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Review: LIBERATION MAIDEN is weird, short, and fun

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Suda 51 and his studio Grasshopper Manufacture are somewhat notorious in the gaming world for directing games that are quite literally insane. These games, like Killer 7 and No More Heroes are often hyper-violent, deranged, and usually hinge upon a premise so abstract and bizarre that if the gameplay weren’t top-notch, the games would be totally alienating and unplayable. By this standard, Liberation Maiden, his new 3DS eShop title published by Level 5, is relatively tame. In it, you play as Shoko Ozora, teenage daughter of the President of New Japan, who has to reluctantly step into office in her father’s place following his assassination. On top of that, a rival nation is invading New Japan in order to steal all its power, and it is Shoko’s presidential duty to climb into a giant mecha called a “Liberator” and defend her country single-handedly on the field of battle, with only her faithful aid Kira to help her via radio.

This sounds like the makings of something enjoyably brainless and crazy, and quite frankly, that’s what you get at every angle from Liberation Maiden, starting with the controls, which are somewhat reminiscent of Kid Icarus: Uprising in that you fly with the stick and aim and lock on to targets with the stylus, but also include an interesting strafing mechanic that makes shooting at ground targets more manageable, because believe me, you spend a LOT of time shooting at targets on the ground in this game. 

liberationLiberation Maiden feels very polished at most points, and the game moves smoothly and quickly, with very frantic action sequences. You never really get more to work with than the standard homing missile barrage and a rechargeable beam weapon, but the simplicity of the gameplay is enjoyable, and I never really found myself wishing I had a bigger arsenal. The only really rough spots gameplay-wise come during the five boss fights, when the controls change to a maddeningly similar yet totally confusing alternate scheme that’s meant to help make the immense size of the enemy easier to deal with, but instead just makes you die more often because the way it’s laid out doesn’t really make logical sense. Still this minor flaw isn’t a deal-breaker, and my overall experience was largely positive.

liberationThis game is also beautiful. Aside from a production team who’s collectively worked on No More Heroes, Silent Hill, and the classic Anime film Akira, its cinematics benefit from a partnership with BONES animation, of Full Metal Alchemist fame, who animated all of them so beautifully, and delivered very high quality voice work and music as well. Every aspect of this game’s production is what you would expect of a Triple-A title, except that this game is just an 8 dollar eShop release, and that extra oomph really goes far in making Liberation Maiden a real leader of the pack on the Nintendo eShop.

liberationThe only thing I can really say disappointed me about this game was its length. It only has four stages, and one only takes about twenty-five minutes to complete at most. For 8 dollars, I’d normally expect about double that. Still, the high production value left me feeling like it was worth the high price tag, and the game does offer some replay value in having three different difficulty levels, and a little bit of artwork and lore that you can unlock based around a list of achievement-based challenges. It’s not much, but it does help to dull the sting of that two-hour length a little bit.

Overall, the game was extremely surprising on all fronts; surprisingly short for how expensive it is, surprisingly polished and well-produced for how affordable it is, and surprisingly appealing to the general public for a game directed by Suda 51. It’s a game I’ll be glad I own after this review is over, and a great game for you to check out for yourself, too. You won’t regret it. Honest.

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Alex Faciane Alex Faciane is a freelance writer who loves video games about as much as you do, probably. He spends most of his time reading or writing about weird mysterious stuff or doing comedy in Los Angeles. If you love him or hate him, check out sitlook.tumblr.com and follow him on Twitter @facianea.
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