Deathsmiles – 2008 Superplayer Interview

Deathsmiles – 2008 Superplayer Interview

In this short interview originally featured in Arcadia (part of a series of superplayer interviews), Clover-TAC talks about his experience playing Deathsmiles and his philosophy of scoring generally. A supremely talented player, Clover-TAC would later pivot to development and create Crimzon Clover. This interview is part of a "superplayer series" on shmuplations focusing on the unsung feats of arcade scoreplayers.

Clover-TAC – Deathsmiles world record holder (Windia)

—Let’s jump right into it: what is the appeal of Deathsmiles for you?

TAC: Cave’s new game is designed to appeal to a broader base of users, and as such, the danmaku isn’t quite as fierce as their recent STG offerings. However, while getting the clear is relatively easy, it’s a whole other matter when you try to play for score. It’s that depth to the scoring system that is the biggest draw for me, with Deathsmiles.

In many games, you get a high score just by not dying, but in Deathsmiles, losing a life isn’t that big of a deal, so there’s a much larger emphasis placed on building your own scoring routes and patterns. I love the feeling of finding a new improved scoring route after a bunch of trial and error. Deathsmiles is one of the only games to do this. It also has branching stages, and to be honest, I still haven’t figured out which is the best path for scoring.

When you add it all up, it’s a very deep game. Now that I’ve come this far in the scoring, I’m really curious to see how much further I can take it.

Also, the player ship, bosses, and of course the individual enemies all have such detailed designs, and that was a huge draw for me. I know some people feel differently, but personally I also love the way hidden items appear (on a time-release). It keeps it fresh for me.

“TAC talks Deathsmiles.”

—What made you decide to start playing Deathsmiles seriously?

TAC: It was when I saw the suicide bullets in Death Mode for the first time, and realized that you could get points by letting your Options absorb them. I was mesmerized, and I thought to myself, “this looks like a game I could really get into.” I guess I was already obsessed with the game by that point. (laughs)

—The first time you played Deathsmiles, what was your impression of it?

TAC: The two things that stood out most for me were that, first, it was a very easy game to clear, and second—well, to be honest, I didn’t really understand the scoring system. But I also sensed that once you understood it, the game would become exponentially deeper and more fun.

—What are some of your tips and tricks for when you play STGs?

TAC: When you aim for a high score, you can’t avoid playing in a risky way. At the same time, there’s no way a human controlled ship can ever reach 100% of the scoring potential in a game. However, I don’t see my failures and mistakes in a negative way; rather, I always try to maintain an attitude of unflagging, positive striving. I try to apply that way of thinking to my life outside of games too.

—What does scoring mean to you?

TAC: It’s been 8 years since I got my first world record score… I can’t believe how fast time flies. Looking back now, I think there was a time when I lost sight of the fact that games are about fun, and I obsessively played only for score. I can’t say it was a bad thing, but I do think it was a little strange. Now I see my love for scoring in a more holistic sense, as connected to my love for that specific game, the culture of scoring, and the arcade scene as a whole.

When you try to achieve a high score, it can occasionally be hard on you (both physically and mentally), but I think it’s precisely that act of taking the game very seriously and working hard that makes great joy (and great sorrow!) possible. For me, no matter what score I achieve, there’s a big value in having that attitude.

Clover-TAC achieves a world record (live!) on Deathsmiles Mega Black Label at Wasshoi festival in 2010.

—What do you think of the culture of scoring today?

TAC: When I first got into scoring and started meeting a lot of new people, I thought it would be great if eventually I met more younger players…. but I must admit, that wish did not come true, and I’ve been a little disappointed at the lack of new young players. It may simply be an inevitability when you consider the state of the arcade industry today… but knowing that actually makes me want to try even harder to support younger players.

Speaking personally, I was able to contribute to some superplay dvds, which I’m extremely grateful for. People seem to like them, and I’ll also be appearing at this year’s Wasshoi event. I’m hoping to drum up some interest and get new people involved in scoring through these and other activities. So as long as there are games out there that seem promising to me for scoring, I’ll be doing this for awhile yet!

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