Liberation Maiden - Review

In 2012 Level-5 published a "mini compilation" of sorts for the Nintendo 3DS. This compilation was called "Guild01" and it was a series of four smaller sized games. Each game was developed and designed by a different person, and they were then released on the Nintendo eShop individually at a low price. So, just what are these games? Well the compilation included: Liberation Maiden, Aero Porter, Crimson Shroud, and Rental Bukiya de Omasse, but in this review I will only be covering one of them. The game developed by Goichi Suda (Suda 51) called "Liberation Maiden."

The Story of Liberation:

Despite being a small sized game, Liberation Maiden does in fact have its own story line which is told through mini cutscenes, in game dialogue, and unlockable pieces of world history. The story begins 100 years in the future where Japan has completely changed. Japan is now known as one of the most beautiful places in the world, with calm weather, and flourishing plant life; however things don't stay this way for long. Soon the "Dominion" show up...

The Dominion is a nation that is currently taking over the world one country at a time, and Japan has been set in their sights as their next target. In order to combat the Dominion, Japan has decided to do away with their parliamentary system, and replace their Prime Minister with a President (who would have more control over the war); however that plan also starts out with a rocky start. During a speech the first president is assassinated, and Japan is in shock. With the Dominion controlling their once home land, the people of Japan once again look toward their new president for help; a young girl named Shoko Ozora, the daughter of Japan's first president.

From their flying air ship, the new nation of "New Japan" once again gets ready to combat the Dominion, and finally return things back to the way they should be. Shoko gets into her flying mech Kaihoki, and takes off for the battle field. Knowing she's Japan's last hope, she heads out to give it her all, and hopefully reclaim her homeland.

Truthfully, the game's story is a bit over the top and unbelievable, but that isn't really the main focus here. Liberation Maiden is in fact more about the gameplay, and that is where it really shines. If the idea of a high school girl being the president bothers you, well, just try not to take it too seriously. The game doesn't.

The Gameplay:

Liberation Maiden is a very short game, with a very simple, yet addictive, gameplay style. The game is a sort of free range shoot em up, where you basically fly from point to point on a map destroying everything in your path. The game plays from a sort of 3D top view perspective where you can see what is in front of you, but the ground as well. Since most enemies are in fact on the ground below, you rarely have to fight enemies face to face.

The game's controls are also quite simple, and they are very easy to learn. You control Shoko with the circle pad, but you use the touch screen to aim and lock onto your enemies. While at the start of the game you only have homing missiles to fire, later on you do gain access to other attacks as well, and each one has their own controls. While homing missiles are fired by locking onto enemies and taking the stylus off of the touch screen, the laser is fired by simply holding down on the touch screen. Another special attack where Shoko throws a sword can also be used by sliding a bar across the touch screen, but its a limited attack and can only be used every so often.

Attacks in Liberation Maiden are also quite a bit different from in other games. At the bottom right of your screen you'll see that you have a limited amount of energy, and that energy is actually used for two things. First of all every single one of your attacks will use up a part of your energy, but so will getting hit. If you are currently attacking, and you have used up all of your energy, that means you will NOT have anything to protect you from taking damage. When your energy is used up, and you take a hit, you will lose health, and your energy bar will shrink as well. Now sure the energy does in fact recharge within seconds of finishing your attack, but that also means you have to learn to play it safe and decide when it is better to attack or dodge. Because of this system you cannot just go pure offensive, and you have to decide when you should focus on defense. It makes the game a bit more challenging, and it limits your attacks as well.

Each level in Liberation Maiden basically plays out the same, but from time to time you will come across a few minor changes. For the most part you will be flying from map location to map location as you shoot the heck out of everything on the ground, other times you'll have extra missions to complete, or you'll be given advice on how to progress. For example one level has you dodging laser beams to avoid being detected, while another you just simply blow everything up. The gameplay doesn't change that often, but sections such as these do prove to be a nice refreshing change of pace.

As you go through each level of Liberation Maiden you will destroy enemies, dodge missiles, and attack "spikes" which are draining the spirit energy out of the land. These spikes act as sort of mini bosses, where you must dodge enemy fire as you shoot specific targets on them to destroy them. This is a pattern you will repeat three times during each level, and once you destroy them all the level's boss enters the scene.

Bosses in Liberation Maiden play out in a little bit different way from the rest of the game. The camera is switched to a full behind the scenes view, the boss is always located in the center of the battle field, and you can freely move left and right, and up and down to dodge it's attacks. Simply dodge everything that comes your way, and shoot the glowing weak points to take them down. For the most part these boss battles follow the same formula as well, but the final boss does in fact make a 180 and provides you with a challenge.

Beating each level in Liberation Maiden unlocks the stage for a score attack mode as well, and each level does provide you with an extra (non required) challenge to complete. By destroying enemies and buildings in each stage, you can slowly return Japan to its former glory, and by restoring each stage to 100% you can unlock some extras in the gallery. Challenges such as these do in fact help expand the gameplay, and it does give you extra reason to replay levels you have already completed; which is something you'll actually have to do a lot.

The Good and Bad:

Liberation Maiden is actually a very hard game to judge. On one hand you know that it is just a mini game that was created for a compilation, but on the other it suffers because of that. The thing is Liberation Maiden was actually a really good idea, and it has nice fun (yet simple) gameplay; however it also has a lot of short comings.

While the game does in fact have a story, it is very limited. The cutscenes are very short, the little chats you see in game are limited, and the ending isn't even a full ending. The game leaves you hanging with a cliff hanger which suggests that there is more, but you quickly learn that this isn't the case. The game is over, and all that is left is for you to replay it over and over again to unlock extra pieces of background history. On top of that, the game is very, VERY, short. It only has four levels and a level for the final boss fight, and each one only takes about 15 minutes to complete. Sure the levels do run on a 30 minute time limit, but I really don't see how you can run out of time. In fact a single run on normal mode will most likely take you about an hour and a half to complete, while an easy and hard mode run will most likely take you just as long. There's actually an extra for you to unlock that requires you to play the game for four hours, and that is something you WON'T be able to unlock on your first or maybe even second time through.

Despite all that, Liberation Maiden really isn't a bad game. Once again you have to understand that it is just a mini game and part of a compilation, and you really can't blame it for being what it is. When it comes down to it, the animation is nice, the gameplay is addicting if you like this sort of thing, it has some REALLY nice music (with some really nice J-Pop), and the game is easy to play. Really it's one of them games that you just pick up when you have the time, play for about ten minutes, and then put down when it is time to get back to your daily life.

If you have some extra cash and feel like picking up a small, yet addicting, game, I'd recommend checking this one out. Since its release on the eShop, it has also been released for iOS, and really, it just feels right. This is the type of game that should be on mobile devices, and it is great for both casual and hard core gamers alike. It's just too bad that it'll most likely never get a sequel.... Especially since Guild02 features an entirely new set of games by an entirely new set of developers.

In the end, I give Liberation Maiden a solid 7/10. It's a fun little game, but it does have its flaws.

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