3DS eShop review: Liberation Maiden

One hundred years in the future, the entirety of mainland Japan has been transformed into a mechanical dystopia. The humans who resist the antagonistic Dominion forces have set up an aerial base from which they plan to launch the Liberator Kamui - their flying mech suit - and take the fight to the Dominion in order to restore Japan's natural plant life. However, they need a pilot, and so they vote to determine the next president of New Japan. After all the votes have been tallied, the responsibility of being Japan's savior falls upon the shoulders of Shoko Ozora, a young woman who perfectly fits the bill of the heavily anime-inspired plot and artistic direction realized in Liberation Maiden.

The gameplay requires you to stay alert and mobile at all times. There are many enemies scattered about any given level, and they increase in both numbers and strength as the game progresses. The touch screen is used to move the lock-on cursor about the top screen, and releasing it fires missiles from the Kamui. Chaining more attacks in a single strike grants you a higher score. Should you wish to zero in on a specific area or a handful of targets, you can enter a strafing mode by simply holding down the left trigger button. Boss encounters against giant pillars take on a similar format, with Shoko and the Kamui moving left, right, up and down, but not having the ability to free-roam as in the majority of the levels leading up to these.

Enemies are nicely varied, with some tank-like vehicles having very limited range, ships having the capability to launch long-range lock-on missiles, and tall dish-shaped towers that can fire lasers. Attacking multiple targets is simple, though some are capable of taking a much greater beating than others. Should you wish to quickly dispatch all the enemies in the immediate vicinity, chaining enough kills will allot you momentary use of a projectile sword, which will impact with the ground and send out a powerful shockwave. However, when it comes to boss fights, the best strategy is still learning their behavioral patterns/weaknesses before proceeding to spam them with the Kamui's arsenal.

The soundtrack is comprised of a few techno and rock tracks that range from a grungy industrial style to exciting, upbeat, and borderline-J-pop. Graphically, the game might not be the prettiest that the 3DS has to offer, but it certainly looks the part of a traditional mecha title. Exaggerated lighting effects, weather, and environment designs do well to cultivate an atmosphere that combines traditional representation of Japan with hyper-futuristic elements. Shoko's Kamui is sleek, whereas the Dominion forces are blocky and explicitly mechanical in design. Character models are wonderfully drawn for the few brief anime cutscenes they appear in. Completing any stage unlocks it for a challenge mode, and satisfying specific requirements in-game unlocks artwork, cutscenes, and an expanded backstory to the events of Liberation Maiden. The game is short but sweet, requiring only a few hours to complete the story mode. That said, Liberation Maiden is easily one of the most original titles on the 3DS eShop to date.

My rating: 8 (out of 10)

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