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Deathsmiles (デススマイルズ?) is a horizontal side scrolling shoot 'em up arcade game by Japanese developer Cave, released in late 2007. It is notable for its aesthetic style, featuring heavy occult and gothic influences. It is only the second Cave shoot 'em up to be played using a horizontally-oriented monitor (the first being Progear no Arashi). On January 16, 2010 it was announced that it would be the first Cave shooter released in the US on a console.[1]


Instead of the typical lives in traditional shooters, the player is given a pool of life points (initially 3). 1 point is lost when player is hit by bullet, 1/2 point when colliding with enemy or hit by a non-bullet attack. The game ends when the player's life points are depleted. Life points can be restored by items, and the maximum life point is increased when reaching certain scores (default 20 and 45 million points).

When an enemy is destroyed, it fires a yellow counter bullet that is smaller than the regular bullet fired from an enemy. When the familiar is hit by counter bullet, the player's item counter is increased, which leads to an increased score. However, stage bosses do not fire counter bullets.


  • Windia: Wind user.
  • Casper: Phantom user.
  • Follett: Fire user.
  • Rosa: Fairy user.
  • Sakura: Stage B-2 boss. In Mega Black Label, she is also a playable character.


  • Left shot: Press A button.
  • Right shot: Press B button.
  • Auto lock shot: Press A and B button simultaneously. Player fires when familiar chooses a target.
  • Bomb: Press C button.

When holding a shot button, player and familiar fire different shot pattern from tapping shot button.

Bullets are blocked by walls, but does not injure player when touching walls.


Each player has an accompanying familiar, which can fire its own shots and chooses target in auto lock shot. It can also block enemy bullets. Its movement is opposite to player's.


Jewelry can gain points. LifeUp recovers life points. Magic gains 1 bomb.

Item counter system

When player obtains an item, or when familiar touches counter bullet, the item counter is increased (maximum 1000). In case of familiar touching counter bullet, the bullet is destroyed.

When item counter is full, pressing A and B button simultaneously causes both player and familiar to fire more powerful shots than normal, while item counter begins to decrease. When player collides with enemy in this state, player does not lose life point. Enemy also drops more item when destroyed by powered shots. The powerup effect continues until item counter reaches 0.


Stages are arranged in Chapter and Scene format, with 3 Chapters and 2 Scenes per Chapter for the first 6 stages. Player can choose the order of stages by arranging the A, B, C at the beginning. The stage order within A, B, C cannot be changed. When choosing a stage, player can choose difficulty levels between 1 to 3 (or 999 in MBL).

After completing 6 stages (Chapter 3 Scene 2), the FINAL stage (Chapter 4) begins, which is organized in 2 parts. However, player can choose EXTRA stage if certain conditions are met at the end of Stage Chapter 3 Scene 2.


  • Deathscythe: Stage A-1 boss.
  • Jordan: Stage A-2 boss.
  • Whroon: Stage B-1 boss.
  • Sakura: Stage B-2 boss. In Mega Black Label, it is also a playable character.
  • Mary: Stage C-1 boss.
  • Bavaria: Stage C-2 boss.
  • Beastdog: EXTRA stage mid-boss.
  • Devaria, Givaria: EXTRA stage bosses.
  • Jitterbug: Chapter 4 boss.
  • Tyrannosatan: Final Chapter 4 boss.
  • Bloody Jitterbug: MBL True Final Boss. Fought only if Jitterbug remains inside Tyrannosatan.


Mega Black Label

Mega Black Label is a limited (150 copies total) edition of the game released in Japan. It added Sakura as playable character, as well as the Crystal Shrine stage, and Level 999 difficulty level.

Xbox 360 version

In the August 25–31, 2008 issue of Famitsu Weekly, Cave announced an Xbox 360 port of the game. New game modes include an Xbox 360 mode and Ver 1.1 mode. The player can also adjust the screen brightness, background frame, game screen position and zoom level.

Downloadable content for the Japanese market included the Mega Black Label features (1200MSP) and a full voice download card for preorder and limited edition users.

The Limited Edition in Japan includes a Manabu Namiki Selection Deathsmiles Premium Arrange Album soundtrack CD.

Hori produced a controller for the Xbox 360 game that was an Amazon Japan exclusive.[2]

On April 8, 2010, the Platinum Collection re-release came out in Japan, containing both the main game and the Mega Black Label downloadable content on the disc.

Aksys Games has released the game in North America on June 28, 2010. A Limited Edition was released that includes, along with the game, an exclusive Xbox 360 faceplate and a "Premium Arrange Album" soundtrack CD. As with the Japanese Platinum Collection re-release, the North American port integrates the Mega Black Label (MBL) content, providing a total of 6 game versions selectable from the front-end menu: Arcade, Ver 1.1, Xbox 360, MBL Ver 1.1, MBL Arcade, MBL Xbox 360. The additional playable character, Sakura, is available in the MBL versions.

Ver 1.1

In Ver 1.1 mode, players can independently control familiars via the Xbox 360 controller. Lock shot and powerup shot are located on different buttons.[3] Other changes include:

  • Item counter is powered when it reaches 100.
  • Item score limit is increased to 99999 points.
  • In boss battle, counter bullets are fired during power up mode.
  • When stage difficulty is set to 2 or above, counter bullets are fired during power up mode.
  • When stage difficulty is set to 3, death mode is automatically triggered.
  • When attacking a boss with auto lock shot, item counter increases.
  • Extra lives are granted at 30 million and 1 billion points.

Xbox 360 mode

It includes following changes:

  • Non-background graphics are redone
  • Except EXTRA (valley) and FINAL (castle) stages, all stages have selectable difficulties of 1 and 2, and can be selected multiple times.


On the back of the arcade game poster, there is a template for a skirt blowing game. In the game, the player attempts to blow up the skirt or petticoat of the model to see her underwear. The player scores 30 points for blowing up a skirt and 50 points for blowing up a petticoat. Points are deducted if a pumpkin or tombstone is knocked over.[4]


A series of 2 drama CDs were published by Cave.

Official guide book includes comic drawn by game designer Junya Inoue.


deathsmiles original sound track includes 23-track soundtrack CD with music from the video game (including voices, image song), Windows-compatible data CD including desktop accessories, 8-page booklet.

Manabu Namiki Selection Deathsmiles Premium Arrange Album is a 15-song soundtrack CD based on the video game, included with the limited edition of Xbox 360 game.

Deathsmiles Arrange Album includes 16 tracks with musical arrangements of the original soundtrack from the game, the last 2 tracks being part of the soundtrack that was not included before.


Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 79.70%[5]
Metacritic 76%[6]
Review scores
Publication Score
GameSpot 8/10%[7]
GameZone 8.5/10[8]
EDGE Online 8/10[9]
NTSC-uk 10/10[10]

Japanese video game magazine Famitsu's "Famitsu Xbox360 monthly" awarded the game a score of 8/9/7/8. Weekly Famitsu gave the game a score of 7/7/7/8. Edge Online gave the game a score of 8 out of 10. GameZone gave the game an 8.5/10, saying "Shmups are slowly making the journey back into the hearts of westerners, but I fear that Deathsmiles may ruin it for other games to come. From the numerous modes and adjustable options, to the beautiful artwork and masterful touches, Death smiles is the new shmup to be reckoned with."

NTSC-uk praised the game's approachability, writing that "it gently eases in newcomers yet underneath has an incredibly sophisticated set of scoring mechanics and level layouts", further stating that the title was "proof of the continuing viability of the genre". GameSpot wrote in their review of the American release that "Deathsmiles is a top-notch shooter that brings the crazy Japanese arcade action in spades with a great presentation and a lot of options for bullet-hell buffs".


External links

fr:DeathSmiles ja:デススマイルズ

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