Review: Liberation Maiden

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The world might not necessarily be safer, but it’d sure be more interesting if our modern world leaders made like the president of New Japan in Level-5 and Grasshopper Manufacture’s Liberation Maiden, hopping into a cutting-edge mech on the heels of a Parliamentary vote to personally head off attacking alien forces. You have to believe Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi would welcome the distraction from his ongoing corruption trial.

Liberation Maiden debuted on the Nintendo 3DS last year to modest fanfare, but this solid iOS port ought to give it a little more run among the bullet-hell and 3D shooter crowd. Beyond the schoolgirl-is-the-president conceit, Liberation Maiden lacks some of the gonzo craziness we’ve come to expect from Suda 51/Grasshopper Manufacture games, head trips like Diabolical Pitch and Lollipop Chainsaw. That said there’s plenty of eye-popping destruction to wreak. The production values have ported over nicely, and there’s even some great anime voicework to enjoy.

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Combat feels particularly godlike and empowering, even if it takes a little while to grasp the nuances of the control system. You target enemies by touching them and holding down; once you let go, you’re treated to the satisfaction of Missile-Command tracer missiles (and other laser effects) obliterating whatever’s been shooting at you in a satisfying explosion that fills the screen. Lest you get too touch-feely, it’s wise to recall that your offense is also your defense: Every shot you take also reduces the number of node shields that swirl around your ship and protect you. In a deft touch, stringing enemy kills together is what speeds up shield/ammo regeneration. You don’t just have to sit there and wait to reload, but you’d better be accurate.

Touch steering feels a little wonky at first, but it isn’t long before you’ll be weaving and dodging over the islands, boats and bridges that have been overrun by enemy forces. Each mission ends with a boss fight against a ginormous spike core, battles that involve dodging laser walls, landing lots of hits and eventually slamming your mech into the spike core. The rinse-repeat mission structure gets a little old, but luckily, Liberation Maiden also features plenty of sub-missions that break up the linearity. Here, you’re able to fly more freely, over mountains and water, shooting whatever you want to shoot instead of being herded inevitably toward the next spike core.

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If Liberation Maiden has a weakness, it’s brevity, which in this case is neither the soul of wit nor entertainment. You can zip through the various islands, sub-missions and boss encounters in a few hours. And while an online leaderboard—a glaring omission in the 3DS version–and a speed attack mode may keep you banking and zapping back over familiar territory, you may find yourself wishing Liberation Maiden had a second term’s worth of missions to tackle.

BuyIt

Pros:
+ Beautiful, eye-popping visuals
+ Easy to master controls
+ Great anime-based story delivery

Cons:
- Too short
- Main mission structure is limiting

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on iOS, also available for Nintendo 3DS
Publisher: Level-5
Developer: Level-5/Grasshopper Manufacture
Release Date: 3/7/2013
Genre: 3D Shooter
Age Rating: 9+
Players: 1
Source: Review code provided by publisher

About the Author

Aaron R. Conklin has been writing about games and games culture for more than 15 years. A former contributor to Computer Games Magazine and Massive Magazine, his writing has appeared on IGN.com and in newspapers and alt-weeklies across the country. Conklin's an unapologetic Minnesota sports fan living in Madison, Wisconsin, home of the Midwest's most underrated gaming vibe.