First Look

Dynamarisa is a doujin game made by Twilight Frontier derived from the SHMUP series Touhou Project. The game is an adaptation or parody of Earth Defense Force 2017 that includes only single player mode, 26 levels, 5 difficulty settings, and a large selection of weapons. It is not arcade style, instead using 32 save slots. The game also features RPG mechanics such as player life and simple weapon stats (Damage, mag size, fire rate, etc.). Now, this is going to be a slightly messy review, as I’m not used to making them, so bear with it.

Dynamarisa can be found at: http://www.tasofro.net/dynamarisa/It can also be downloaded from Doujinstyle or Moriya Shrine, but you should really pay for it; it’s only 1500 yen (12 USD, 8 pounds, 11 euros, 207 pesos, 48 shekels, etc.).

Now, let’s begin.

Graphics/UI

Graphics are the first thing you see when you look at a game. Whether it’s the box art, title screen, or opening stage; it’s what you see first and foremost. So, let’s look at that as the beginning of this review.

When you open up the game, you are greeted with Twilight Frontier’s logo and are soon brought to a shadowy, foreboding panning shot of the Scarlet Devil Mansion (in 3D) that eventually turns into the title screen. The UI consists of New Game, Load Game, and Exit. There are no options until you start a new game. The title is on the top in big, yellow and glowing letters with a “3D” logo on the side and the character sprites for Marisa, PAtchouli, Remilia, Sakuya, and Flandre on the side. Twilight Frontier’s logo is just below the menu. It’s a basic but very effective title screen that features some very well-done fanart of the characters. It doesn’t support the atmosphere of the early game, however. I’m not exactly sure who did the art for the character sprites, but I like them a lot. The graphic to the UI is also fairly ornate and looks like it’s made of gold. The entire thing looks quite smooth and clean.

There is an opening cinematic with the same clean-looking nice art of the title screen that looks very reminiscent of manga and comics, with subtitles on the bottom. The rest of the game is mostly actual gameplay and not cutscenes, but the sprites are used as icons in speech bubbles later on.

The main screen of the game has a very cyberpunky background and general look to it with meaningless waves and blue grids with lights swirling about. Sort of 80s in appearance. And before you ask, no, I don’t know what the options say in the options menu, so I don’t know if there are graphical options in it. On the bottom, the game will flash hints and tip for you to read. The font looks decent, but it’s nothing special.

The weapons menu unfortunately doesn’t show what the weapon you’re about to equip looks like aside from a 2D wireframe and its stats. Most of the weapons look similar, so I guess it doesn’t matter too much. Still bothers me a little, however. On the contrary, each mission you select has a preview screenshot.

In-game, everything is obviously 3D-looking. There’s also a 3D option in the options menu to enhance that effect. It’s clear that it was made for this because of how fuzzy everything looks. The lighting is definitely odd, but not bad. I like it quite a bit, in fact. It blends really well with the models to give everything a shiny luster.

Speaking of models, they are very graphically clean. It’s cartoonish and kind of dark. I don’t quite know how else to describe it but silly-grim with some mechanical aesthetic thrown in. There’s a small problem with distant object lighting for some reason, but it doesn’t matter too much unless you try to use long-ranged weapons. The game also seems to be using Cel Shading. It looks good even by today’s standards.

The scope of the levels is also incredibly large, so I’m actually a bit impressed by how large the texture are. They’re not the highest resolution, but they look nice. It helps to make the game very grand in scale.

Another great aspect of the graphics is the special effects. Most of the weapons you’ll use are heavy on them, being projectile energy weapons. It tries to keep the look of bullet hell from its source material and does so fairly nicely. The best part of the particle effects, however, is the explosions. They’re damn satisfying to say the least. Big, not too bright, and fiery as hell — practically orange.

Now, the rest of the UI is in gameplay. There aren’t a lot of menus to go through in this game. The first thing you’ll see is the crosshair, which is a little intrusive amidst the chaos of the game. It’s a white dot with some triangles surrounding it. On the bottom is tiny Marisa whose frame is dwarfed by literally everything else, and is usually blocked by speech bubbles. Those also look as nice as the title screen, by the way. On the left is your health bar, which has a nice ornate look but is overall pretty simple. The bottom right features your active weapon and its ammo capacity. It’s nothing special but doesn’t seem to intrude much. The top right has the compass which is also ornate gold. It’s quite useful and informative, but can get it the way with how big it is. The thing does its job, though.

Overall, the graphics are the best kind of simple, but I do think the 3D aspect was a little overstated. I don’t have any 3D glasses, so I can’t actually use it. The 3D does slow the game down, however. Don’t use it on lower end PCs. The game reminds me a lot of Wind Waker with its aesthetic and will probably age well.

If I had to give a numerical score, I’d say 74/100. Cel shading is probably one of my favorite lighting techniques. I’m glad it was used in some way here.

 

Plot

The plot for this game is relatively simple and explained in the opening cutscene. Basically, Marisa has tried to steal books from Patchouli again, but is caught off-guard when Patchouli calls in an army of heavily armed fairies and robots to defend the library. Marisa is defeated, but runs off to form her own army of fairies to fight Patchouli with. Unfortunately, Patchouli has enchanted the mansion so that Marisa can’t use spells. Hence, she uses guns. Energy guns. Imagine a fully automatic Tesla Cannon from Fallout.

It’s nothing spectacular, but it does progress over the course of missions into something a bit better. If I had to give it a numerical score, it would be 50/100. It doesn’t matter that much, though, since this is an action game that wants to focus a lot on gameplay.

 

Gameplay

The controls in Dynamarisa are incredibly simple. All menus are navigated with the mouse using the right click as a back and left as select. The rest explains itself. In-game, you move Marisa with the WASD keys and aim with the mouse. The sensitivity is absolutely perfect for a game such as this, at least until you get into close quarters. The camera is also well-placed and doesn’t get in the way. It’s rigid and doesn’t adjust itself, but it tends to clip through things to momentarily blind you. It’s not that big of a problem with such and open space. Other than that, left click fires your weapon and right click changes it. Shift will jump and running in a direction while pressing space will make Marisa dive in that direction. It’s faster than running and very useful, but I wish they just made her faster. It’s responsive and feels solid, but becoming frantic can make the game do the same. You can easily play it with either a gamepad or mouse and keyboard.

Weapons are one of the biggest parts of the game. There are several weapon types. A few are a sniper cannon, a rocket launcher, a grenade, and an automatic rifle. Each weapon has its own stats that are as follows: Power is the weapon’s damage, Mag Size is how many shots it holds, Precision is how accurate it is, Fire Rate is how often it fires, Recharge is how long it takes to reload, and Max Range is how far the projectile can travel before it’s useless. I never really noticed the max range on any weapons. Explosive weapons have an additional stat for their blast area. Everything is measured in metric where possible. Precision is marked in letter grades, and Power is just an arbitrary number. Each weapon has a variant that caters to a different playstyle, but they must be unlocked by picking up box items from enemies after killing them.

Another thing that drops from enemies is hats, which will increase your max health. Mushrooms will restore your health, and increasing max health doesn’t heal you. Sometimes enemies will drop mushroom clusters that heal far more than a regular mushroom drop. These are a life-saver in higher difficulties.

Speaking of difficulties, the game has five: Easy, Normal, Hard, Lunatic, and Master. Each difficulty has different weapon drops because of scaled enemies, so you can’t easily hop into a higher difficulty of a later level without doing earlier ones and getting better weapons. I don’t really think that playing anything higher than Hard is necessary, however, as it doesn’t add much else. The only thing that happens is the enemies become harder to kill and deal more damage. It’s one of those games that you play once on a single difficulty and then either go full completionist or never replay it again. Normal generally feels like the best difficulty. I think the RPG mechanics added in actually make the difficulties less meaningful and more grindy since you usually have to grind health drops before you stand a chance against the higher ones.

One annoying part of the game’s RPG mechanics was the inventory max. There is literally no reason for the game to put an arbitrary number on the amount of weapons you can have at once. It’s only 100, which is barely enough for how much you pick up in just one playthrough, much less all 5 difficulties. If there had to be a limit, it should have been at least 1000. I realize that it would be a lot of pages to scroll through, but I would gladly have that rather than not getting to keep all of my unlocks. It might have been a page number limit (10 weapons to a page, 10 pages), but it could have been fixed with procedurally generated pages that are navigated with arrow buttons rather than clicking on the number. I think this was clearly either the programmer being lazy or not knowing how to do such a thing.

Luckily, save datas are numerous enough to not have this problem. There’s more than I would ever actually need. It also doesn’t autosave, so you have to do it through the menu.

Overall, the game is very simple to control, fitting for its genre. However, it tries and nearly flops when adding RPG elements. The weapon variety is nice, but the inventory space negates it. The difficulties are also lazily done and could have used a little more variety. Getting to higher difficulties requires premeditated grinding for items and health, which makes them much less viable as a start: something that those who will only play once may enjoy. I recommend one playthrough on Easy, Normal, or Hard and then to decide whether or not you want to deal with the grind to get to Master. If I had to give a numerical score, I’d say 70/100. I’d make it an 85 if the difficulties and inconveniences were better managed. As it stands, it’s still pretty fucking fun.

 

Sound

Dynamarisa’s soundtrack can be summed up pretty aptly: Epic Orchestral. You know the music from Star Fox: Assault? It’s kind of like that, but with the style of the aforementioned Earth Defense Force 2017 being mixed in. It may sound like I think it’s mediocre, but it’s actually pretty fitting and good. Not for listening to solely, but in-game. I like it, just not a lot. Among other orchestral soundtracks, I would say it’s above average. There really isn’t much to say since it’s so forgettable outside of the game. It’s not like it’s bad, either. Just sort of, “Meh.”

If you want, go ahead and mute the music before putting on your own; you’ll get a similar experience. If I had to give it a numerical value, I’d say 65/100.

 

Compatibility

This is basically how well the game runs and its requirements.

To start, you can only play this on windows XP, Vista, or 7. I haven’t used it on 8 or 10, but I doubt it will run well on either of those. It has a decent CPU requirement of an Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4GHz or better, so your office PC probably can’t handle it very well. You’ll also need 2GB of RAM, 400mb of space, and at least 512mb of VRAM. These are not demanding at all. If you don’t meet these on your main PC, I have to recommend an upgrade. The video card also needs Shader Model 2.0 and DirectX 9.0. Curiously, it requires that you have a 1280×720 display to run it. I have a 1440×900, so it can’t be that hard to get something bigger, and I don’t know what happens if you try it with a lower resolution. It should work best on any 16:9 aspect ratio monitor. As an optional, you can access the stereoscopic 3D with more VRAM and 3D glasses.

Because this is a japanese doujin game, it has very poor compatibility with non-japanese locales. The worst I’ve had in Vista is the text being messed up, but it could be worse on 7 and XP. Run this game with either Applocale set to japanese, or switch your PC to the japanese locale manually and then run it. You may have to run it in compatibility mode for one of the 3 viable operating systems if it persists in any errors. You’ll also have to patch the game to 1.02 and then get the english translation to understand anything being said. The 1.02 patch is on the Tasofro website and the english patch can be found through the Touhou wiki, Moriya Shrine, or Doujinstyle.

As of right now, the game is otherwise completely stable and has a consistent FPS when there isn’t a lot of enemies on-screen. If there are a lot of them, it will begin to lag. Depending on your specs, this can be unnoticeable or game-breaking. I’d recommend running this on a low-end gaming PC at the least. If my machine from nearly 10 years ago can run it just fine with only a cheap graphics card, I’m sure most people will be able to.

As for gamepads, it does support it and they control fairly nicely, but I still prefer keyboard+mouse. Vista still doesn’t like  gamepads, however, so do be wary of that.

It also doesn’t seem to respond well to being recorded for me. I don’t know if it’s just an isolated incident, but OBS makes it lag quite a bit.

If I had to assign a numerical value, I’d say 75/100. Unlike most games, it doesn’t have ridiculous requirements and is still good.

 

Conclusion

Dynamarisa is probably one of the few doujin games that I really can’t find many things to pick at. Those that are don’t even matter too much besides the inventory space issue and the difficulties. Honestly, I really liked it. It’s a great game for anyone who wants to simply boot up a game and almost immediately start blowing shit up. It’s VERY action-packed. Of course, you still need to aim, but it’s not hard to do much of anything unless you play Lunatic or Master.

I’d recommend this game to exactly that type of person. Anyone looking for an impressive narrative or any amount of seriousness will be disappointed by everything being (sometimes literally) overshadowed by explosions. That’s the appeal, though. I have to commend Twilight Frontier for making this, as it gave me plenty of hours of entertainment through about 2 playthroughs before I finally got bored of it.

Over the course of 5 sections, the game scored a cumulative 334/500 or an average of 67/100 with a standard deviation of 10 and population SD of 9, making it statistically above-average. However, these are only arbitrary numbers. That being said, I don’t have much else to say about this game.

Next time, I’m probably going to be reviewing Marine Benefit in a more in-depth way than I previously had on a post at Reddit’s /r/touhou. However, I am open to any and all other reviews, so send yours in! Info is in the contacts page!

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