Liberation Maiden Review

Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture, Level-5

Publisher: Level-5

Console: Nintendo 3DS

Players: 1

Rating:

  • T (ESRB)
  • 12+ (PEGI)

Release Date:

  • October 25, 2012 (US)
  • October 4, 2012 (Europe)

Genre: Free-range space shooter

-Greg Livingston

Give it a few hundred years, but eventually, Japan will take after Metal Wolf Chaos and put its president at the helm of a giant flying mechanical suit of armor. Of course, by then, Japan will be New Japan, and presidents will probably be elected based on the shapeliness of their posteriors.

You can’t really see Miss President’s butt from this angle, but you can see her giant flying death machine.

But back to the flying suit of armor. As Miss President herself Shoko Ozura, Liberation Maiden has you pilot the Liberator high above New Japan. After I entered the first mission, the president’s adviser gave me directions to something he called a Conduit Spike. The circle pad let me steer my Liberator in any direction I wanted, and the map was free-roaming—no auto-scrolling here. On the other hand, the map was mostly dominated by water, so I didn’t have much else to do aside from following directions and finding out what this Spike was all about. 

It was a giant nail in the ground with sizable glowy bits to pummel. It was also surrounded by plenty of nasty things like ground-to-air turrets just itching to blow Miss President to smithereens.

But I wasn’t without firepower myself. Using the touch screen, I could highlight enemies and launch missiles at them. The Liberator comes with a nice stock of missiles, and it was gratifying to watch a spray of projectiles cover the screen in explosions.

Those green hexagons show locations that are marked for your missiles. The explosions are, well, the explosions.

So, my first job was to destroy this Conduit Spike and whatever got in my way. Mayhem ensued, due to the army of enemies surrounding the Spike itself. I was more than happy to bob and weave between lasers and pot shots, taking out swaths of opposing forces with each volley of my missiles. Thankfully, the Liberator has a strafe function installed, which allowed me to focus on the Spike without getting too caught up in the riffraff surrounding it. The music itself was nothing memorable, and the enemy forces were of the generic mech anime sort, but the gameplay was too fast for me to care.

My enemies always lobbed shots directly at my mech, and they never organized themselves. It was utter chaos, which happens to be pretty easy to handle, especially when your mech can move about the map wherever you please. In short, I never had a reason to employ strategy; I dodged solely by the seat of my pants.

Initially, I took this as a tutorial, expecting the gameplay to develop. With each passing stage, enemies grew more plentiful and their attacks became more ruthless, but dodging enemy fire still came down to making sure my mech wasn’t in the same place it was two seconds ago.

Granted, in some ways, the gameplay did develop. After the first level, I had the option to switch to a second weapon on the fly: a laser that allows for pinpoint strikes. Using this, you can melt away one target’s health bar. In addition, side missions and bonuses for clearing out every inch of enemy property gave me reasons to stray off the beaten path. There’s also a boss at the end of each mission, although all bosses use the same basic scheme with only an extra move or two. That’s with the exception of the final boss.

If you’ve got a steady aim, the laser is your best friend.

Despite those developments, the core gameplay of Liberation Maiden still had me mindlessly swerving around enemy fire. In turn, I focused whatever firepower I could on one Conduit Spike at a time, dismantling a few before reaching the level’s boss. Ultimately, the success of Liberation Maiden is its ability to bring its elements to the service of this gameplay.

The game’s trappings fit this role well. You’ll receive (skippable) commands from an adviser, all of them fully-voiced and directed at you*. The fully animated cutscenes are nothing to scoff at, either, even if there’s only two of them. The game’s concluding scene left me ready for more action.

*Insofar as you are Miss President.

Pretty.

The best part, though, is the give and take in Liberation Maiden’s health system. As you launch missiles or fire your laser, your shield (shown at the bottom right) drains, and when it’s empty, you can no longer attack. Plus, without a shield, you’re also vulnerable to strike. Your ammunition and your health are tied to the same gauge, with the caveat that you can’t die simply from using up all your missiles.

Cease fire for a moment, and your shield/ammo bar will refill. However, if you incinerate enough enemies in quick succession, you’ll earn shield extensions. With a longer shield gauge, you can launch more attacks without a pause. Plus, unless you get hit, your shield will always refill to this new maximum.

It’s a tangible and satisfying reward for playing quickly and causing as much destruction as you can. There’s nothing like building up a huge shield, then unleashing it on the level’s boss in long, unbroken laser strikes.

Liberation Maiden comes in pretty short, featuring only four normal levels and one level I won’t spoil. But, if it’s going to focus on fast, mindless gameplay, perhaps that’s for the better. Liberation Maiden knows what it wants to do and does it well.

Pros:

  • Fast, frantic gameplay is satisfying on a base level.
  • The shield gauge mechanic rewards fast, frantic gameplay with the ability to play even faster.
  • Gameplay is very focused and rarely deviates from its core.
  • Voice acting isn’t spectacular, but it was enough to draw me in.
  • Even if the gameplay doesn’t get complex, at least it doesn’t overstay its welcome.
  • Plenty of reasons to revisit stages, whether it be to score a higher purification bonus, clear it faster, or play it at a higher difficulty, just to name a few.

Cons:

  • Don’t look here for depth or strategy.
  • Won’t keep you busy for very long.

Verdict:75%

Liberation Maiden has some fantastic ideas and is very loyal to its core gameplay. I only hold this score back because that core is so simple.

Downloaded from the Nintendo 3DS eShop in 2012 for $7.99.

Since I’ve cleared Liberation Maiden, I’ve enjoyed returning to it for short sessions of touching the screen to blow stuff up and rehearsing for better scores. This title really straddles the line between a time killer and something serious, and in a good way; $7.99 is a reasonable price.