 2-4. Therefore, the maximum number of lives in stock is 4.
Hidden Bomb Items
Fulfilling certain conditions, there is a handful of hidden bomb items to be found. This is particularly relevant to survival players.
- Destroy the two hoverboats in stage 3 only after they have come to a halt for one bomb each. This works on both loops.
- Destroy the green midsized enemies towards the end of stage 2-2 without the use of a bomb. If done correctly, each of the enemies will drop a bomb item for a total of 3 extra bombs. [loop 2 only]
- Destroy the two hatches to the left and right side of the 2-3 boss without the use of a bomb for one extra bomb item each. [loop 2 only]
The rank system of Donpachi works as follows. First, a modifier is calculated:
|modifier = power*2 + bombstock + **(max hit - 20)/8
**skip if max hit < 20
Then, we can use this modifier to calculate the rank:
|rank = modifier + stage*2 + survivalframes/2048 + loop*16 + lives + bees|
- Everything starts counting from 0, so stages 0-4 for 1-1 to 1-5; loops 0-1 for loop 1 and 2. Default starting lives are counted as 3 not 2.
- Power refers to your power level and increases every 2 Power-Up items collected. A sound effect "power up!" is played when you increase your power level by 1.
- The final result of this formula and therefore the rank itself is capped at 63.
Additionally, there is a no miss flag that is either ON and OFF. This trigger solely affects the behavior of the suicide bullets during the loop. If it's ON, the random spread of the bullets is much wider, the bullets are faster, and a different type of thicker bullets is found in between. The suicide bullets during the loop become gradually harder. So even on max rank with a no miss, the difficulty of the suicide bullets is much harder in 2-2 than it is in 2-1 and so on.
As the rank cap of 63 is set comparatively low, advanced players will reach max rank as early as stage 1-5 thereby making the whole formula feel unnecessarily convoluted. Rank control is generally not considered to be a viable strategy neither for scoring nor survival.
Observable Screen & Playing Field
As in many other shmups, the screen in DonPachi only shows about 3/4 of the horizontal playing field, leaving some parts to the sides of the screen not observable to the player. It's important to note that this phenomenon has no effect on ground enemies but does affect most (but not all!) airborne enemies in their spawn position on screen. In fact, the x-axis position of many airborne enemies is decided in relation to the viewable screen only and not by the absolute playing field.
To give an example, in the left image the player is at the left edge of the playing field and in the right image the player hugs the right edge. Nonetheless, the x-axis position of the item carrier is exactly the same relative to the observable screen. This also means that the absolute coordinate of the x-axis position is different when the full playing field is considered. This results in the fact that airborne enemies spawn in slightly different places for their x-axis position.
The full deviation of the x-axis spawn points of airborne enemies is shown in the image to the left. The red lines mark the two extreme coordinates of the x-axes when the player has hugged the two edges of the playing field by the time the enemy had entered on screen. This has potentially great effects on devising a chain route as the player can control the enemy spawn positions to a certain extent. For instance, when spawning the item carrier in this scenario more to the right, it becomes possible to damage the cockpit of the ship that would otherwise be blocked as seen on the left. This way, the player can keep the item carrier alive including it in the chain and is able to weaken the cockpit for a better setup overall.
The deviation of the two extreme x-axis positions roughly equals the size of the unobservable portions of the playing field.
The central scoring mechanic of DonPachi is the Get Point System (GPS), which rewards the player with huge score by performing hit/kill chains upon enemies and the environment, in quick succession. The chaining in DonPachi is very strict, requiring that the player destroy another enemy or object within 0.5 seconds (30 frames) of the previous destroyed object. The only way the player can keep their chain from dropping is by destroying another enemy, unlike in later games in the series that provided additional ways to keep a chain going (e.g. connecting your laser to a midsize enemy). Because of this, DonPachi typically emphasizes collecting points from multiple, smaller chains instead of connecting one chain through an entire stage.
The scoring formula of the chain system looks as follows:
|hit count * A + (hit count - 1) * B + (hit count - 2) * C + ... + 1 * Z
(whereas A, B, C, ... , Z are the base values of the enemies chained in successive order)
For example, a 3 Hit chain with the successive enemy base values of (A = 100), (B = 600), and (Z = 300), results in 1,800pts (3*100 + 2*600 + 1*300 = 1,800).
If the player were to destroy the same enemies but in a different order, this will also have an effect on the total score gain. With that in mind, destroying the previous enemies in the order of (A = 600), (B = 300), and (Z = 100) yields 2,500pts total (3*600 + 2*300 + 1*100 = 2,500). For this reason, it is more lucrative to destroy enemies with a higher base value as early on in the chain as possible.
Enemy point values
- Main article: DonPachi/Enemy list
Bomb Capacity Bonus
One of the most important sources for score apart from the Chaining is the Capacity Bonus. When the player does not lose a single life and has not used more than two bombs overall throughout the whole game, they are rewarded with a gradually-increasing Capacity Bonus after each stage. This bonus looks as follows:
|2-1 to 2-5||5,000,000|
If the player has died once or bombed a third time, the Capacity Bonus is dramatically decreased and a much smaller bonus is rewarded solely based on the number of bomb slots. This bonus is as follows:
|Bomb Slots||Capacity Bonus|
There are 13 bees to collect in each stage, and collecting a bee icon awards the player points, with each collected bee in a stage awarding increased point gain. Unlike in later games of the series, this bonus does not carry over between stages.
If the player dies, the Bee Medal value resets back to 100.
The following maps show you the locations of the 13 bees for each of the stages.
|Stage 1||Stage 2||Stage 3||Stage 4||Stage 5|
Star Items have to be uncovered on the ground (uncovering them contributes as a Hit for the Chain) and give 300pts each when picked up. Additionally, the player is rewarded with 1,000pts each for every Star Item collected at the end of a stage. The player is not rewarded with this end bonus if they have died after the collection of a Star Item.
Power-Up Items are worth 10,000pts if picked up when fully powered up. Similarly, Bomb Items are also worth 10,000pts when they are collected while the player has a full bomb stock.
End Game Bonus
Upon reaching the end of the second loop and destroying Taisabachi, the player is rewarded with 1,000,000pts per remaining life and 10,000pts per remaining bomb.
There are four different PCB revisions for DonPachi.
|The original version of DonPachi and the standard to play whether you're hunting for a 1cc or shoot for high scores.|
|A significantly easier version of the game. Much lower rank and the bombstock is fully refilled after each stage. Good for beginners.|
Features English language text for the story.
|A version with presumably fewer tweaks. Rank seems to have no changes. The only documented difference is an easier final attack pattern for the first boss (both loops).|
Likely to feature Korean language story, which is unfortunately only displayed as garbled Japanese text on Mame.
Hong Kong Version
|Insanely difficult version with much higher rank right from the start. The masochist's choice.|
No intermission nor ending sequence.
- The HIT count of the chain will be displayed on screen from 10 HITs onwards. The number will increase in size from 30 HITs onwards. To make the HIT display show the large font permanently, the player has to hold Up + Left and then press A + Start anywhere in the game during a run. This command has a purely cosmetic effect and does not affect the gameplay in any way. What this command also does is display your max hit chain count in your gp window as long as you're not actively chaining.
- During an active chain, the HIT count will be displayed in red color. When you finish the chain with less than 50 HITs the counter will be blue. After a 50 to 99 HIT chain it will be green and a chain of 100 HITs or more will be displayed in yellow color after it ends.
- The default ranking screen has a hidden message when the letters of the player's initials are read vertically across entries: TOAPLAN.FOREVER (shown on the left).
- During the credits sequence after the second loop, Toaplan's mascot Pipiru can be spotted clinging onto the Type A ship and then vanishing into goofiness (shown on the right).
References & Contributors
- Scoring info and formatting work provided by Plasmo
- Basic info and formatting work provided by CHA-STG
- Gifs for the ships taken from http://www.slateman.net/beestorm/donpachi/
- Item sprites taken from http://www.world-of-arcades.net/Cave/DonPachi/score_system.htm
- Rank info based on messages by "smc" posted on Discord on August 18th and August 25th, 2020.