Suda 51 (Killer 7, No More Heroes) brings gamers Liberation Maiden, a shoot-em-up type game with a twist. Liberation Maiden is also the first in a mini-series of previously Japanese-only games known as Guild01. What are gamers liberating? The nation of Japan, forests, nature and other lush green plant life. You see, a war-happy nation called The Dominion that definitely isn’t a thinly-veiled copy of America, is determined to imperialize the Japanese and harvest their resources for energy. In response, Japan takes a page out of Metal Wolf Chaos’ book and lets their leader pilot a gigantic fighting robot to combat the enemy. Unfortunately, said leader meets an untimely end before he can teach us Americans a lesson, so his teenage daughter Shoka is elected as his replacement and inherits his mech, the Liberator Kamui and GOD HELP US ALL.
Players hover over beautifully rendered districts of Japan while blowing up The Dominion’s mechanical machinations. Using the analog stick allows gamers to free fly around the large maps, while holding down lets them slide and strafe. Figuring this out at first can be a little confusing, despite the game’s generous tutorial, I couldn’t figure out how to maneuver Shoka and the Kamui around until the game gave me control and left me to my own devices. Keeping you safe are the Deflector nodes, little green shields that circle the Kamui which can be gained by downing foes and destroying incoming projectiles. The more Deflectors you have, the more direct damage players can block AND deal, since more Deflector nodes means the Kamui can lock onto more enemies while attacking — more on that in just a second.
Attacking is a little less conventional though, players don’t attack with any buttons, with the stylus/touch screen. With one swipe of their stylus, players can move a cursor around the screen, locking onto anything the cursor touches. Holding down the stylus and scrolling across the screen allows for more lock-ons provided you have enough Deflectors. Personally, I found it uncomfortable to use the stylus, so I just slide my finger across the touch screen, reducing it to a smudgy window. It was worth it though! It’s a lot of fun being surrounded by enemies, missiles and other harmful foes, then turning around and destroying them all with a swipe of my finger! While the default weapon is a salvo of homing missiles, gamers can also use an even more fun big laser to wipe out enemies too. The laser does more damage to a single opponent than the missles, but has a pathetic charge and dies out quick. It also can’t lock onto enemies, so the more Deflectors you have, the longer you get to fire it (which when maxed out still isn’t that great, sadly).
Liberation Maiden is five stages long, each stage taking about 10 minutes to clear, with optional sub-missions thrown in. Players get 5 continues, which they’ll need with some bosses, and if they run out of continues, they can start from the beginning of the last stage they played. Liberation Maiden is difficult, but it is forgiving at least. There are tons of achievements to unlock from just making through a level to tackling the aforementioned sub-missions to 100% completion in levels to weapon based challenges. Accomplishing these achievements unlocks art and more of the game’s backstory, although it’s not absolutely necessary to read the backstory to enjoy the game.
Either I don’t give the 3DS’ graphical capabilities enough credit or this game really goes above and beyond with its graphics. Between the in-game graphics and the smooth fonts Liberation Maiden looks more like a really expensive downloadable title you’d see on XBLA or a longer storebought game. It’s the voice acting that hurts the product, although it’s no reason to not buy the game. As the screen fills with enemies and projectiles, you’ll hear Kira, your assistant letting you know that missiles and enemies are closing in, which makes sense, but since he’ll say something every time a new projectile appears, you’ll start to hear him cut himself off after a while. “Enemies close — ene — enemy closing in — enemy — enemy — enemy — enemies –After the third time this happens, you’ll probably want to smack Kira in the face — or mute the game. Outside of Kira’s repetitiveness the game has decent J-rock tunes in the background. Nothing fancy or memorable, but nothing that would get irritating.
For $8, Liberation Maiden is a great looking game that’s also a great buy. It takes a little while to get the hang of piloting the Kamui, but after a little bit of hands on time, gamers’ll get the hang of things and go from there. There isn’t a ton of replay value beyond the achievements and going for 100% completion, but that’ll keep completionists glued to their 3DSes for a while, while saving nature with missiles and lasers is fun and clearing the game in an hour will satisfy casual gamers.
+Save nature with lasers and missiles!
+Fun, fast paced action!
+Good for completionists and casual gamers
+It’s only $8
-Piloting the Kamui at first is rough
-Kira, just Kira