Once a part of the Japan-only Guild01 – a compilation of four small 3DS games, each created by a well-known game developer or personality – Liberation Maiden has now broken out on its own and is one of the three Guild01 titles released digitally on Nintendo’s eShop. Out of the context of a packaged compilation, it takes on a whole new set of criteria with regard to value or quality. In some ways, it seems amazing for a download release. Boasting some extremely impressive visuals, the free-roaming 3D shoot-’em-up appears to have much higher production values than you would ever expect from this sort of release and, initially at least, plays like a full-price, full-bodied game.
Putting you in control of a teenage girl who also happens to be the president of future Japan and the country’s best mecha pilot should be your first clue that you’re playing a Suda51 production. But this is a Suda51 game as developed by Level-5 and not Grasshopper, and is fairly reserved in its game mechanics as a result. Piloting the mech with the analogue stick and aiming with the touch screen and stylus, it offers the same independence of movement and attack as you’d expect from something like Treasure’s Sin And Punishment, only it’s not on-rails and is top-down. The controls are therefore less about weaving between walls of bullets and more about gracefully navigating a 3D space. There’s a lock-on button that allows you to circle strafe any enemy, but it’s sometimes more fun to dance around a battle, turning on the spot to take on different foes at once with lock-on missiles, or boosting over the top of something as you rain laser fire down.
On a purely mechanical level, Liberation Maiden is a pleasure to play, and its score attack nature forces you to master the controls over a number of replays. But for those who like to play through a game from beginning to end, there’s a distinct lack of variety. The missions are basically structured in the same way – kill enemies to locate a hidden power spike, strafe around and destroy that spike once you’ve found it, and then move on to the boss – and there’s nothing resembling the wide variety of scenarios, gameplay styles and set pieces that defined, say, Star Fox 64, which came out 15 years ago.
What hurts most about Liberation Maiden, however, is that just when it feels like it’s getting interesting, with a stage that’s basically one epic, shifting boss battle, it unexpectedly screeches to a halt, reminding you that you’ve bought what was originally one quarter of a bigger game. At £7.19, it’s arguably a quarter of the cost, of course, but there are much lengthier and better games on the eShop. Like Pullblox, for example, and that game is cheaper too.