30 Days of Dreamcast – Day 2: Death Crimson OX

Death Crimson OX
Publisher: Sammy
Developer: Ecole
Genre: Rail Shooter
Release Date: 08/05/2001

Originally released for the Sega Saturn in Japan only, the original Death Crimson was pretty reviled. However, Ecole, its creator, listened to gamers, severely tweaked the game and took out several of the elements people hated. The end result was a game people seemed to either really love, or hate almost as much as the Japanese hated the original. I’d actually never played any of the Death Crimson games, which is odd because I love playing rail shooters, even if they are almost universally awful when not made by Sega.

Ecole is best known these days for the 2-D fighting series, Melty Blood, and that “best known” is a bit of a stretch. Let’s take a look back to a little over eight years ago when Dreamcast owners were wondering if they’d get any use out of Dreamcast Gun or SRC Bio Gun past House of the Dead 2.

Let’s Review

1. Story

Death Crimson OX is a weird little story about special magical weapons, human sized mechs, the dead rising to eat the living and odd mutated humans called Subliminers that look like everything from Saracens to the sand worms from Beetlejuice. This is an odd game to say the least.

The game starts on July 29th, 2010 (OMG! It’s nearly here!) in a tiny city called Saronica. A strange group of warriors known as the SMO (No, you never get to know what this stands for.) invade, nearly wiping out the entire population. You play as Kou Yanami or Yuri Rosenburg (It is a two player co-op) in an attempt to get back the leader of the resistance from the SMO and their army of Subliminers. Along the way you learn that you possess a magical gun known as Crimson, and that there may be more than one out there. The Crimsons are supposedly powerful enough to destroy the entire world if held by a Chosen One. It now becomes your job to save Lily (Yuri’s mom and leader of the Resistance).

The game has a very convoluted plot that stretches out over six very different stages, each with a lot of Engrish such as “Number of Killings” or “Death Tracery”. The plot is bizarre and unbelievable, even for a video game, but Ecole also put more cut scenes and story into this light gun game than I have ever seen besides 2007’s Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles. So that’s something.

Story Rating: Mediocre

2. Graphics

Obviously by today’s standards this is a pretty ugly game. In 2001, it was on par with other light gun games like Vampire Night or House of the Dead 2. All of the bosses, save for Death Tracery are well done and pretty detailed. I have no idea what the hell DT is supposed to be though. The rank and files monster are sadly, quite poor, and it is often hard to tell what they are supposed to be save for the giant moths and skeletons. The human civilians are good for their day, but there is only one model for them. Nice to know Saronica is populated only by Aryan males…

Cut scene visuals are nice and the character models are decent for their day, but the movements are jerky and odd. It’s like watching someone put on a play with marionettes.

One thing I really hate about the visuals is that after you kill something, sometimes it pops back up as an after image and goes through the motions of wanting to attack you. This is very distracting as you might imagine, and the ghost images really shouldn’t have made it to publication. This really throws off the balance and your game because you’re never quite sure if something is dead or not.

I can’t say with a straight face that this is one of the better looking Dreamcast games. Even in 2001, its visuals were outdated by earlier, better games for the system .

Graphics Rating: Decent

3. Sound

The music, like the rest of the game, is passable, but really, when you’re playing Death Crimson OX the only sound you’re actively hearing is that of nonstop gunfire. The shots are realistic, albeit overpowering. Only occasionally will you hear a tinny “dink” when you hit one of the mini game items or the objects bearing special items like the machine gun or extra life energy.

Enemies don’t make any noises when you shoot them unless they are a boss and then they make a groan when they finally die. There is no voice acting either, which is something you tend to almost expect these days, even in a rail shooter.

Death Crimson OX does what it’s supposed to. It’s got music and sound effects, but outside of the cut scenes you can’t notice them. Taking the time to listen to anything other than gun shots will get you killed. I can’t even imagine spectators being able to pay attention to anything than the gun fire. Again, this is standard fare for the genre, but there are many light gun games that do this better, even for the Dreamcast.

Sound Rating: Decent

4. Control and Gameplay

Here’s where it gets odd. Remember how I mentioned that the Saturn version of Death Crimson was supposedly a horrible mess and that this was supposed to be a distinct improvement? Well, notice all the forms of the word “suppose” used in this last sentence. Death Crimson OX is an odd little game where the core is remarkably solid, but all the fringe pieces really drag the game down.

If you’ve ever played a light gun game, you know the basics, pull the trigger to shoot, press a button to reload or shoot your gun to reload. Aiming is as simple as pointing your gun. If you’re playing with a Dreamcast controller, you use the analog stick or the D-pad to aim. Using the control pad is a little harder and slower, but if that’s all you have, then that’s all you have.

This is all pretty solid and you can change the speed of the cursor if you need to in the options. Where it gets bad is with all the little extras. For example, you would think that head shots are the best way to kill something, but not in this game. Here you need to shoot them in the waist. Yes, I know, that’s just completely the opposite of what you would think. Head shots do in fact do a lot of damage but in almost every case, the waist is the better choice (and it gives you more points).

There’s also a weird experience bar where if you fill the bar, you get more life or bullets (depending on the play mode). You get experience for hitting enemies and killing them, but you also LOSE experience if you miss. This is a bit odd because these games are designed for wacky frantic gunplay and you’re bound to miss a lot of shots in the heat of battle. It’s even worse due to the ghost images I mentioned earlier and the fact that you will have your trigger directly in line with the target yet the game will sometimes register the shot as a miss. What the heck? It gets more confusing when there are certain objects that you can shoot that raise your experience, but the only way to know for sure… is to shoot everything and see what happens. As you may have surmised by now, the experience point system is horribly flawed and the vast majority of the time, you’re being punished. Eventually you just stop trying to explore or shoot random objects. I mean, do you want a bigger life bar or not?

The only special weapon you can get in the game is the machine gun, and it’s sodding awful. In order to use it once you find it, you have to hold down the trigger while an energy bar fills. Then you release it and it sprays everywhere haphazardly. This whole process is cumbersome, the effects are near worthless and by the time you charge the machine gun, you’ve taken at least one hit from the enemy, especially if it’s a boss. Then there’s the whole insanity of the fact you supposedly have a mystical gun of ultimate doom…and yet you would choose to use a run of the mill machine gun instead. Ludicrous.

Ultimately the game is pretty weak in terms of gameplay compared to other light gun games. If this is a vast improvement over the Saturn version, I’m a bit scared to try that one.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Poor

5. Replayability

Death Crimson OX actually gives you a nice selections of modes to choose from. You have Story Mode, which is the standard six stage “epic,” and Mission Mode, which lacks any plot or story. It’s just about getting as far as you can with as many points as you can. Finally there is Bullet Mode, where you have a limited amount of ammo and you have to get as far as you can before you run out. This is a nice change of pace and really helps you work on the precision this game wants you to have,

Overall, Death Crimson OX isn’t worth more than a couple of play throughs by yourself – maybe once for each mode or until you beat story mode, whichever comes first. Replay value increases if you have a friend to blow things up alongside with, but light gun games are always more fun with a friend.

Replayability Rating: Mediocre

6. Balance

Death Crimson OX is exceptionally flexible, allowing you to make the game as easy, or as hard, as you want it to be. The speed of the cursor, your number of credits, the difficulty of the game and your number of lives can be set to give you the challenge you either need… or deserve. As such, most gamers could set the difficulty to very easy and crank up the lives and credits to the max possible and beat the game. You get the full story and ending, but where’s the fun in that?

There are only a handful of enemy designs, so you should recognize attack patterns and weaknesses pretty quickly. Bosses hit you over the head with their flashing “weak point” so you should know exactly where to aim.

The only time the game gets difficult is when it puts you in situations where you have to take a hit. These are times when the game throws enough enemies at you that only a two player situation can protect you from taking damage. This is standard fare for the genre and it’s just extra inspiration to get a friend to come along for the mayhem. Still, combine this with the aiming issues and the experience point system doing more harm than good, and you’ve got some potential for profanity

What DCOX lacks in a lot of areas, it luckily makes up for by being exceptionally flexible and customizable.

Balance Rating: Great

7. Originality

It’s a remake of a Saturn game and just another footnote in the history of mediocre light gun games. I’ll give DCOX some credit for an utterly insane story bereft of any plausibility or common sense, but really, that’s about it.

There’s also the Experience point system, which goes to show that sometimes originality can be a bad thing. For the most part, Death Crimson OX is a pretty generic shooter with only a rare hint of originality to its name.

Originality Rating: Bad

8. Addictiveness

I’ve never seen a person play a light gun game on a console without using every possible credit they can squeeze from the game. These things suck you in no matter how god awful the stories are. Ninja Assault or Vampire Night anyone? Both of these games are so bad they are good in terms of their reason d’etre, but they’re still amazingly fun to play. Death Crimson OX is similar. The graphics may have aged poorly, and were never that good to begin with, and some of the gameplay elements introduced are messed up, but there’s something about a light gun in your hands and watching things keel over and die that just puts a grin on your face, even if you’re a believer in strict gun control legislation in real life.

A complete tangent, odd that you never hear of this genre of gaming causing real life violence as compared to say Grand Theft Auto or Night Trap….

For all its flaws, Death Crimson OX is surprisingly easy to enjoy and get sucked into.

Addictiveness Rating: Good

9. Appeal Factor

Sadly when I see arcades these days, they are a shell of their former selves. There is no WWE Wrestlefest, no King of Fighters NeoWave or the button mashing beat ’em ups like my Captain American and the Avengers arcade cabinet. What remains are scores of DDR games and strange light gun games like this one fellow staffer Matt Yaeger and I found ripping off Freddy Kruger, Jason, Pinhead and other celebrity movie monsters. This tells you of the power light gun games posses, and how popular they are, even with the casual mainstream gamer.

So why don’t they sell very well? Well, it’s because there is a huge difference between playing one in an arcade and playing one on a console. Even with a light gun in hand, there’s a noticeable difference playing this at home. As well, you can just put a dollar into an arcade cabinet and then walk away whereas at home you have to buy a console, a game, and two light guns to get the full and proper effect. Even worse, the best light gun games, like my personal favorite, CarnEvil, have never come to a console and I’m not going to pay $1500 dollars for a cabinet no one knows how to repair anymore ($300 for my four player Captain America cabinet though, that’s different.)

Due to this disconnect between the arcade and console gaming worlds, light gun games, especially out of print and not especially good ones like Death Crimson OX will forever be relegated to niche games only sought out by true zealots of the genre.

Appeal Factor: Mediocre

10. Miscellaneous

Death Crimson OX is a mediocre game put out by a mediocre development team. I haven’t played the original Saturn version, so I can’t tell you if it’s true that this DC version is in fact superior. After playing through this though. I’d have to imagine that the Saturn version must be dreadful indeed.

Don’t get me wrong, like a lot of other forgettable light gun games, Death Crimson OX is fun for what it is. It’s a quick, hour at the most, romp through six stages of enemies while clicking a trigger constantly and cracking jokes with your buds.

The nice thing is that you can pick this up for under five dollars these days, used. I think I paid that much including shipping for this off an Amazon third party seller. Not too shabby.

If you have a Dreamcast and some money to burn, DCOX can kill an hour or two of your time, but it’s really not worth tracking down unless you love this genre.

Miscellaneous Rating: Mediocre

The Scores
Story: Mediocre
Graphics: Decent
Sound: Decent
Control and Gameplay: Poor
Replayability: Mediocre
Balance: Great
Originality: Bad
Addictiveness: Good
Appeal Factor: Mediocre
Miscellaneous: Mediocre

Short Attention Span Summary
Death Crimson OX is a nice diversion for an hour or two. Light gun game vets will probably be annoyed by the need to shoot someone in the waist instead of the head or the weird experience point system that punishes you severely for madcap wanton ammo wasting, but casual fans of the genre will probably not even notice these shortcomings. The plot is ludicrous and the graphics weren’t that great even eight years ago, but DCOX is fun, addictive and can be easily customized to your skill level. Even at only a few dollars these days, it’s only worth tracking down if you’re in need of a new Dreamcast game or you utterly adore light gun games. In the end, it’s a mediocre title where the flaws and merits cancel each other out, so don’t expect anything more than a trip down nostalgia lane with your Dreamcast from this one.



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