Dezaemon Plus! Review (PSN)

Game Review: Dezaemon Plus!
Release: 12-01-2010
Genre: Vertical Shoot’em up
Developer: Athena / MonkeyPaw Games
Available Platforms: PlayStation Network, PSP
Players: 1-2
MSRP: $5.99
ESRB Rating: T for Teen
Website: Official Website

As with Alundra, Arc the Lad and Magical Drop F, MonkeyPaw Games seems to be completely committed in bringing classic PSX titles to the PSN.  The latest one, a vertical shooter among the likes of Ikaruga, has just been released, and it’s bringing a little twist; now you’ll be able to design your own stages, ships and enemies. But aside from the neat concept, how does Dezaemon Plus! fare after 14 years of its initial release?

Dezaemon Plus! is divided in two main areas. Gameplay offers a nice selection of levels designed by people back in the day, so in theory, you’re not playing only one game. These custom-made designs are very interesting to play and look at, but they’re essentially the same game. The other half of the game, Edit, includes a fairly vast editor (that was used in all the Gameplay scenarios) which lets you create your own levels either from scratch or using the game’s own assets, in areas such as graphics, level architecture and even music.

As stated before, Dezaemon Plus! is, at its core, a vertical shooter. You start a level with your basic shooting mechanics and as you progress through the level you get some power-ups to help you beat the boss, in order to get to the next level. As simple as gameplay is, it becomes a little hard because your ship is usually too slow and the increasing amount of enemy fire makes it difficult to handle, let alone getting the power-ups that make the game significantly easier. This, however, loses relevance as every time right before a boss, there are a couple of enemies carrying some important items; one of them, a green orb that will grant you the most over-powered laser ever created by a developer. Not only the difficulty significantly decreases after getting such orb, but you get to keep the power-up even if you die. It should be noted, however, that even with its shortcomings, there’s good fun to be had within the various designs offered in the Gameplay area, and the fact the art between those is so vastly different does leaves you wondering what’s coming next, which is good.

The other half of the game is probably the most interesting and innovative one. It’s a level creator with a plethora of options for you to build your own levels. Considering this is a 1996 game, this is a pretty ambitious and novel concept to incorporate in a game like this. The Graphical Editor will let you edit existing assets, or draw new ones in order to create ships, enemies, explosions and so on. On the other hand, the Construction Editor will let you customize how the actual level will perform. Lastly, the music editor acts like a Mario Paint of sorts. Unfortunately, given the complicated and badly designed interface, there’s really no fun to be had. Some of the icons are unintelligible, while others are simply bad; the movement is extremely erratic, which leads to an overly frustrating experience when it comes to drawing. I know it is possible to actually create something with this tools, but they are so poorly executed, you will probably want to avoid this section altogether.

It’s clear the developers had their heart in the right place, as it’s palpable they wanted to deliver quality shooting and a wide array of options and tools to create, but it’s also clear they should have planned the game in a more, I don’t know, communication-friendly way. You see, all the aspects are put in place for a good product, but they fail to deliver. A testament that always a final product should be a lot more than the sum of its parts.

Julian’s Final Say: Dezaemon Plus! is a fun, but poorly controlled and overly easy effort in the shooter genre. Boasting a nice amount of content but failing to deliver when it comes to its biggest selling point: The Level Builder. It’s nevertheless admirable they were trying bold ideas and concepts back in 1996, but this game is still really hard to recommend.

  • The visuals are just appropriate for the kind of game and the time it was conceived  but the interface is simply unintuitive.
  • Plethora of building tools and options, as well as a good amount of content.
  • It is compatible with a mouse. In fact, the editors should be played with a mouse.
  • The single player stages are fun but easy once you realize how to exploit certain aspects. The editing part is no fun.

Final Score: 4 out of 10

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  • (This is more of my own review rather than a response, apologies in advance for being a bit long-winded here.)

    I think any Dezaemon, or any game-creation software, whether it’s available for your game console and simplified for use with a gamepad or not, should be judged as a tool and by what is possible with that tool rather than as a “game.”

    The included version of Daioh (I prefer Daioh P! from Dezaemon 2, personally) is really just there as a template, to give you an idea what is possible, to start you off in the right direction. It’s also there for you to pick apart when working on your own project to see how you can reproduce all the neat little effects and tricks used.

    The rest of the games included are from Japanese users who took part in a game creation contest hosted by Athena and they really put the Dezaemon toolset through it’s paces (although they do all use the same 3 weapons for some reason.. perhaps this was a stipulation for the contest?) Not included, of course, are many later games created with it which push it to it’s absolute limits, even squeezing some pseudo-bullet-hell madness out of this little Playstation wonder.

    Besides, if the prepackaged stuff is too easy, repetitive, or similar to something you’ve already seen before, there’s no stopping you from jumping in and trying to break those boundaries yourself, hopefully making something better. Also, if the homing shot feels too cheap for you, you’re free to leave it out of your own game.

    Of course, there are always limitations with any ‘make your own game’ software; but this one is still excellent… even compared to recent attempts at this genre like Blast Works. You may feel chained down by the selection of weapons; but you get all the standards – Spread, Vulcan, Missile, Homing, Laser etc., so I honestly see nothing much to complain about there. You might not be able to do *exactly* what you want with certain things (multi-sectioned enemies can tricky, for one); but the tools you’re given are still quite flexible and a little creative thinking will get you around most obstacles. Best of all, even the most amateurish attempt will still *play* like a proper arcade shooter, that much I can’t say for the competition.

    Having experience with other ‘games’ like this (including #2 on the Saturn), I’d say the only difficulty in managing it comes from the language barrier rather than there being anything particularly wrong with the interface. It has a significant learning curve, sure; but one you get used to it and know what icons go where and what all does what, it’s not that bad. The save/load times are pretty rough to be honest, though. Still, you are moving around a nice chunk of data (especially for 1996.)

    I think if you know nothing about game design or programming but dig arcade shooters and are serious about seeing your ideas come to life in a video game, Dezaemon Plus is a good start for you, no question! It will take plenty of time to see a project through; but that’s how it’s going to be no matter what. 🙂