“INVASION FROM UNDERGROUND!”
During the mid 80s and early 90s, a Japanese company called Toaplan was a staple of the arcade shooter scene creating classic titles such as the top-down Twin Cobra and Sky Shark titles for Taito. Even as arcades began dwindling and shooters became less popular, Toaplan continued to plug away until 1994 when they finally closed for bankruptcy.
A lot of its talent went on to other companies such as CAVE and others went on to form their own studios. One of those was Raizing which was actually formed in 1993. Like CAVE, the team focused on making “manic” shooters which are probably better known by some as “bullet hell” shooters. They’re so named because of the screen-filling ocean of bullets that enemies, especially bosses, can fill the screen with leaving only a few pixels of maneuvering room for your tiny ship/flying person/whatever.
They’re meant to be that hard while at the same time, blending in some of the most striking pixel art seen in arcades. Some of these would even suffer a form of “slow down” which actually wasn’t a hardware problem — it was an intentional sliver of mercy from the developers to give players a slim chance of surviving the tense, cloud of death that was regularly spewed into their general direction.
The year 2000 would see the end of Raizing’s shmup dreams when it was absorbed into another company, 8ing (or Eighting), who would then focus their work on a variety of other games that didn’t involve bullet hells. But their last shmups included one with an intro screaming about an invasion from underground and asking the player “Are you great?” and then immediately answering “We are great!” before setting off to battle against the Gobligan Empire coming up from beneath the surface to conquer the world. This was 2000’s Dimahoo which, in Japan, was known as Great Mahou Daisakusen (The Great Magic War).
According to World of Arcades, Dimahoo “is the third part of the Mahou series” which Raizing’s team started back in 1993 with Mahou Daisakusen, their first arcade offering which blended fantasy aesthetics with a hectic shmup mentality. Fighting over a medieval landscape, players battled flying machines and walking titans to save the world. In Dimahoo, it was like Raizing decided to remake their first game as a final farewell seemingly knowing that it would be one of their last. And they also teamed with Capcom to do it.
Dimahoo is insanely fun despite its brutal difficulty, but the art style from the impressive attract intro to the brilliant soundtrack tumble from Raizing’s imagination like a collision between extreme steampunk and D&D after it had drunk an entire case of Red Bull. It’s also hilarious stuff that doesn’t take itself too seriously with outrageously designed characters (my favorite was a flying dragon samurai who is also a character from the first game in 1993), massive explosions, and crazy bosses such as a walking turtle fortress or a flying dragon/bomber boss whose “jet” engines hide dragon heads responsible for the tail fire coming out the back. Want mechs? Those little green goblin guys will pilot them into your face. And they get bigger.
The pro-players and super shmup fans over at Shmups gave Dimahoo a big thumbs up after breaking down what made it so fun and it’s easy to see why. The game has a lot of layers, not only from a presentation angle (complete with a big ending), but with gameplay options. Four characters with varying strengths are available to pick from at the start. By holding down your “fire” button, you can power up your shots and if you hold the button down longer, switch over from a ‘fire’ based attack to an ‘ice’ version (or vice versa) to inflict extra special damage on the appropriate baddies. Not only that, but there’s loot. LOOT!
These only award points, but they’re tallied up and added to your ‘inventory’ for a total at the very end of the game — if you can stay alive without continuing. By using your magic to destroy enemies with that power up attack, enemies drop things like swords, boots, and food items that you can collect for point bonuses. You can also power up your magic and regular attack with collectables onscreen.
Dimahoo also has a few names that players might recognize in the credits. Tatsuya Minami was a producer on the Capcom side that helped with the project, a name that should be familiar to Mega Man X and Dino Stalker fans. Musician Manabu Namiki is also another veteran whose work can be heard on a variety of arcade games such as Armed Police Batrider to the PSP title, Black Rock Shooter: The Game.
Unfortunately, Dimahoo like many other shmups from yesteryear’s arcade scene are unavailable as a part of a classic compilation on consoles or PCs. At least officially. The stand-up hardware can still be found if you want to build your own cabinet and the ROM dump is floating out on the ‘net allowing anyone with an emulator to try it out. But however you find it, Dimahoo is a fun, exciting, steampunkish shmup of medieval destruction that only four mercs with crazy abilities and gear can save.