In the future the presidency will undoubtedly be more challenging… and that's in real life. In the virtual world of Liberation Maiden, the president has to get their hands dirty, and save their country on their own. Enter Shoko Ozora, the newly elected head of New Japan, she must don her flying mech suit, and do whatever it takes to keep her people safe – even if that means doing a Suicide Drive into the core of an attacker's Power Spike. Yeah, it's a lot different than dealing with Super PACs and campaign rallies, but that's what you get when Level-5 and Suda51 are behind things.
Liberation Maiden is an eShop release for the 3DS that was originally part of a larger compilation release, Guild01, that was released in Japan this past May. It brought together some of the biggest names in Japanese game development, and was given a retail release, but for the States it has been broken up into individual downloadable games. This particular slice of heaven is a unique twist on the shooter genre, using the top screen to showcase the action, and the lower screen to control President Ozora as she attacks from above with a full arsenal. The over-the-top action and gameplay are reminiscent of other titles like Sin and Punishment and Kid Icarus: Uprising where the player controls a reticule, and shoots anything that's moving, while trying to not let anything hit you.
The far-fetched story will be a highlight for anyone that's enjoyed a Suda51 game in the past, and playing through Liberation Maiden the dialog and outlandish scenario are one of the highlights. Shoko is a president who is willing to do whatever it takes to keep New Japan safe, and she's not afraid to breakout the big guns (literally) to do it. As the game progresses Shoko is directed on missions by her advisor, Kira, who tells her where to go and what to do, through radio communications that are both intense and enjoyable. While the story, cutscenes, and characters have a decidedly Japanese flair to them, it isn't to the point where it may be off-putting to players that don't appreciate Eastern style, and the gameplay helps balance out any misgivings players may have with the exposition.
Once Shoko jumps into her flying armor the action is non-stop from beginning to end. Players will be wielding a variety of long and short-range weapons to take out the attacking forces both near and far. Dodging the on-coming missile and laser attacks is much easier said than done, but the controls on the 3DS work surprisingly well, with movement entirely controlled with the Circle pad, and the touch screen supplying the targeting and attacking. Liberation Maiden is yet another example of a DS game that has proves that you don’t need to see what you're aiming at to hit it.
Most enemies and attacking Conduit Spikes (think power souce) are fairly simple to take out, just aim and shoot, but the boss battles with the Greater Spikes offer a bit more of a challenge, forcing Shoko to go head-to-head with some serious foes that require more precise attacks while dodging even more of an on-coming assault. Players have the option to unload attacks in succession, or charge up shots and unleash a more intense blast. However, the more that you shoot, the more you deplete Shoko's armor, so you need to find a balance to survive. This blend of offense and defense makes every second of each level feel like an intense firefight, leaving players breathless until the mission is complete.
If there is something about Liberation Maiden that could leave a sour taste in the mouths of fans it's the fact that it's over pretty quickly. Once players are done with the game's brief story mode, they can dabble in stage attack to go for high scores (sans online leaderboards), but really that's it. It's worth keeping in mind that this game was originally part of a compilation, making the larger package more satisfying than the individual pieces themselves, but at $8 Liberation Maiden offers a fair amount of content.
Liberation Maiden is exactly the kind of game the eShop needs – an entirely unique concept, with good production value, and someone with solid experience and a fan following calling the shots. Most gamers who are still carrying around their 3DS are looking for this type of experience – something that their mobile phones just can't offer. While it would have been nice to see Guild01 released as a full package here in the States, at least we can settle for these great diversions in bite sized form. Liberation Maiden is well worth your time, after all it isn’t all that long, and should hold you over while you wait with baited breath for Level-5 to release Yoot Saito's Aero Porter and Yasumi Matsuno's Crimson Shroud.