Although the action appears to be quite frantic a lot of the time it is possible to approach combat fairly casually.
Earlier this year Japanese developer Level-5 teamed up with several noted game developers to create a collection of titles released as a single cartridge game in Japan under the title Guild 01. Surprisingly from the studio that took forever to get the Inazuma Eleven series over to the west, these short games are going to be released in Europe over the next three months separately as digital downloads. Suda 51’s Liberation Maiden is the first title from the compilation to be released through the Nintendo 3DS eShop.
The game’s story and characters are remarkably restrained from what we have come to expect from Suda. Set one hundred years into the future, New Tokyo has come under attack from mechanical forces and it’s up to the President, Shoko, to take control of her mech suit and go about defending her country. The story is played quite straight and lacks the dark humour and absurd characters found in the likes of Killer 7 or Shadows of the Damned. There is still some quirky humour to be found in the thankful messages left by members of the public throughout gameplay but as they are presented as scrolling text in an already fairly busy top screen it’s very easy to miss.
The brief campaign consists of five missions all structured very similarly. The main objective of each mission is to destroy an enemy structure called the Greater Spike however before doing so you must first take down several Lesser Spikes. Each of these structures is surrounded by various enemies firing a constant barrage of missiles at you which are possible to avoid or shoot down.
The combat revolves around making use of Shoko’s energy on her mech as shooting enemies drains her shield, making her more vulnerable to enemy attacks. Her arsenal is fairly limited as she begins with only a cluster missile which can either target multiple enemies or stack up to unleash a more powerful attack on one target at the expense of sacrificing more of the mech’s shield. The only other weapon that becomes available is a continuous laser beam attack which rapidly drains a Greater Spike’s life bar although it does come with the risk of depleting Shoko’s defenses very quickly.
Occasionally a secondary mission will be issued which can either be completed or ignored. Completing these various objectives and destroying ground enemies will purify that particular area of the map and when the level is completed a greater score will be issued depending on how pure the area is once the mission is over.
If you're not the sort to replay games after completion then you may feel cheated by the very short campaign.
The main replay value in the game comes with the scoring system as by eliminating multiple enemies in quick succession applies various multipliers onto the base score with each standard kill. There is a basic leaderboard for each mission but unfortunately there’s no online integration for more competitive players to compare their scores with the rest of the world. There is also a simple achievement system as completing missions and completing various challenges will unlock artwork and information logs detailing the game world’s history.
Controlling Shoko is somewhat similar to how you would control Pit in the flying sections of Kid Icarus Uprising albeit not on-rails. The circle pad controls Shoko’s movement and holding the L button allows her to strafe around enemies. By dragging the stylus around the touchscreen you can aim shots at enemies which can be fired when released. The controls are somewhat difficult for left handed people and there’s no option to map movement to the ABXY buttons or make use of the Circle Pad Pro making it very uncomfortable. With there being no dedicated firing button it is possible to just swipe across the touch screen to target enemies but it’s still not ideal.
The frequent chatter interrupting the brief missions does start to get repetitive given the repeating mission structure.
The game looks nice enough although it certainly isn’t as technically impressive as some other 3DS games, although the character models and environments are well detailed. Although the animation is fairly minimal the game runs very smoothly even when the screen is filled with a constant barrage of missiles. The 3D effect is quite subtle and eye pleasing although there doesn’t seem to be any strengthening of the effect if you push the 3DS’s slider up. There is also a nicely animated cut scene from Studio Bones which serves as the introduction to the game. The localisation has been handled very well featuring a direct, well written script and excellent voice acting. The music is fairly generic although still works quite nicely within the sci-fi militaristic setting.
Liberation Maiden is a game that does only have a limited appeal. The control scheme may put people off if they thought that Kid Icarus Uprising was too convoluted and the short campaign may feel a little insubstantial if you’re not the sort to replay games to get a higher score or unlock everything in the image gallery. Suda 51 fans may be disappointed that this title isn’t as demented as his previous offerings and it’s possible some could find the overall aesthetic and style a little unremarkable if they’ve seen or played a lot of mecha anime media. Overall the title is a good deal of fun while it lasts but its brevity and restraint probably won’t warrant the revisits that the game hopes for.