== Nixon Computer ==

GAME CLEAR No. 169 -- Liberation Maiden

video games game clear grasshopper manufacture level-5 nintendo 3ds

Liberation Maiden (2012, 3DS/iOS)

Developer: Level-5, Grasshopper Manufacture
Publisher: Level-5
Clear Version: 3DS
Clear Platform: New 3DS
Clear Date: 5/17/24


Why should I care?
This short, sweet shmup was Goichi Suda’s only 3DS effort. It’s rather unlike his other work, making it perhaps worth a look for the contrast alone.

Remember when the 3DS eShop closed? Well here’s another one of the games I picked up before it did.

Liberation Maiden could be briefly described as Panzer Dragoon meets Independence Day, with maybe a dash of Metal Wolf Chaos. Set a century in the future, it stars President Shoko Ozora, a teenaged girl who was elected to succeed her assassinated father as the head of the government of New Japan. Her first order of business is to hop into the flying mech Kamui to do battle against Dominion, the enemy nation that has all but taken over New Japan and is busy sapping its resources and destroying its natural beauty.

To defeat them, she must destroy the Spikes they’ve set up in Japan’s various population centers. These Spikes burrow deep into the ground to sap the Earth Energy or some woo-woo shit like that, but fortunately they have huge glowing weak points that you can target by swiping your targeting reticle over them with the 3DS stylus (the same method is used to target lesser enemies). Three Lesser Spikes must be destroyed before the shield drops on the Greater Spike of each stage, which serves as the stage boss. These guys hide their weak points a bit better and generally have some fun attack patterns to deal with.

And that’s about all there is to it. You fly around a bunch of Japanese cities, scribbling over enemies as you go and releasing the stylus to fire away. The sort of neat thing is that your bullets are also your shields, so the more enemies you target and fire at at once, the less damage you can take without incurring actual health damage. Also, as your shields are destroyed by being hit, you can’t fire as fast. Pretty neat little tradeoff that reminds me a bit of F-Zero’s boost-is-also-health mechanic. I found the challenge nicely-tuned on Normal difficulty and enjoyed a few tense moments of low-shield, low-health action as I tried to recoup my resources.

It’s just too bad the game is so short! My 3DS activity log says I took just 55 minutes to finish this game’s five levels (a number perhaps insisted upon by the developer). I would’ve liked to have seen what other fun boss concepts they might’ve come up with in further levels. There’s some gallery and lore items to unlock for finishing stages with a 100% “liberation” score, but that’s just about all there is to lengthen this tiny game. Alas!

That, of course, doesn’t diminish the fact that the game is at least a fun hour. It’s also amusing to contrast its length with its production value. The game has nice graphics for the platform and is quite performant, even in 3D mode. It’s got a solid soundtrack, full voice acting during missions (in which Shoko communicates with her advisors over radio), and nice, 3D-enabled anime cutscenes for the intro and ending. Pretty spiffy! All for a very small game. I struggle to think of another quite like it in that regard.

The strangest thing about it, though, is how ordinary it is in design, concept, and execution. It doesn’t have any of the usual surreal or weird elements usually present in games Suda51 has a hand in, nor frankly the gameplay jank his games also often suffer from. Even Shadows of the Damned – for which Suda was forced to tone down his usual strangeness by publisher Electronic Arts – is considerably more his style. But then it’s kinda cool to see a game of his that plays it pretty straight. Shows us he can do that too, I suppose.

Anyway, as with any 3DS game, do pirate this one if you’re so inclined. And on the subject of Grasshopper Manufacture games on dead or dying platforms, you only have until July to grab the delightful, digital-only Kinect game Diabolical Pitch before it’s gone forever. Of course, I guess you could just pirate it, too, but I’m less inclined to recommend that for games made by smaller studios like these.