Liberation Maiden is by far the least weird Suda51 game. I mean, sure – there’s still flying robots and *gasp* a female president, but compared to Killer 7? No More Heroes? Using those as Suda’s typical benchmark, this is about as tame as games get.
This time around, Suda and Grasshopper Manufacture teamed with Level 5 to “bring AAA production values to the downloadable space.” For $7.99, you get a flying mech shooter game with solid voice acting, sharp graphics, and Rez-style gameplay that wouldn’t feel out of place in a third-generation PS2 game. All they put into the game comes at a price, however – it’s only about an hour long.
I know, I know… length doesn’t determine a game’s quality. Journey lasted a mere two hours and it remains one of the defining games of my life. But in the case of Liberation Maiden… I don’t know. I enjoyed the time I had with it, but when it was over, I didn’t feel much of anything. More a sense of, “Well, I guess I’ll do something else on the train now.” There are unlockable history logs for completionists – and the crazies who want to beat the game ten times – but the promise of winning some text files just doesn’t do it for me, personally. I like my game history to be weaved throughout the story. I’ve never been one of those people that reads every book in Skyrim or Myst. Give me more missions or characters or ships or… anything.
I suppose I should talk about how the game actually plays, hm? You are the president of New Japan, an anime country where presidents wear skintight outfits and pilot mechs to purify the country from being taken over by… robots? Ancient gods? Something like that. There are giant “energy spikes” planted all over the world (basically multi-tier minibosses that all fight in the exact same way so you don’t have to come up with new strategies, ever) – you have to track them down and destroy them to bring the green back to the islands. You fly around with the analog stick and aim with the stylus. Highlight a bunch of bad guys to lock on, then raise your stylus to fire. Your weaponry is also your health, though, so it’s a constant management battle between using the most powerful shots or keeping some shields for yourself. But if you’re good at dodging, go nuts. It ends up feeling a lot more like the shooting mechanics in Rez and a lot less like Zone of the Enders. It’s very hands-on, the shooting. I’d like to see more games make use of this control style in the future.
The game is solid, and I didn’t not enjoy my time with Liberation Maiden. I did. It had great controls, the characters were anime-believable and well-voiced, and there’s really nothing else like it on the 3DS. Plus, it’s only eight bucks. But looking back at it, now that it’s all over, it lacked nearly all of those special qualities that Suda51 traditionally infuses into his games. No More Heroes, despite its numerous flaws, had this personality, charm, and overall weirdness that made it one of the most memorable Wii games ever released, at least here in the U.S., where weird games that try new things are sadly in incredibly short supply.
Liberation Maiden does so many things right. It’s well-crafted. It controls like a dream. The music and voice acting are spot-on. It thrives in a genre that is sorely under-represented in the handheld space. But when you look back at it after the hour you’ve spent together, the feelings that remain – and the almost unflappable love of all things Suda51 – just aren’t there this time. And that’s a shame.
3 Gumballs out of 5