Suda51, Grasshopper Manufacture, and Level-5 are some pretty big names when it comes to the niche Japanese videogame market. These entities are associated with popular titles like Professor Layton, No More Heroes, White Knight Chronicles, and the upcoming Killer is Dead. They've all teamed up to bring Liberation Maiden, which was originally a downloadable title for the 3DS, to iOS devices. Is this game worthy of freeing up some memory on your device and cash from your wallet? Or does it trap you within the confines of videogame hell?
The big names attached to this game aren't just for show, folks. This is clear when the action starts up and you're treated to gorgeous anime cutscenes with excellent voicework and music that drives the excitement forward with each second. Liberation Maiden is the story of Shoko Ozora, a high school student whose father, the newly elected President of Japan (they nixed the parliamentary system), was assassinated. After its been put to a vote, it is decided that Shoko will take over as the President of New Japan, filling her father's shoes to protect the nation from the warmongering Dominion that threatens to take over every country in the world.
Shoko hops on her Liberator, a mech named Kamui, and sets off to destroy the Dominion's hold on the rest of Japan by taking out their facilities. This means heading to a region and hunting down Conduit Spikes that sap the energy out of the land. Each level will have three Lesser Spikes floating around, waiting for you to greet them with your missiles and lasers. Getting rid of the three initial Spikes robs a Greater Spike of its protective shield, allowing you to fly in and give it hell.
These Greater Spikes are essentially boss battles, each with their own patterns of attack and unique designs that actually add another layer of difficulty to the proceedings. Shoko and Kamui must use everything at their disposable in order to take down these towering mechanized horrors.
Thankfully, Shoko's Liberator is easy to maneuver and also packs a wallop with its weapons. A virtual thumbstick controls Kamui's flight, letting you move forward, backward, and allowing you to pivot around to steer. You can press a button to activate Strafe Mode, which is perfect for taking out Lesser and Greater Spikes since you can just circle around them while letting loose with your weapons.
Shoko gets three weapons to use: missiles, a laser (unlocked later on), and an energy beam sword that she can use sparingly to set off a large explosion in a target area. To fire at enemies, you only need to touch your other finger to the screen and trace around.
The missiles require you to paint enemies by passing the targeting reticle over them. Your missiles will lock on and then home in on them after your take your finger off the screen. The laser works the same way, except that it kills enemies more rapidly, but also depletes energy just as fast.
The missiles, like all weapons, use up the Liberator's energy levels, which can be seen as a series of circles around Shoko's health meter on the right side of the screen. The more enemies you kill, the more energy Kamui assimilates and the more power Shoko can expend to kill baddies.
Shoko's coup de grace and most powerful weapon is a move called the Sacrifice Drive, which is used to finish off weakened Greater Spikes. It involves the young Madame President exposing the Spike's weak spot and then drilling into it until she bursts out of the other side. It's pretty damn cool to use and always manages to end each boss fight on an exciting high note.
You'll travel through five levels of Dominion-eradicating fun and can even take on sub-missions that are picked up as soon as you get within range of an objective. These short detours add to the incredible fun factor of the game since they let you play around with Shoko and Kamui's capabilities even more.
I would have thought that this game would be a nightmare to play, given the touchscreen controls, but I was pleasantly surprised when I was proven wrong. The controls are tight, responsive, and make flying around and raining hell on the enemy a breeze.
There was absolutely nothing I could find wrong with this game except that it was kind of short and that the asking price is a little on the steep side at $4.99. But you know what? Just go ahead and get it. This is worth every damn penny and you can even extend the experience thanks to a Stage Attack mode, different difficulty settings, and challenges via Game Center. The art is beautiful, the music is superb, and the action is frenetic fun on a bun.
You just can't go wrong with this game, so run, jump, hop, fly, or do whatever you have to do to get to the App Store and download it. Liberation Maiden is one perfectly-polished mobile game that's managed to trap me into playing it over and over. And for that, it gets my vote as one of the best iOS games I've ever played.