Posted on April 25, 2013 AT 09:10am
This is a review about a game for all the Otaku of the world who grew up wishing they could pilot a Gundam or other such mecha. Though that is an obvious impossibility, Liberation Maiden‘s sci-fi shooter world is an excellent alternative, and also quite a bit safer and cheaper.
Liberation Maiden was originally released in Japanland as apart of a downloadable game collective called Guild 01, which also included Aero Porter and Crimson Shroud, both of which have also been localized and released outside of Japan. There was also a fourth game, Rental Bukiya de Omasse, which has yet to escape the Japanese eShop. Liberation Maiden was developed by Suda 51′s Grasshopper Manufacture, known for the ultra-violent works like No More Heroes, Killer 7, and upcoming Killer is Dead, in conjunction with the beloved LEVEL-5, who also developed the two companion games, Areo Porter and Crimson Shroud, and features animations by the famed Studio BONES, known for such masterful works as Fullmetal Alchemist, Wolf’s Rain and Soul Eater.
The story is very quick and easy; Japan and much of the world has been taken over by a warring nation called “the Dominion” and they’ve siphoned off all the Spiritual Energy of the world, making it devoid of life and Nature. The survivors from Japan have all gathered on the Battleship Nagata, where they form a new government, simply referred to as New Japan. After her father’s untimely assassination, high-school girl Shoko is elected Second President, and then takes to the skies in her mecha, the “Kaihoki” or “Liberator” to fight off the invaders and free her country.
At only five stages, the game is relatively short, so make up for it, there are three difficulties: easy, normal and hard. Each stage is divided into 4 missions, plus one optional sub-mission. The first three missions are always to seek and destroy the “Lesser Conduit Spikes” which are what are siphoning the country’s energy. Once the three Lesser Conduit Spikes are destroyed, the shields around the stage’s “Greater Conduit Spike” go down, leaving it open to attack. Destroying the final Spike ends the stage, job well done, on to the next one.
Despite the simplistic formulated level design, the game still found ways to mix things up, through the different difficulty levels. Each difficulty has unique sub-missions to complete, and the enemy AI act differently, making them more progressively harder. Additionally there was the actual gameplay part which really made things interesting. Liberator attacks using “drones” which appear as green things swirling around it and are composed of pure energy. The Liberator uses its drones for both offense and defense. It comes equipped with three attacks: Missile, Laser gun, and the Blade. The first stage introduces the player to the missile weapon. By swiping the stylus around on the touch screen, it moves a cursor on the top screen, auto-locking on enemy targets. Releasing the stylus unleashes the attack. Then the player is introduced to the Blade. The Blade is slowly charged up as the player kills more and more enemies. When it’s fully charged, blade’s charge bar pulsates in the upper left corner of the touch screen. Swiping across the blade’s bar with the stylus unleashes it. Shoko will draw the Blade and then toss it at the ground, unleashing the energy as a bomb which wipes out all targets in the area except for Spikes. It can’t even harm Spikes for some reason. In Stage 2, the player is given access to the Laser, but given no explanation on how it works. Fortunately, it’s really easy to pick up. Pressing the touch screen fires it continuously, moving the stylus aims it. It can take some getting used to, but totally worth it.
So now let’s talk defense. As was mentioned before, the drones are both weapons and shields. Attacking costs drone energy, but it is instantly replenished after a second or two. However when the player is attacked, drones are sacrificed for the cause, usually in layers. The only way to get back layers of drones is to kill enough enemies. If the player loses all their drones to enemy attacks, they are open to a damaging attack on Shoko directly, and her health bar will go down if she does take a hit. Obviously she can’t take a lot of hits, hence the purpose of the drones. Thus a huge part of the game becomes balancing out when to attack, and when to conserve drones for shielding against attacks. Even in Easy mode, this mechanic still proved to be pleasantly challenging.
There was one thing I didn’t find to be a pleasant challenge, and that was finger cramping. This was an issue caused purely by the compact size of the 3DS and my long fingers. Stupid genetics. To be honest, the control scheme overall was really quite nice. Circle Pad used for basic maneuvering around the screen. Touch screen for attacks. Simple. The L-button could also be used to enter “strafe mode”, which basically locked the Liberator into a circular movement around its target. It was a nice thing to have for avoiding attacks while attacking Spikes, but even then, I really didn’t find it completely necessary and almost never used it, but I suppose it’s the thought that counts.
A more real flaw I found was the story. It’s quick, simple and I understand that at five levels there’s not a lot of room for fancy story-telling, character development and other things longer games offer up these days, but one or two characters from the Dominion would have been a nice touch to offer another side to the simple story. Furthermore, let me make this as clear as possible; Shoko is no more then 16 years old. She’s literally in high school and in charge of a whole damn nation. It’s an anime-styled game with outrageous premises, I get that, but still the people under her never question her age, authority, and only tell her where the next target is to destroy. She’s a freakn 16-year old. What the hell.
The second flaw with this game was the fact that it’s a rated T game from Suda 51. This is the only Suda 51 game I’ve played that wasn’t bathed in blood. It starred a perfectly happy high school girl with zero authority problems who never cussed and didn’t even have much of a chest. Obviously that in no way makes this a bad game, it just seemed extremely out-of-character for a Grasshopper Manufacture game. I mean No More Heroes was basically Kill Bill with a male protagonist, and somehow double the blood. But then we have THIS GAME with ZERO BLOOD, and it’s just… odd.
Lacking in blood aside, this is still an excellent game, as is to be expected from the famed developers Grasshopper Manufacture and Level-5 and animation studio, Studio BONES. The voice acting was suburb, the mechanics worked perfectly, and the story was as good as a high school sci-fi anime story gets, even if it was inherently flawed. Stupid 16-year-old presidents. Anyways, I can honestly say this game is well worth the price. It is currently $4.99 in the 3DS eShop until May 30th, after which the price will be raised to $7.99.
Summary: Mecha, warring nations, and killing all the things. Doesn’t get any better then that.
- Pros: The fighting system was an interesting balance between offense and defense. Story short and easy. Shoko is admittedly kind of a bad ass. Fans of Star Fox will love this game.
- Cons: A Suda 51 game without any blood, over-the-top violence and cussing? What is this madness?
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