Monday, November 26, 2012

Liberation Maiden Game Review

(Originally written November 17, 2012)
Liberation Maiden is a game I discovered just last night on the 3DS Nintendo market place. It currently holds one of the highest ratings on the market place and was only a little over $7 so I thought I’d check it out. It features flashy anime cut scenes and a girl piloting a giant robot to blow up stuff. Interestingly, it was made by Goichi Suda, the creator of games like Lollipop Chainsaw and No More Heroes. It was developed by Level-5 studios with an all-star production crew or as all-star as you can get for a downloadable title on the 3DS. Liberation Maiden is the first title of 5 downloadable games to come for this mini-series of games.

STORY: Set in a futuristic Japan that has been invaded and taken over by a mysterious enemy. The remains of the Japanese Government elect Shoko Ozora as the 2nd president of New Japan, the first president being her dead father. But being president in New Japan doesn’t mean she sits behind a desk all day! No, she pilots a giant robot and must single handedly liberate Japan from this mysterious enemy. So basically, its cliché anime plot number 26: Young pilot must save the world/country from some unknown enemy invader. While there is more to it than that, that’s the gist of it that we are giving in the story mode. You can unlock more information about the story, characters, and setting in the gallery but that’s only if you want to read text crawls. While the story is nothing special, the lead character Shoko has a charm to her. She’s the typical anime girl in a mecha anime but at least she isn’t whiny or constantly questioning her motives for piloting a giant robot. She does her job proudly and with honor. The only other real character in the game is this guy named Kira who talks to her over the radio. He’s the secretary of defense, I guess? He mainly just tells her what to do, how to do it, and sings her praises once her job is done. At least it’s not someone annoying like a high pitched girl or anything. I have no idea what the invaders are exactly other than they have killed much of the environment in Japan and that by destroying power conduit towers loosens their grip on the country and brings wild life back to the liberated areas. Oh god, there is an environmental message. I think. Anyway, the story is there to just give reason for the game play mostly.

GAMEPLAY: This where Liberation Maiden gets interesting. You only use the joy pad and the L button. Everything else is controlled on the touch screen. I was expecting something like Starfox 64 but it definitely isn’t, however, that isn’t a bad thing. On the touch pad is your map, targeting computer, weapon selection, and a picture of Shoko that reacts to various things but you rarely have time to watch those. The game encourages you to use the stylist but I found it much easier to just use my thumb. If you have small hands, this might be tricky to play. You have two main weapons, energy missiles and a laser. I used the energy missiles most of the time as they lock onto everything and can be charged up. You lock onto targets by moving your thumb over the touch pad and tap it to fire. It seems complicated at first but after a few minutes you get the hang of it. You also have kill-everything –on-screen weapon in the form of an energy spear that blows up everything on the ground but you can only use it every so often.  While the weapons respond surprisingly well, you will probably have trouble locking onto some enemies because of the way you are holding the 3DS and will have to really reach with your thumb for the left side of the touch screen. You can link up chain combos by targeting multiple enemies at once and then blow them all away. It is very satisfying and once you get the hang of it, very fun. However, the stages get rather repetitive. While you do get more objective as the game goes on, your main goal in each stage is to find and destroy these power conduits that rise out of the Earth. Once you destroy the lesser ones, you must destroy the main power conduit for the area which basically acts as a boss battle. The big ones have four different cores to destroy and the last one requires you to go kamikaze into the core, spin around in it using the touch screen and do it fast enough before Shoko’s shields collapse. The last stage does have a real boss battle though.  Now I should probably bring up that this game is very short. You can easily knock it out within an hour or less. There are three difficulty settings and it might take someone a little longer on the higher difficulties but it is still very short. Outside the story mode, there isn’t much besides a stage attack which is just playing through the levels to get a high score or fastest time. This game could have used some kind of multiplayer mode where you battle your robots with friends. Oh well, maybe in the next game.

GRAPHICS: The in-game graphics are generally good even though most would say they are last generation console graphics but this is on a handheld system and a download so I’d say they look pretty damn good. The environments are bright and colorful, the mech looks really good and the explosions and enemy forces look great. But the real eye catcher for this game is the cut scenes. They look beautiful and were animated by studio Bones, best known for the Cowboy Bebop movie, Full Metal Alchemist, Wolf’s Rain, and RahXephon.  Sadly, we only get two of these cut scenes, one at the beginning and end of the game. We also have stills of Shoko and Kira during radio conversations and, thankfully, it’s all spoken dialogue with the text boxes. It’s a bit disappointing to not see any other animated cut scenes like between missions or whatever. Also, despite only having two cut scenes, they do manage to sneak in some fan service of Shoko.

Stay classy, Japan.

SOUND: Sound effects wise, it’s all good. The explosions and weapon sounds are very crisp and loud. The voice acting is not as bad I was expecting. It’s average anime voice acting for something like this and gets the job done. The voice actor for Shoko sounds really familiar but I can’t find who did her voice. Kira’s voice sounds very familiar as well. Also, the only other speaking role in the game is the narrator who talks in-between missions and sums up what is happening with the story so far. If you like J-pop type music, you should be pleased with the soundtrack. The music during the stages are fitting scores and we get some epic J-pop songs during the boss battles. It makes you feel like you’re in a giant robot anime.

Overall, it’s a neat little game though I’m not 100% comfortable with the price for what it is. I’d say it’s better off at $5 but it is pretty new to the market so I’m sure the price will go down in a month or two. If you like mecha anime, I suggest checking it out. As I said before, this is the first of a series of downloadable games and I’d like to see them building on this more and more and hopefully, not the same thing with each title.


Note: I use the 5 point scale for DL games, 10 point scale for full games.    

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