Regarded by many as the definitive in the series, Dezaemon 2 makes several significant improvements. The biggest, finally, is the ability to create dedicated horizontal shooters. In fact you now can create a 10 stage shooter (up from 6/5), mixing and matching horizontal with vertical as you please - which is perfect for any Axelay fans out there. In addition to defining stages as either horizontal or vertical, you can also set to them be 'effect' stages, to create cut-scenes and cinemas. Another major addition is the ability to make 2-player games. The only slight disadvantage is that a back-up RAM memory cartridge is mandatory to save anything - since the internal RAM just won't cut it. And not one of those 4-in-1 cartridges either, an official first-party memory cartridge is needed. In Japan Athena released a book titled: Athena Official Dezaemon 2 Last Capture Reader. (アテナ公式デザエモン２最終攻略読本).
Regarding graphics design it's very much like its PS1 predecessor, albeit better looking. Whereas the PS1 port of the SFC game was still shackled by the SFC's palette limits for individual sprites (16 colours plus one transparency), the Saturn sequel allows for four times as many colours per sprite. Your main ship can now have six frames of animation instead of three. You also have slightly more freedom over your available weapons, with the ability to mix and match from a pre-existing pool: your main attacks, subs/options, bombs and charge shots.
Enemies now have an additional size of projectile, and come in a wider range of sizes themselves (seven, up from four). You now also have 2x4 tiles and 4x2 tiles (both 2 frames), plus a 4x4 tile enemy (one frame). The variety of boss sizes has also increased, allowing for four different types. Enemies now have 32 types of movement pattern (up from 20), with eight speeds, while their firing patterns have undergone modification too. So have sprite enlargement effects, allowing more versatility when stretching or rotating, plus the option for fading.
For those who have trouble drawing sprites manually, there's also a 3D polygon snapshot option. It doesn't allow you to create 3D models of craft, rather it contains a selection of pre-rendered polygon items, which you can piece together, rotate, stretch, resize, recolour and adjust the lighting on, to then take a 2D snapshot of and save to your sprite bank. It works remarkably well, and is great if you're in a hurry but don't want to use the selection of pre-made sprites from the Sample Games. Along with giving your games a faux-CGI/polygon effect, with a bit of clever tweaking to the colours and positions you can create some cool and unique sprites.
Background design is similar to the previous release, and building horizontal levels works much like building vertical ones. The biggest addition is the ability to warp the shape of the background, to give it a tunnel effect. Previously you could only add different kinds of ripples, but the tunnel option allows for some very slick 3D-looking effects and parallax! Music generation is also similar to previous, except now instead of two sound channels you have four, and you can also do wacky things like have the sound of an instrument extend while altering its note value (see screenshot). All in all, it's similar enough to remain intuitive for anyone who used the previous SFC or PS1 release, while at the same time allowing enough extra freedom to do some extraordinary things. There is a FAQ available online for help with menu translations.
Three sample games are included. Biometal Gust showcases the new horizontal option, and is a follow-up to Athena's SNES shooter Biometal, featuring some very cool tunnel backgrounds. The second is Ramsie, which is fairly dull but would see a sequel on Dezaemon 3D on N64 and Kids for PS1. The third is Daioh-P, presumably a 'parody' of Athena's Daioh games. It's more of a remake, showcasing Dezaemon 2's ability to create sprites using its 3D snapshot tool, so everything has a swanky CGI look to it. It's possible to load any of these in the editor and play around with them - but it doesn't seem possible to mix and match the games' components.
There are also two hidden games. If you hold the L and R buttons and access Biometal Gust, it'll load Super-hard Shooting Vexsarsion, which uses the same background but with some interesting enemy designs. Doing the same while accessing Ramsie will load Elfin, a vertical fantasy shooter where you need to kill friendly-looking NPCs. Like Ramsie, this saw a sequel in Dezaemon Kids.
Dezaemon 2 Game Database
While a brief skim of the above features wouldn't imply a lot of creative freedom, looking through the Dezaemon 2 Game Database reveals a trove of actually quite spectacular creations, featuring some very outside-of-the-box thinking. For anyone thinking of trying Dezaemon 2, it's worth investigating the homebrew Save Game Manager, and the second volume which was released. Together they grant access to nearly 200 user-created games, some of which are amazing. Information on the database is available in English on Satakore. As they explain:
The Dezaemon 2 Save Game Manager (D2SGM) allows you to copy Dezaemon 2 save game files from CD/Backup Cartridge/FDD to Backup Cartridge/FDD. It is a homebrew tool for the Sega Saturn (so you need a mod chipped Saturn or need to perform the swaptrick). It also works on emulators like SSF.
Some of the games in the database are worth mentioning.
Burnin' Lover is a racing game which plays a bit like Bump n Jump. More info HERE.
Drill Sp is a strange reverse shooter where you need to drill deeper into the ground. More info HERE.
GoGo Tank manages to replicate a Battle City style tank game with very impressive results. More info HERE.
UshiGoroshi meanwhile abandons the traditional shooter stages in favour of one where you need to prevent cows reaching your side of the screen. More info HERE.
And there's nearly 200 more worth checking out (including some maze games). Below are a sample of screens taken from Satakore's database. More design screens HERE.