Please read my Pocket Gamer staff profile.
Thanks for that. As you'll have read, I class myself as a "die hard Suda 51 fan". I loved both No More Heroes games, Shadows of the Damned was incredible, and Flower, Sun and Rain is one of my favourite games of all time. So it pains me to write the following sentence.
I don't like Liberation Maiden at all.
The Grasshopper Manufacture project that was originally part of the Guild01 compilation in Japan is now available to download for your 3DS, and it's a dud.
You play as a president who flies a giant winged robotic creature capable of firing missiles (and later, lasers). You're out to reclaim peace from a destructive and ecologically toxic force that has been terrorising your people. Cue a handful of stages blasting enemies from high in the air.
It's preposterous stuff. Topped with strong cut-scenes by Studio BONES, Liberation Maiden attempts to be popcorn anime in video game form, though the effect comes at the expense of Suda's signature sense of humour.
The story and character interactions are woeful. Though there's obnoxious dialogue in all quarters, it's surely lead character Shoko that gets the very worst lines. Her overly spirited "we can't give up, there's always tomorrow!" seems so forced, so banal, so Saturday morning cartoon.
While Liberation Maiden is a decent enough looker, you never get close enough to enemies to see their design. However, Greater Spikes (the gigantic boss vehicles) dominate the skyline, and their attacks often fill the screen with colour and overblown effects.
But the most frustrating element of the game is its gameplay. In a manner reminiscent of Rez and a free-roaming Panzer Dragoon, you go from point to point on small maps destroying enemies through a simple process of engage, retreat, engage, retreat.
Movement is handled by the Circle Pad, while shooting is assigned to the touchscreen. But the action is on the top screen, making precise shots a no-no, and you'll eventually learn that scribbling on the touchscreen is almost as effective as carefully lining up a shot.
You can target multiple units at once by holding the stylus down, but - while this can do extra damage or kill many adversaries at once - it saps your shields and leaves you open to attack.
Flowers, guns and pain
The UI is useless: your shield energy is shown at the bottom-right of the screen, just out of sight while you're targeting bad guys, and changing weapon types is touch-based-too, making on-the-fly changes a nightmare.
It's all over fairly quickly, but you can go back for locally saved highscores should the desire to compete with yourself arise. But as you replay missions you realise that their structure is depressingly cookie-cutter – travel to a location, pound units, dodge missiles, attack a Lesser Spike, repeat.
Liberation Maiden is one of the most disappointing games I've played this year. It's not the worst title to come through Pocket Gamer's doors in 2012, nor is it even the least interesting, but it shows none of the panache we've come to expect from Suda. It's just a fiddly, hand cramp-inducing shooter, with some obviously poor design choices to boot.