Lord Shmup here with a written interview with Sunny Sy Tam, the developer of Danmaku Unlimited 3. A lovely shmup in the bullet hell genre and one that I’ve sunk over 45 hours into, it’s available on Nintendo Switch and I cannot recommend it enough. DU3 retails for a modest $9.99 on the NA eShop and personally, I feel it is worth so much more. I’ve sold friends and strangers on the game and I’m hoping you look into buying it after reading this!
In the interview, I go into questions I had after all the time I’ve spent with Danmaku Unlimited 3, and Sunny was gracious enough to give me the time of day. That being said, let’s get into the first question!
Danmaku Unlimited 3 is a fantastic entry to the bullet hell genre that encourages players to boldly go towards the enemy fire. What inspired the focus on the graze mechanic?
Growing up I watched a lot of mecha anime like Macross, and they will have scenes of “Itano Circus” where the hero’s fighter will charge towards the threat while dodging and scraping by the missiles, I think that kind of offensive instead of defensive dodging is the feeling that I want the game to convey with the graze mechanic.
How challenging was it to create four different difficulties for spirit mode?
The lower difficulties were actually quite challenging as it can be tricky to maintain the level of excitement and visual density when there are fewer bullets on screen. The trickiest part was some of the boss phases – simply reducing the number of bullets in the pattern wasn’t enough, but changing the pattern too much ruined the look/feel of the patterns. It became a delicate balancing act for sure!
If you search your game online, a score of 9/10 immediately populates from two review sites, how does that make you feel?
The launch of DU3 was pretty rocky, it was only available on PC/mobile, so seeing where the game sits now definitely gives a feeling of relief. I’m happy that it eventually turned out well and players think it is good.
There was always a sense of the “imposter syndrome” not being sure if the game was authentic enough or mechanically competent enough to measure up to other games in the genre. But it does feel good to know that my games are improving as I gain more experience in making them.
The vibrant colour scheme is beautiful, unique and different from any other shmup I’ve played. Is there any background inspiration for the blue and purple colouring and during development were there other iterations?
The biggest consideration of the palate was to make sure the bullets stand out from the rest of the stuff happening on the screen. Also, it allowed me to give forms to the bullet pattern without it descending into looking like a random mass of bullets.
Since yellow was taken as the explosion colour already, and green is usually associated with beneficial effects, it came down to a combination of blue/purple/red bullets, from there it was a lot of trial and error to determine what looked good together with everything else that is happening on screen.
Enemies and bosses are mechanical and robot-like. Did you name the enemies and were there any other types you considered before deciding on the final theme?
Other than general names to typify the enemies (like light gunships and heavy cruisers) I haven’t done too much in the way of naming things in-game. But this and the general world-building is something that I would like to practice more and improve on in the future.
As for other types of enemies I’m only really good at drawing mechanical designs so that is how the theme came to be!
What, if any, other shmups influenced DU3?
As with the other Danmaku Unlimited title, it is designed to be a mix of Touhou and Dodonpachi, but games like Hellsinker, Crimzon Clover, Diadra Empty and Philosoma (my personal favourite) definitely influenced it.
BLANKFIELD created a phenomenal soundtrack! Did they create music to match your levels, or did you match their music to your levels? They go perfectly together.
It is probably more like half and half. The plan is usually for me to create a general feel for the levels and then have the music match up but sometimes when I hear the music I just get inspired to design the level around it.
Although I think we both understand each other’s style well enough that a lot of times it just forms up naturally.
The shmup community is loving your latest posts for your new game! Will that be DU4?
Glad the community is enjoying the work in progress stuff! It is starting to coalesce into something more concrete. It is likely to be in the universe of Danmaku Unlimited, but as it’s not nailed down yet I’m not sure if it will be fitting to call it DU4 if the mechanics turn out to be quite different.
In addition to DU3, are there any other shmups you would recommend people play until your next release?
Crimzon Clover for sure! And if you want to play some classics Area 88, Terra Diver and Philosoma are some of my favourites.
As the developer, what is the coolest thing you’ve seen from the reception of your game?
It would have to be when a group of students invited me to visit their campus and discuss STG and game development. Their final project was an STG and one of them was a fan of the game and reached out. It was nice to be able to assist in their journey as game developers but it was also reaffirming for my own growth as a developer to be thought of as a mentor!
Is there anything you want Danmaku Unlimited 3 fans to know?
Thank you for your love and support for the game! It is crazy to think that it is close to ten years since the very first Danmaku Unlimited came out on mobile and to have it grow and become what it is now, I hope that everyone will look forward to what comes next!
There you have it! A real insight into the process of making a game for shmup enthusiasts and gamers alike. It was awesome of Sunny to take the time and answer my questions, I was so giddy to have the privilege to do so. If anything I hope the shmup community on Twitter gets a kick out of this because I know I did.