DoDonPachi

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DoDonPachi 怒首領蜂
Screenshot DDP 001.png

Title screen

Developer: CAVE
Program: Tsuneki Ikeda
Release date: Arcade
JP: February 5, 1997[1]
Sega Saturn
JP: Sep 18, 1997[2]
PlayStation
JP: Sep 10, 1998[3]

DoDonPachi (怒首領蜂 "Angry Leader Bee", abbreviated: DDP) is the second entry in the DonPachi series of shoot-em-ups, developed and released by CAVE. It expanded upon the chaining system innovated in the first game in the series, and introduced a "variation system" that allowed you to pick two different styles of three ships (Shot and Laser types), giving the player a slightly higher degree of playstyle customization.

This game in particular is considered by most STG enthusiasts to be the grandfather of the bullet hell sub-genre of shooting games, pushing bullet counts into the hundreds, especially if the player is able to reach the second loop. DoDonPachi is also the first game in the series to introduce Hibachi, the True Last Boss, who would return in all future DonPachi games as a challenge for particularly skilled players.

DoDonPachi was originally released in the arcades in 1997. It was later ported to the PlayStation and Sega Saturn home consoles. There is also a hidden, albeit very lean, port of DoDonPachi that can be unlocked in the Xbox 360 visual novel, Instant Brain. All three console ports of DoDonPachi are considered inferior to the PCB / arcade version of the game for various reasons, and are typically not played for score or competitively.

DoDonPachi is followed up by two games, DoDonPachi II: Bee Storm, developed by IGS, and DoDonPachi DaiOuJou, the direct sequel developed once again by CAVE.

Gameplay Overview

DDP TitleBG.png

DoDonPachi 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 six stages in the game, with a hidden second loop accessible by achieving certain tasks in-game.

  • 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 extra 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


Ships

DDP Ships 2x.png

Type-A: A red jetplane with fast movement that fires a concentrated straight volley of bullets. The most frequently-used ship for scoring.

  • -- Fastest movement speed | Narrow Shot width
  • -- (Shot Type) Fastest Laser activation speed and damage
  • -- (Laser Type) Slowest Laser activation speed

Type-B: A green helicopter equipped with options that rotate their firing direction with the player's movement direction. Recommended for advanced / technical players.

  • -- Average movement speed | Adjustable options create unique chain opportunities only possible with this ship
  • -- (Laser Type) Fastest Laser activation speed

Type-C: A blue plane that moves slowly, but has the most powerful shot, which fires in a wide spread. Commonly recommended for beginner players due to the weapon strength.

  • -- Slowest movement speed | Most powerful Shot, with the biggest horizontal range
  • -- (Shot Type) Weakest Laser and slowest Laser activation speed


Ship Types

  • Shot Type: Increases the strength of the player's Shot, dealing more damage and firing greater shot spreads, but with a weaker Laser and slower movement speed when Lasering
  • Laser Type: Increases the strength of the player's Laser, movement speed when Lasering, producing a bigger aura, and instantly destroying zako
    • All Laser Type ships deal the same amount of damage with the Laser
Ddp hitbox.jpg


Hitboxes

The hitboxes for the three ships and sub-types are all of the same size. When the player is moving horizontally, the hitbox is gradually shrinking slightly in width. The height stays the same.

  • Default position: 6x7 pixel
  • Leaning towards one side: 5x7 pixel
  • Fully moving horizontally: 4x7 pixel


Scoring

Seeing Stars!

There are three types of stars for the player to collect in the game; Ground Stars (300pts), Small Stars (100pts), and Large Stars (10000pts). Stars are also re-calculated into score bonuses at the end of the stage. Ultimately, star collection does not make a significant difference to the player's score, and it's recommended for players aiming for high scores to focus more on chaining (below).


Hit Chaining / Get Point System

The central scoring mechanic of DoDonPachi is the Get Point System (GPS), returning from DonPachi, which emphasizes scoring by performing hit/kill chains upon enemies and the environment, in quick succession. Whereas DonPachi focused primarily on connecting a bunch of very brief chains for big score gains, DoDonPachi makes the chaining a little bit more lenient, giving the player more ways to prevent chains from breaking -- pushing the chaining even further by allowing you to full-chain an entire stage for massive score bonuses -- it is not unrealistic to achieve chains well over 100 HITs with practice and routing. Chain breaks are prevented by destroying enemies and objects, training your Laser on strong enemies (which now stalls the chain meter and slowly increases your HIT gain), and revealing hidden bees (see below). This chaining system has been a minor point of contention for some fans of the shmup genre, as it demands high levels of skill and perfection from the player in order to achieve respectable scores at a high level of play.

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.


Boss HIT Calculation

The Get Point System functions differently in boss fights in DoDonPachi, removing the GP Meter. Instead, you gain HITs slowly by hitting bosses with the Laser, with the HIT count dropping rapidly when you are not Lasering the boss. Uniquely to DoDonPachi, when the boss reaches red health (you'll hear the VO say "Just a couple more shots!"), firing off a Laser Bomb will rapidly increase the HIT count. In most cases, the Laser Bomb will also destroy the boss.

After destroying the boss, the player is awarded points based off of the following calculations:

200,000 + (100,000 * stage number) + hit count * (2,000 + 1,000 * stage number)

(Note: stage numbers do not count the loop, so 1-1 and 2-1 will have the same stage number.)


MAXIMUM Bomb Bonus

Another challenging point of contention for players, the MAXIMUM Bomb Bonus is pretty straightforward -- when you collect a Bomb icon while your Bombs are already at maximum capacity, the player activates MAXIMUM Mode, awarding them 220pts x (MAXIMUM Multiplier) every frame (1/60fps); there is one very rare exception in the Trivia section. The MAXIMUM Bomb multiplier starts at 2, and is increased by 1 for every Bomb collected while in MAXIMUM Mode, and the score will continue to pour in until the player uses a Bomb, or dies. MAXIMUM multiplier value does not drop on death, so if a player ever exits the mode, they can re-activate it through normal play and their previous score gain will resume. The bomb bonus stops giving players score during boss fights, but will resume score gain upon entering the next stage.

The MAXIMUM Bomb Bonus is critical for high level scoring, particularly if the player is able to carry it to the second loop, where the score gain is very lucrative. A player who is able to get a perfect MAX Bomb Bonus (no miss / no bomb for the entire game, collecting every Bomb capsule) can earn as much as ~260,000,000pts added to their run.


Hidden Bee Items

The hidden bee items that premiered in DonPachi return here, uncovered by lasering the spot that the bees are hidden. 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:

| 100 | 200 | 400 | 800 | 1000 | 2000 | 4000 | 8000 | 10000 | 20000 | 40000 | 80000 | 100000 |

When the final bee (100000pts) in a stage is collected, the next stage's bee icons will gain increased point value (1-1 1st bee = 100pts -> 1-2 1st bee = 200pts -> 1-3 1st bee = 400pts, etc.), increasing with each bee perfect until every bee collected is worth 1,000,000pts. If the player dies even once, the collected value of bees is dropped, and returns back to the start of the scoring pattern (100pts). Revealing a bee will add GP meter to your chain, helping prevent chain breaks when playing through stages.

If the player is able to collect every single bee throughout both loops, the total point gain is 37,803,900pts.

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 Stage 6

Strategy

See DoDonPachi/Strategy for stage maps, enemy and boss descriptions, walkthroughs, and advanced play strategies.

Second Loop

Like its predecessor DonPachi, DoDonPachi features a second loop with more aggressive enemies firing much larger amounts of bullets at a higher frequency. Accessing the second loop is the only way to fight the Last Boss Taisabachi and the True Last Boss of the game, Hibachi.

However, unlike DonPachi, the player must meet certain requirements during play in order to access the second loop. To get to the second loop, the player must accomplish any one of the following four tasks:

  • Lose a ship two times or less
  • Achieve one of the following maximum HIT counts:
    • 270 hits (Type-A)
    • 300 hits (Type-B)
    • 330 hits (Type-C)
  • Score at least 50,000,000pts by the end of Stage 1-6
  • Collect all 13 hidden bee icons in four stages

In addition the player must be playing solo to be able to access the second loop.

Scoring Tricks

  • Destroying the large green carrier ships will make them drop more Stars the closer they are to the bottom of the screen. If they are destroyed while on the very bottom of the screen, they will drop a single Large Star instead of many Small Stars.
  • In Stage 1: Destroying one of the boss's side turrets while they're rotating around the boss and shooting blue needle shots will make the boss drop ten Large Stars instead of two.
  • In Stage 2: Destroying the large bunker turret before the appearance of the mid-boss will reveal a patch of flowers in place of the turret. By hovering over these flowers, the player will gain 10pts every frame they are touching the flowers.
  • In Stage 3: A significant amount of score can be earned during the second half of the stage, with the teleporting enemies that shoot volleys of pink needles, and the large yellow transport ships. The yellow transport ships, when destroyed, will cancel every enemy bullet on screen, rewarding the player points for each bullet canceled. The more bullets that are being created by the needle shooters, the greater the point gain. This technique is a great way to get points in Stage 3, especially if the player hasn't developed a chain route for the stage.
  • In Stage 4: A "destroyed" Toaplan logo on the left side of the screen also contains a hidden patch of flowers. Hovering near the flowers causes them to bloom, gaining the same 10pts/frame score bonus for hovering over them. These flowers can be hit with the Shot for 510pts each hit, or 1,100pts every 1/30th /second with the player's Laser.

Differences on 2P-Side

For some reason, many shooting games feature differences in game behavior when the player is playing on the player 2 side rather than the player 1 side (likely the result of programming errors), and DoDonPachi is not an exception to this. When a credit is being played on the 2P side of the screen, the following changes occur:

  • (1P) When your MAXIMUM Bomb Bonus is active, your chain will not drop when using a Laser Bomb.
  • (2P) Small Stars accumulate over the course of the whole game, rather than on a per-stage basis. This results in higher than average end-stage bonuses that increase steadily as the game goes on. This makes it possible for the 2P side to score higher than the 1P side (in theory) and puts a slightly greater scoring value on Small Stars.
  • (2P) When using a Laser Type ship, the Stage 2-3 mid-boss is less aggressive than it is on 1P.
  • (2P) Hibachi's final attack will only shoot fast bullets, regardless of in-game rank.

Story / Plot

( in progress )

Development History

DoDonPachi's development began shortly after the release of its predecessor, DonPachi. It was the second game developed by Cave; DDP ended up being the favored game over another canceled project, "Danmaku Tengoku"; that game's development was terminated due to unsolvable problems regarding art & sprite design. Another canceled Cave game, "Oni Death", was also worked on in parallel with DDP, but it too ended up being canceled for unknown reasons despite having a solid concept and graphical design.

Regardless, many mechanics from DonPachi would make a return as stated prior. The mechanic of suicide bullets, however, was not carried over from DonPachi for 4 reasons: the pacing of DDP was very important, so having suicide bullets would force the player to stagger their shooting; second, chaining in the second loop would become too difficult; third, many other arcade games already had them at the time; and finally Ikeda himself was tired of the mechanic itself and how it impacted gameplay.

In the middle of DDP's development, manga artist Junya Inoue joined Cave and the project. When he joined, the only work left to be done was the ship select, opening demo, last boss, and ending. It was Inoue who asked IKD "Could I put a colonel or something like that at the end?"; he was given the greenlight for the design and text of the series' villain, Colonel Schwarlitz Longhena. Inoue's general attitude towards DDP's art was very relaxed, yet directionless; "[...]things like the story and opening weren't seen as very important. So my boss at the time told me, 'It's not that important, so Inoue, you do it.'" He was lost as to what he should have done, as since most of the art was already complete, he struggled to come up with a story after the fact - something that many years later he still wonders about.

Despite this, "I ended up studying up on DonPachi, and realized it didn't have that deep of a story. Well, now I could relax a little...and with that feeling my work at Cave began." He further elaborates on his methodology; "[...]I think that for each game you work on you have to take things according to their circumstances, and not be too hung up on particular ideas. I think that in a game's characters and background, you find the core of the story, and the world of the game flows from there." DonPachi/DoDonPachi had a world and story that - in contrast to many games at the time - were not that intertwined; while Inoue tried his hardest to create a backstory, "I thought I would never reach something on the level of the Raystorm games. With that being the case, I had a very blasé attitude about it and the result was that I just worked on things in a very casual way, not taking it too seriously." In light of all of his work, Inoue wishes to not recieve too much credit/respect for DDP; he wants IKD to have that instead, for he was the one that designed the game's "charismatic bosses". A senior employee at Cave - as told by Inoue - announced that his image for DDP was Space Battleship Yamato. With this in mind, Inoue thought about "refining the story of DDP to be more like 70s era sci-fi, and the phrase 'shinu ga yoi' just came out naturally. [...] They seemed like phrases that Battleship Yamato villains like Lord Desler or Emperor Zwoda would say."

IKD recalls in an interview for Cave's 15th anniversary, that while Inoue had a small part in DDP's development, he - in his typical fashion - would later be critical of the game's setting; saying "This colorful world of mechas is ridiculous!". This directly influenced the art direction of the next game by Cave - ESP.RA.DE. - as Inoue was assigned as its graphic leader, and wanted a "more realistic" and "inhabited" world for it, in contrast to DDP.

When designing the game's true final boss - Hibachi - Tsuneki Ikeda recalls it conceptually being a test for the limits of human dodging ability, so there wasn't an intended "requirement" for lives/bombs when a player reaches them; it was more so of "can this be done on one credit?" - this perhaps is the reason why he would later say that a NMNB clear of DDP was "theoretically humanly possible". The reason for Hibachi's small size, as he says, was for having more space on the screen to create the danmaku patterns (which memory limitations ensured was the only way); its first form, the Final Demonic Weapon aka "Big Bee" was closer to his original image of a final boss. However, this ended up conflicting with other things he wanted to do, as its size made it impossible to create truly hellish patterns; thus he chose its patterns over sprite design (which dumbfounded the other graphic designers on the project). During the last portion of the game's development (the final 2-3 weeks where extensive playtesting and debugging were done), Cave determined that the boss as-is was possible, and so it was left at that difficulty; a difficulty level that as later revealed was specifically tailored for average people: to make DDP a "user friendly game".

This is a sentiment that IKD would contradict much later; in a 2010 issue of Arcadia magazine he says that "I actually thought [Hibachi] might be impossible", recalling how even the STG lovers at Cave deemed DDP "WAY too much!" He wanted Hibachi to "give even advanced players a fight that would test their skills to the utmost. [...] if you weren't gritting your teeth to the end of that fight, it would be meaningless. I wanted people to look at Hibachi and laugh, to be like 'This is ridiculous!'" The idea of Hibachi having a bomb barrier came from a joke him and a senior colleague at Toaplan used to share: “Hey, wouldn’t it be funny if, when you used a bomb on the last boss, he put up a barrier? Hahaha…” While IKD said at the time that it would be too far, "[..]secretly I was thinking to myself: this is a great idea. When the time came for DDP, I thought with Hibachi, it's now or never! And it became a basic feature of all our final bosses after that."

After the game's release, Cave would later remark that they were very confident about the game and its demonstration of (at the time) the enduring popularity of STG arcade games. Satoshi Kouyama, a sub-programmer of the game, remarked that the heart of the game's fun is a "simple joy of dodging bullets"/"that visceral experience of dodging the patterns"; that is, it attracts both superplayers and everyday players (such as having people swarm its arcade cabinets, which is the first game IKD developed that got that treatment). He says that the opinion of normal players was where everything was risked - whether or not they would enjoy the bullet dodging - thus, to see that idea understood and praised, pleased Cave. Much later, in 2010, IKD would tell that "as [DDP] neared completion, I started to think about it more objectively, and worried, 'There's a chance this might be hated by everyone...'" due to the game's sheer bullet count.

This is not to say that superplayers were disregarded; on the contrary, Cave thought that it would take 6 months a player to achieve a 2-ALL (completing both loops): in reality it took only a month, a fact that shocked Kouyama when he and IKD learned of the news. As said before, the game's playtesting intensified towards the end of development; one method used was calculating scoring limits by way of using invincibility. They ended up only reaching around 400 million, 200 million lower than the world record at the time in 1997: 600 million points, by ZBL-NAI, using C-S. Another top player of that time, Osada Sennin, remarked to Kouyama that he found the game's difficulty to be "pleasing more than hard", which came as both a surprise, and a display of how "there was a level above what [Kouyama] thought was the ceiling on a player's skill".

Speaking of 1997, there was another variant of the game being developed for a scoring competition to celebrate the release of the later ill-seen Sega Saturn port; this was titled "DoDonPachi Campaign Version". For more information about this version, go here.

The editors of Gamest in 1998 remarked of how their love of DDP stemmed from the Get Point System; as it "allows players who are just going for a clear to start gradually and naturally building scoring into their runs. [...]the chaining in DoDonPachi has been [for many players] their first experience learning and caring about scoring." They add on as to how players playing for survival would get caught on wanting to optimize for HIT count, and thus were gradually induced into scoring. This was seen as "a revolutionary gameplay system" by said editors, and was as one editor told "emblematic of what makes DDP such an original, special game to play". IKD and Kouyama spoke about how their playstyles opposed one another - one was a survivor, the other a scorer; yet in the end "This wonderful system came about because the both of you [...] were able to create a gameplay system that somehow fully satisfied you both" as summed by a Gamest interviewer. IKD said of how during DonPachi that a friend of his told him of how "It would be more fun if you could do more chaining", which he agreed with.

The game's lengthy and overall relaxed development allowed Cave, according to IKD, to make the game that they truly wanted. While development typically would end with the want of a few more additions or polish, DoDonPachi was felt to be a genuinely complete game after development concluded. The triad of difficulty balance, enemy placement, and danmaku patterns respectively having so much time spent upon them is a large part of why - as IKD believes - DDP succeeded. Kouyama adds that due to much of the basics already having been built in the preceding game DonPachi there wasn't much time needed to work on the finer details of gameplay; focus could be directed to the things that they wanted to work on. IKD was very thankful to have such time, and while he was happy if he could give Cave's next game the same treatment, he "somehow doubt[ed] that will be the case", a sentiment which would turn out to be correct.

Even 13 years later, Ikeda still considers DDP his most memorable and completed game. He stressed that despite the support he recieved in-house, should his attempt at "evolution" have turned out to be a failure it would have meant "[his] entire 'schema' for games was off" and thus "[He told himself that he] would quit making games and leave the industry". "In that sense", he says, "I feel like DoDonPachi kind of saved me"; "[...]DoDonPachi was a very memorable, positive experience for me."

Trivia

  • Despite the variety in bullet visuals, all bullets in DoDonPachi share the same hitbox size. This property is also shared with DoDonPachi DaiOuJou and Ketsui: Kizuna Jigoku Tachi.
  • This is the first entry in the DonPachi series that introduces Hibachi as the True Last Boss awaiting at the end of the game.
  • The MAXIMUM Bomb Bonus can have its bonus value corrupted.
    • The first known public mention of the corrupted MAXIMUM Bonus was in December 2016 by the user "khinra" on the System11 forums. It couldn't be confirmed at the time but reverse engineering of the DoDonPachi MAME ROM set revealed that the report was most likely legitimate.
    • The technical details of the glitch can be viewed here, however in brief: should enough slowdown be generated prior to a player picking up a bomb item to trigger the MAXIMUM Bomb Bonus, there is a slim chance (estimated to be roughly 1 in 8000) for a vertical blank interrupt to corrupt the MAXIMUM Bonus value held within the game's memory stack (output by a function which converts the value for said Bonus from an unsigned 16-bit integer to binary-coded decimal).

References

  1. "Differences between 1P and 2P player sides (various games)", by Plasmo | https://shmups.system11.org/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=64256
  2. Confirmation of Bee perfect requirements for the second loop provided by Juju Kenobi | via STG Rev. 2020 Discord
  3. Boss HIT calculations provided by moozooh | via STG Rev. 2020 Discord
  4. Laser strength and activation speed tested and confirmed by Plasmo | via STG Rev. 2020 Discord
  5. Other various information confirmations and suggestions provided by Plasmo and Juju Kenobi | via STG Rev. 2020 Discord
  6. Technical explanation of Corrupted MAXIMUM Bomb Bonus by Olifante | via STG Rev. 2020 Discord
  7. Primary info provided by CHA-STG
  8. Bee maps provided by ptoing