Review – Liberation Maiden iOS

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Liberation Maiden on the iOS is the port of Goichi Suda’s (who you may know from Grasshopper Interactive) contribution to the Guild01 collection that was released by Level 5 on the Nintendo 3DS. It has a fast arcade style gameplay which handled well with an analogue stick, but how well does the game translate to the touch screen controls of the iOS?

Liberation Maiden is a Japanese sci-fi game in the same vein as Zone of Enders or Armoured Core, except this one is much similar to a classic arcade game. The plot revolves around a girl called Soko who has just become the president of Japan after her father was murdered. She then dons a suit of mecha armour in a bid to fly off and defend her country from an invading enemy. This is at least what I think the game is about. One of Liberation Maidens biggest downfalls is its complete lack of a plot. The game gives next to no reason whatsoever for why you are doing the things you are doing or blowing up the stuff you’re blowing up. This being an iOS game you don’t really expect a mind-blowing narrative but a little something would be nice, I got most of the plot from the internet as opposed to in the actual game itself. The ending sets itself up for a sequel (barely, it barely does anything) which I actually like the idea of, providing that they expand on the setting. Despite this the experience isn’t affected too much, the game was designed to play like an arcade game and it was developed specially for handheld platforms so a decent plot isn’t to be expected, it’s just a shame because the setting is really interesting.

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The games primary focus is actually the gameplay. The controls, although ported from the 3DS, are actually very tight. Soko is moved using a virtual analogue stick on the screen, with a mode switch button directly above it that switches the camera mode between free and strafe. The other hand is used to unleash the devastating arsenal that Soko has on her armour. She has access to one of three weapons at any one time, these consist of missiles, a laser and a powerful sword attack. The first 2 are switchable and are what you will primarily rely on during the missions. The rockets are fired by sliding a finger over the enemies that you want to shoot and releasing whereas the laser is fired in a beam aimed by holding your finger on the screen and moving it around. Both of these weapons deplete energy as they are used. This energy is quickly replenished when not being used but has a crucial feature, it also counts as your shields.  This means that the more energy you use for an attack the more powerful it will be, but also the more vulnerable you will be afterwards. This mechanic offers a nice risk reward system in combat that you will need to balance to be successful. The sword ability is activated by tapping the icon at the bottom of the screen but this has to be filled by attacking enemies. The controls are a little tricky at the beginning but you’ll soon find yourself zipping around the stages laying waste to an army of defenses, and it can be immensely satisfying.

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The games major shortfall is it’s length. Liberation Maiden is only 5 missions long, with each mission having a 30 minute timer which causes a failed mission if it hits zero. This makes Liberation Maiden a very short experience clocking in at a maximum of 2 and a half hours. Add to this the fact that there are only 2 cutscenes in the whole game, 1 at the start and 1 at the end and you have a very tiny experience. Luckily, being developed as an arcade style game, Liberation Maiden is incredibly replayable. Each level has a score rating, there are Game Center achievements, unlockables and you can post the completion times on an online scoreboard. All of these aspects drive you to hop back into a mission for just “one more go” to try to beat your last high score.  This is where Liberation Maidens gameplay is its strongest asset, it is incredibly addictive and warrants multiple playthroughs.

Being a game developed by Suda, you’d expect it to be bright, colourful and full of Cel Shading. Liberation Maiden doesn’t dissapoint. There are explosions of colour all over the screen as you cascade around the levels and missiles fly all over the place, also the game runs incredibly smoothly at a high framerate which adds to the high-octane experience. Also definitely worth mentioning are the anime cutscenes that are at the start and the end of the game, they don’t really explain much but they are gorgeous and very well animated. The sound design and voice acting is also of a high standard, with mixture of J-rock and J-pop that you’d expect from a Japanese action game and both Soko along with her adviser in the field Kira are well acted and believable.

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Overall Liberation Maiden is a fun and well put together game, the controls are tight and the visuals are sharp. Despite all of this, the length of the game and the incredibly washy plot make it hard for me to recommend a purchase. The price on the Apple App store is only £2.99/$4.99 which I think is fair, but not worth a purchase unless this kind of game is something you are interested in. If you love Japanese Sci-fi and high-octane arcade action games then this may be worth a purchase, but otherwise I’m not sure it’s worth your time and money.

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