Guild 01 is a 3DS game that only released in Japan, and it was a compilation of four different titles designed by four well-known game designers in Japan. Although Guild 01 won’t be seeing a full 3DS release, we will be getting three out of those four games in the form of individual eShop releases. The first of those games being Liberation Maiden, an action shooter game designed by Suda 51 and Grasshopper Manufacture.
Platform: 3DS (eShop)
Publisher: LEVEL-5 International America, Inc.
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Genre: Shooter, Action, Arcade
Release Date: October 25, 2012
Being a game designed by Suda 51, whose portfolio includes the No More Heroes series and Killer 7 games, you’d expect something pretty out there in terms of gameplay and story. Liberation Maiden is probably a couple steps back from what fans of Suda 51 are use to. That’s not to say that the game isn’t full of some crazy storyline or lacking in action. There’s still a good amount of that present.
The setting for Liberation Maiden takes place 100 years in the future, where Japan is currently being invaded by a nation called, “The Dominion,” that’s aiming to take over the world. In order to fight back against this threat, the Japan government elects a President in order to take command. However, the First President of New Japan soon falls, and it is now up to his daughter Shoko, the newly elected Second President to take the lead. Armed with her mech, Kamui, Shoko begins her path to save Japan from the Dominion.
Gameplay is in the form of a 3D shoot ’em up style, as you take control of Shoko as she pilots Kamui. The controls are a little unique, but the setup is a little similar to the controls featured in Kid Icarus Uprising. You control Shoko with the 3DS Circle Pad, while using the stylus on the touch screen in order to shoot. There’s no button to press in order to shoot, as pushing the L shoulder button activates strafe mode that enables you to circle around left or right of something without losing view of it.
Simply touching the screen will cause you to shoot. One of the weapons at your disposal, has you move the cursor around in order to lock-on targets and then lifting the stylus from the screen in order to fire upon them. It’s a lock-on system that’s similar to mechanics seen in Rez and Panzer Dragoon. A second weapon you get has you fire a beam that you control with the stylus. Your final weapon works like a Smart Bomb that just blows everything up, but it can only be accessed once a specific meter is full. There’s also a weapon that appears at the end of a level, called Sacrifice Drive. You’ll be prompted to activate it in order to land the final blow on a Boss. Once activated, you’ll have to rotate your stylus around on the touch screen.
Moving and shooting felt a little off at first, but I felt that was due to me being left handed. There’s no left hand option here to turn the buttons into movement controls. So left handed people will need to get use to holding the stylus in their right hand. Playing a lot of Kid Icarus Uprising has probably helped in me getting use to this set up fairly quick, as I played that game in right-hand mode over the left-hand option. I’ve also played using the 3DS stand, which helped. It may feel a little disheartening for lefties, but I assure you that it’s a small hump to get over. Compared to Kid Icarus Uprising, the need to be really precise in where you aim is less important in Liberation Maiden. I would recommend playing in EASY mode first in order to get use to the controls, for all players.
It’s not a simple aim and shoot affair though. The thing that helps Liberation Maiden stand out a bit from the standard is the fact that your weapon energy and armor are tied together. That means, if you choose to shoot a lot, the shield that’s guarding your life will be depleted. After a short while, it will recharge. So there’s a bit of a risk and reward system in place where you should choose wisely when to not shoot in order to withstand an attack and to determine how much of a powerful shot you should take if you’re willing to deplete your shield completely for the strongest attack, leaving yourself open for big damage if you get hit. Most of my deaths were due to choosing to deplete my shield in order to get out a strong attack. It’s an interesting mechanic, and I enjoyed the extra tension it brought.
There are two main modes in place for Liberation Maiden. There’s the Story Mode that has you traversing through five stages from one after the other. The second mode is Stage Attack, where you can replay through any levels you’ve completed and attempt to get the highest score possible. You can’t play levels on a specific difficulty though if you haven’t beaten it on that difficulty in Story mode. With the lack of an online leaderboard system, you’ll have to go through other means if you want to brag about any high score you make.
The biggest knock I have against Liberation Maiden is with its length. There are five stages to play through, and it doesn’t take that long to play through each one. So it’s a pretty short game if you’re only interested in checking out the story. The stages themselves are also repetitive in terms of how they play out, where you are basically tasked with taking down three small towers before taking out the bigger main tower. Each stage does have a sub mission to complete optionally, but other than the level design, there’s not much difference from what you’re doing in each stage. The final stage is a bit different, but it felt a little lacking overall for what it was.
Even with those problems though, I’m enjoying my time with Liberation Maiden. The action is high and the controls feel good once you learn it. It’s odd, but I never got frustrated with them for any of my deaths. The story is short, but I really liked it. That perhaps made its sudden end a huge disappointment for me. However, I was more than willing to play through again on a higher difficulty to challenge myself, since I enjoyed the gameplay so much. There is also an in-game achievement system, in the form of the Gallery, where you’ll earn some back story and info on characters and enemies for completing certain game challenges.
The presentation helped a lot in keeping my attention. This isn’t the best looking 3DS game, but this is an eye-pleasing game, especially when there’s a lot of lasers and explosions happening all over the place. I’m also a huge fan of the animated cutscenes, which were done by anime Studio BONES (Fullmetal Alchemist, Soul Eater). The game is also fully voiced and done really well, which all helpls bring the game to life. Accompanying the action is a face-pace soundtrack that fits in with the tone of the game. Like many Suda 51 games, I’m a big fan of the music in this game.
I didn’t know too much about Liberation Maiden before I went in, and was mainly drawn in by the whole ‘designed by Suda 51’ headline. What I played through didn’t disappoint, and it ended up being a huge enjoyment for me. There are problems with the length and a bit of repetitiveness in terms of how progression in levels are laid out, but the action fitted around the game make up for it. I’m hopeful to see more of this game, as I’m really interested in the story told and would like to experience more of this gameplay. Definitely one of my top recommendations for 3DS owners to download from the eShop this year.