My first impressions were decent already. Daioh appeared to me as a mix of Raiden Fighters and Tatsujin. Yeah I know it was released a few years before Raiden Fighters, but the fast bullets and frantic gameplay reminded me a lot of it. Perhaps it would be better to compare it to the original Raiden, but to be honest I don't know that one well enough to do so. Tatsujin on the other hand... well just look around. Stage 4 is Tatsujin! It seems to borrow complete enemy sprites, attack patterns and background layouts from Toaplan's late-80s shooter. Additionally, Daioh has three different kick-ass weapons for your ship: lightning (blue), spreadshot (red) and forward shot. How could you not think Tatsujin? Some may find these similarities cheap, I think it is awesome this way. It somehow feels like another, more straight forward version of Tatsujin, not too memorization-heavy and with not such a huge hitbox and thus more enjoyable for me. Together with the nice graphics and catchy music this caused a fat grin that got frozen into my face during the first hours to play it. All the fun made me forget Parodius' frustration fast.
The three different bomb types are something I have never seen before in any shooting game. Sure, at first it was annoying to get used to all the 6 buttons, but the variety of the bombs' impacts added another nice tactical element to the game. Once the stages are learned, you can keep your finger prepared for the most appropriate bomb for the specific passages.
Apart from that aspect Daioh is not particularly a shmup that wants to be innovative. I even tend to say that it sends forth a fairly cheesy charm as it steals more than the above mentioned things from other games, is not always perfectly balanced and feels a bit weird to say the least. Yet the overall game is so fun that the lack of originality didn't bother me.
Daioh still has its flaws, no doubt. The shot patterns are extremely simplistic and repetitive. Looking at the release date this is no big deal though. The fast bullets combined with a certain amount of randomness lead to cheap deaths, but keeping rank low can mostly bypass this problem, too. The enemies shooting at you from each possible position, angle and distance with barely any possibility to point blank them was unfamiliar and annoying at first. If you take care of all the enemies carefully, you can avoid evil bullets from the side rather easily though. The only thing that really stinks is bullet visibility. When everything on the screen flickers during certain explosions you better beg for not getting hit. Not only the bullets disappear momentarily, sometimes the enemies do so, too. So there you go thinking you have destroyed them, before they appear out of nowhere again and hit you with a shot to the face. Brilliant. However I died to this only three or four times during the whole week which I still don't understand. Must have been lucky. Enemy shots also get camouflaged in normal explosions although that wasn't too much of a problem for me.
Unlike Gokujou Parodius, Daioh kept my fun alive throughout the week, even with these issues. Simply because it does a lot of things right. I will only mention a few.
Let's have a look at the checkpoint system. I am horrible at this kind of games and always get way more frustrated than motivated. It is ridiculous and unfair since one mistake can kiss your whole run goodbye. But what does Daioh do? It takes the system of going back and losing powerups to a much more forgiving level. You never have to go back really far as there are tons of checkpoints in each stage, you are given a decent initial ship speed, you even keep a few powerups if you had unused P items in your stock and you can make use of three bombs which should usually get you to the next checkpoint at least. You even respawn instantly when dying during a boss battle. Come on, seriously, who are the geniuses that developed this game? Ok, I do not mean that fully serious as it shouldn't be that hard to program a fair checkpoint shooter where it is possible to recover from deaths without being a shooter god. The thing is, apparently no one had the guts (or rather the mercy) to do it, especially not companies like Konami and Toaplan. So hats off, Athena! Loop 2 is still a different story though.
If there is one thing that characterizes Daioh, it shall be the lightning weapon. I said it on day one and I can only repeat myself: best homing laser ever. It is fast, precise, jumps from enemy to enemy or even circles around in an opposing ship until it dies. Just watching the laser dance around the screen is incredibly cool. No more explanations needed.
In the end the rules of STGT do not apply to this game as I actually loved it at the end of the week. I did go through a huge hole just before the weekend though. I struggled a lot, especially because of having almost no experience with rank management in shmups. Thus I had 1.7 million in stage 1-5 by Saturday noon. All the time (even though it wasn't much of it), I had approached it in two wrong ways:
- Picking up everything for points and thus raising the rank way too much. Very fun way to play the game in the first 3 stages, rushing over the screen with maximum speed and dodging all the lightning fast shit coming at you, but it gets too ridiculous in stage 4 and afterwards.
- Collecting nothing and powering up just slightly. Also working in the first stages, but then you are too underpowered.
On Saturday I finally did it right. Picking up no point items, but powering up fully and collecting nothing after that was the key and made the game much, much easier, especially when rank decreased after not collecting the flashing powerup. Furthermore, a lot of credit goes to m3tall1ca who helped me out and gave many tips. Without him I would never have beaten the first loop, let alone reached stage 2-4.
So this was not only a great game for my taste, but a beautiful week overall, ending with my first STGT 1CC (I count a 1-ALL as 1CC and additional loops as a bonus only) and my best effort in both of my tournaments by far. Well yeah I only ranked 23rd, way behind my 11th place in Mars Matrix last year, but I already had played that game before and wasn't fully content with my score. With Daioh I couldn't have been happier. So thanks Daioh, your place in my recently posted top 25 shmups list is well-deserved.
Our team result turned out great, too. Our best player CRI didn't have much time unfortunately, otherwise it could have been even better.
16. m3tall1ca - 6,217,630
23. Battletoad - 4,809,450
34. Jockel - 3,569,460
51. DJW - 2,012,730
62. Geist - 1,726,790
64. CRI - 1,704,180