Liberation Maiden Review
Liberation Maiden is a game. The brainchild of video game auteur, Suda 51. No, Suda 51 is not a warehouse or some sort of mechanoid but the nickname of Goichi Suda, the man behind games such as Killer7 and No More Heroes. Aside from these he is also known for his collaborations with other developers and Liberation Maiden is the latest of these. Developed by Suda’s Grasshopper Manufacture and the seemingly ever busier Level-5, Liberation Maiden was originally one quarter of a video game compilation called Guild01 released in Japan in May 2012. In a surprise announcement via Nintendo of Europe’s Nintendo Direct video, it was revealed that 3 or the 4 games from the compilation would be finding their way to the Nintendo eShop over the coming three months. The first to be released was Liberation Maiden.
The game itself is a three-dimensional shoot ‘em up whereby you control a school girl (who is also the president of Japan!), controlling a giant flying mech across a decently sized map destroying anything in sight. The story takes place over 5 chapters set in various areas of Japan, and as the young president of New Japan it is your duty to annihilate all the invading bad guys. If you’ve not guessed already, the story is completely bonkers, which is fantastic! Far too many games these days take themselves too seriously in an attempt to appear more cinematic, more evocative. Bollocks. Especially when most of these are first person shooters. There’s a time and place for thought-provoking video games, being a bald space marine isn’t one of them.
The story opens with a rather bizarre, yet extremely fantastic looking anime introduction that gives all the backstory to the events prior to the game. It does this in around 20 seconds or so and you’re still none the wiser by the end of it, but hey it’s fun! The first chapter/tutorial quickly makes its way on to the screen and you’re soon into the action. As with most tutorials, I find these rather frustrating events no less so in this game. The game constantly pauses to give instructions and explain a bit more. You fly for a few seconds, it pauses to explain, you fly a few more seconds, try a shot, game pauses to explain more etc, etc. “Let me just play!!” Thankfully whenever you do go back to the first chapter you can choose whether or not to have the controls explained again.
Speaking of controls, what are they like? As with any shoot ‘em up, controls are incredibly important to the experience especially for those determined to achieve higher and higher scores where precision is vital. And I am pleased to report that they are actually pretty good. Similar to Kid Icarus’ flight sections you move entirely with the circle pad and aim with stylus. Except in this instance you also fire with the stylus by locking on to enemies, holding the stylus down to charge the attack and then releasing. It is a pretty effective method. Unlike Kid Icarus, this game is not ‘on-rails’ and so three-dimensional movement is allowed with freedom to go anywhere within the boundaries of the map.
While the animated cutscenes may have impressed me greatly, the graphics of the main game itself did not. They are definitely not up to the 3DS’s capabilities but for me that’s fine. The graphics are okay, just not as good as they could be. The graphics don’t take away from the fun of this game.
The basics of the missions are as follows: Destroy three minor spikes (large building-y thingies), which then allow the destruction of a main spike (the boss of each chapter). Over the 5 chapters this formula does not vary at all until the last chapter and you can definitely feel some repetitiveness in the game. It does attempt to sugar coat it slightly with the fact you have a mini-mission first before you can destroy a minor spike. So I get commanded to destroy these 5 submarines, after I do that I get to destroy the first minor spike. These mini-missions are all different from each other but you always know what is coming up after you complete the mini-mission. I found it slightly amusing that the main character had to constantly find different ways of sounding surprised after every minor spike appeared. “Oh look! A spike appeared!” Yes… This is the tenth time you’ve completed a mini-mission. Have you not seen a pattern yet, woman?
At the end of each chapter there is a boss battle and these are the funnest parts to play in my opinion and offer the greatest challenge of the game. Each boss varies and have their own unique attacks and patterns to try and conquer, especially the last which is a “What the..?” type of boss.
One aspect of the game that impressed me is the shooting/shield balancing act that is required. Your energy systems depletes as you shoot, leaving you vulnerable to attack, but regenerates hastily once the shooting stops. Although it does not tend to impact gameplay on easy mode; medium and hard mode require some thought on whether unleash all your rockets or be cautious.
The game offers three weapons, two main ones and one special attack only available after building up enough kills. The two main weapons consist of rockets that can be shot multiple times and lock on to different enemies at once, whilst the other is a pretty bad ass laser beam that helps concentrate all your power on one foe.
Unfortunately the story mode lasts around 1 hour and 30 minutes, depending on how casual you want to be though. However as a shoot ‘em up, the meta game is in the re-playability in trying to beat your best scores and this is allowed through the “stage attack” mode. Despite the length I highly recommend this eShop download as I enjoyed every minute of playing it. During a time where new and unique eShop downloads are few and far between, this game is a must buy provided you’re in to re-playability. Some love it, some hate it. I’m somewhere in between but I still feel I have received my monies-worth.
Now, back to kicking some arse…
- Great animated cutscenes.
- Story is bonkers.
- Good music and surprisingly decent voice acting.
- Good Controls
- It’s fun!
- Story mode is very short.
- Graphics not up to the 3DS’s capability.
- Price may be off putting.
- Missions can feel repetitive.
- Although there are unlockable tidbits they don’t feel as though they add anything extra to the game.
- Some of the maps feel a bit sparse.
- Lots of stops and starts