Published on January 23rd, 2013 | by Christian0
Liberation Maiden – Yes, Madame President!
Summary: Brevity aside, Liberation Maiden is a well made game with clever design choices that deserve your attention.
Released last fall on the North American and European 3DS eShop, Liberation Maiden is the first part of the Japanese Guild01 compilation to be released outside of Japan. Guild01 featured 4 games from different developers, published together as a single package by Level-5. The other two games to make it out of Japan were Aero Porter and Crimson Shroud. The fourth game, Rental Bukiya de Omasse, is not getting localized to any other regions because it requires an intimate familiarity with Japanese culture, specifically Japanese comedy, and making it work in other regions was apparently impractical.
Liberation Maiden was developed by Goichi Suda (Suda51) of Grasshopper Manufacture. Most people are familiar with him from the No More Heroes games released on the Wii and later PSN. I found No More Heroes to be an unplayable, albeit stylish, mess. I rather enjoyed Shadows of the Damned though, which showcased how Suda’s flair is enough to push a functional game over the top and make it above average. Liberation Maiden is a miniaturized demonstration of this effect. One thing to note is that Liberation Maiden is decidedly less crass than previous Suda games, so depending on your tastes this will come either as a disappointment or a relief.
The story is mostly forgettable: something about liberating Japan from an occupying army that has taken over most if not all of the rest of the world. It’s so unimportant, in fact, that you don’t even get the details in game’s story mode, you only get them as gallery-mode unlocks for in-game achievements. The protagonist, Shoko, is the 2nd president of New Japan, elected to office after the death of her father the 1st president. Her first executive action is to climb aboard her mecha, the Liberator ‘Kamui’, and fly off to liberate Japan. The animated intro looks great, and it all has a kind of straight-faced ridiculousness that makes you smile and grant preemptive forgiveness to the rest of the story, which is good because it needs it.
In missions you’ll use the circle pad to move Shoko in different directions and the stylus to control the position of the aiming reticule on screen. Holding down the stylus keeps the reticule on screen and allows you to lock onto more targets while also increasing the power of your beams. Each lock draws power from your shields, though, and you won’t get those shield segments back until you fire and give them a moment to recharge. This clever risk versus reward design makes things much more exciting than they would be otherwise, especially since there’s an incentive to chain together as many attacks as possible through rapid successions of big multi-lock attacks. Aside from the multi-beam there’s a concentrated beam attack that fires in a straight line and does heavy damage, and also a special beam-sword attack that hits everything on-screen. The frequency with which you can execute the special attack depends on how well you amass chain bonuses, so you’re rewarded with more frequent use of your best attack by playing skillfully. It’s a well thought out design.
There’s a total of five missions in the campaign, and every mission except for the last has the same structure, which can get kind of tiresome. First you must destroy the “lesser counduit spikes” and then you can fight the mission boss, which is a “greater conduit spike.” Despite the bland naming conventions, these boss fights are the highlight of the game, really elevating Liberation Maiden beyond the mundane. Each greater spike is a massive multi-stage tower that attacks you in equal parts with attacks that must be dodged and shot down. It’s an exciting change of pace from the more methodical pacing of the early mission segments where you’re destroying the lesser spikes guarded by smaller enemies. While not the best it has to offer, those sequences do a good job of keeping you on your toes as you maneuver to dodge lasers and shoot down enemy missiles as they snake across the screen towards you. When they’ve locked onto you, you’ll receive an urgent communication of “enemy missiles tracking” from First Secretary Kira, who’ll function as sort of your mission commander throughout the course of the game. He can be a little overbearing sometimes, but luckily the voice acting is top notch so I never tired of his mission updates as he lead me through the campaign.
It’s a tight package, a little too tight maybe. The whole campaign can be finished in under 2 hours, and while there is a score attack mode, a harder difficulty, and a number of in-game achievements that unlock gallery content, you’re not getting a lot of bang for your buck. Hell, it took me longer to write this article than it did to play through the campaign on the default difficulty. The repetitive mission structure makes it feel like a one-note song, further compounding its brevity. It’s a pleasant enough tune, but it’s hard to decide how to value a game like this. The closest thing to compare it too would probably be a schmup, and while there’s no equivalent of a 1-credit-clear for Liberation Maiden, how much you get out of it is going to depend on your desire to wring out all that gallery content and play the harder difficulty setting and score attack modes.
Brevity aside, it’s still a well made game that deserves to be played, as well as a great start for Guild01. I’ve played the other two games released in North America, and Liberation Maiden ranks as my 2nd favorite. Keep an eye on the site to find out my thoughts on Crimson Shroud and Aero Porter.