I love Cave games, though a lot of them are somewhat beyond my relatively feeble capabilities. I appreciate them all greatly for their distinctive audio-visual aesthetics, though — and even if you’re bad at them, it’s hard not to get wrapped up in the atmosphere of it all.
When I heard that Dangun Feveron was one of Cave’s more accessible shoot ’em ups — some even complain that it’s too easy — I was very much on board, even though I wasn’t overly familiar with the game from its 1998 release. And now that it’s readily available to everyone as part of the excellent M2 ShotTriggers series on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One (though not Switch, sadly) I can confirm that this game is indeed a jolly good time.
During development, Dangun Feveron was designed to be a contrast to Cave’s more hardcore danmaku (bullet hell) titles. It is often described as a more “generic” take on the shooter genre, with this meaning that it is less about overly elaborate screen-filling bullet patterns, and more simply about the joy of blasting your way through hordes of enemies, scoring as many points as possible and, of course, still dodging the projectiles which are being fired your way.
It had a bit of a rocky road to release, however. Early location tests had an unfavourable reaction from the public, leading to several frantic meetings at Cave to try and rescue the game from the dustbin. Eventually the team settled on giving it a few distinctive features: a scoring system that focuses on widespread destruction; a design that emphasises dodging high-speed projectiles rather than seemingly impenetrable bullet patterns; and an audio-visual aesthetic inspired by disco.
The result, while not one of Cave’s most well-known games, is a highly enjoyable shoot ’em up, and one that is a lot more accessible to newcomers than many of the company’s other titles. And on top of that, M2 ShotTriggers’ release of the game is one of the most spectacularly customisable arcade ports you’ll ever encounter — though if you’ve played their fantastic Aleste Collection or indeed any of their other releases, this should come as no surprise whatsoever.
Dangun Feveron technically has a plot, but since the game doesn’t bother wasting its time telling you about it I won’t waste your time either, save to say that you’re saving the Earth from yet another invasion, this time as part of an elite force of three starfighters from the planet Fever. Conveniently, each starfighter has a slightly different shot pattern, plus the option of equipping one of several different power shots and a selectable speed control.
Dangun Feveron uses three buttons to play: the basic fire button can be hammered for a regular shot or held for the power shot; the bomb button does exactly what you think it does; and the third button has the same effect as hammering the fire button, allowing for rapid fire without carpal tunnel syndrome.
The power shots are rather interesting because none of them are the usual “laser” typically seen in other Cave shooters; rather, here you have the choice between a Raiden-style homing beam, the ability to fire out three slow-moving but immensely powerful missiles, or a “roll” blast, which swirls blue fireballs around your craft in gradually expanding circles.
There’s no limit on how much you can use these except in the case of the missiles; if there are already three of those on screen, you’ll need to wait for one to blow up before you fire another one.
As with most Cave titles, the scoring system is not quite as straightforward as “just shoot things and don’t die” — though it’s also rather less convoluted than, say, Deathsmiles’ complicated treasure mechanics.
In Dangun Feveron, blasting most enemies causes them to release “cyborgs”, which are little disco men who spin around in space waiting for you to grab them. Nab them and your scoring potential goes up; miss them and your scoring potential goes down. On top of that, if you grab enough of them, you’ll spawn a 1up item — though if you reach that threshold during a boss fight, the 1up won’t appear until the next stage.
Interestingly, the scores you’ll attain in Dangun Feveron are noticeably lower than in many other shoot ’em ups, giving the game quite a distinctive feel and emphasising the importance of grabbing as many cyborgs as possible. The constant barrage of incoming cyborgs amid the enemy and bullet patterns means that you often have quite a lot to think about — but it also means that the game is consistently satisfying.
One of the best things about the M2 ShotTriggers release of Dangun Feveron is the sheer amount of tweaking you can do to how the game plays. Besides the default Arcade, Super-Easy and Fever presets, a custom option allows you to adjust all manner of settings including things like how much your scoring multiplier declines if you miss a cyborg, how much stamina the enemies have and even whether or not you have to fulfil particular conditions in order to confront the “true” final boss.
The default settings provide a good place to start with the game — Super-Easy in particular provides a good balance between mild challenge and accessibility, with a 1CC well within reach of even the most middling shoot ’em up players — but much of the game’s long-term appeal will doubtless come from tinkering with all these settings and seeing exactly what impact they have on how the game feels to play.
Alternatively, if you’re happy to play as Cave intended, a robust set of leaderboard (local and online) and replay features are included, with the former allowing you to filter by ship and stage as well as game mode. This means you can easily filter out any times you played with the game-breakingly powerful secret character Uotarou, since his devastating destructive power isn’t really a fair comparison to any of the default ships. He sure is fun, though.
On top of all this, Dangun Feveron features M2’s iconic “gadgets” in full force, allowing for plenty of analysis of how you play both during gameplay and while watching replays. The default set of gadgets allows you to keep a watchful eye on all the major game mechanics that are going on in the background — including some you might not notice otherwise, such as the variable bullet speed — and tailor your play style accordingly. Alternatively, the simple fact that they just pulse in time with the excellent in-game music adds a pleasant party atmosphere to any playthrough.
Dangun Feveron feels quite different to Cave’s usual fare — and that’s no bad thing at all. Yes, bullet hell veterans may well find it quite a bit easier than some of the more notoriously brutal titles from the company’s back catalogue, but sometimes it’s nice to just kick back with a game that is a pure power trip and an enjoyable spectacle to watch.
And at the other end of the ability spectrum, if you typically suck at shoot ’em ups but enjoy them nonetheless, Dangun Feveron is a great choice if you fancy trying your hand at a blaster you might actually make it all the way through on a single credit. It’s a ton of fun and a worthy addition to the modern shoot ’em up library — it’s just a bit of a shame there’s no Switch version, ’cause I’d sure love to play this on the go!
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