By David Fernandes / August 22nd, 2013
|Developer||G.rev / Gulti|
|Genre||Vertical Scrolling Shooter/Shmup|
|Release Date||July 16th, 2013|
|Age Ratings||E, Mild Fantasy Violence|
Shmups, bullet hell, or just simply vertical/side-scrolling shooters, whatever you like to label them, for the most part hit a wall this generation. The majority of them never seem to leave Japan, and when fans hope for a region-free import option at the very least, they’re left in the dust. Thankfully, we occasionally do get some gems here and there like Akai Katana, Under Defeat, and Sine Mora. Fans rejoiced when it was announced that UFO Interactive would be localizing Mamorukun Curse (Mamoru-kun wa Norowarete Shimatta! in Japan), originally an arcade title which was ported to the 360 a year later, then ported to the PlayStation 3 under the new name Mamoru-kun wa Norowarete Shimatta!: Meikai Katsugeki Wide Han.
Now, with a game having a developer like G-rev, which has created some of the best shmups around, but a title that is essentially a port that was released nearly five years before, the question is – Does it hold a candle to most shmups around the block?
The story has four of the seven playable characters dying under accidental circumstances, and instead of simply crossing over, they’re taken under the wing of Fululu and tasked to save the Netherworld from being engulfed by the evil forces of the coming darkness. At the same time, our heroes are cursed, but unlike most curses, these can be used with their demon familiars to fight off the evil forces. Like most shooters, it doesn’t have much of a story or high quality narrative to speak of, pushing more of the effort towards the gameplay. Though with its panels as cutscenes and cutesy animations, the game attempts more humor than anything serious to some moderate success.
Mamorukun Curse has a cast of seven playable characters with their own firing pattern, and level of skill ranging from novice to skilled. At the end of the day, all that matters is what play style you enjoy the most as all of them can get the job done. Besides the standard of simply holding down the shoot button, with your normal shots being powered up by picking up the dropped powers-ups from defeated enemies or with killing numerous foes, you also have the unique “curse bullet.” Curse bullets act as numerous abilities in one.
Shooting it in a straight path like normal lets you charge it up to give it more potency, and increases the size of it, too, which makes it easier to aim and take out large groups of small enemies, large enemies, bosses, and obstacles like crystals. It also allows you to place curses onto enemies, which makes them more aggressive, but when defeated yields more points and larger amounts of candy, which is another way to rack up large amounts of points. You can also deploy it in front of you, and walking into the curse allows you to shoot red bullets in a frenzy mode or slow the enemies down to a crawl. It’s quite an interesting technical mechanic that allows for a bit of strategy based on which firing pattern works well with you in specific situations.
The controls have a bit of customization and, interestingly enough, Mamorukun Curse uses a two-stick system with both analog sticks when firing, allowing for spreading shots across the field, though only for the upper 180 degrees of your arc. While it doesn’t make for a terrible disadvantage and it is more than your average shooter, when it comes to left to right scrolling progression portions it can feel a little awkward.
There are three modes, with two having practice mode to hone your skills and test out each character to see what fits you better. All three modes act as a vertical shooter, with Arcade being a more mission-based approach. While Story Mode has the tacked on story and character interactions, the level progression approach with both modes has the screen pillarboxed to give it a more authentic arcade experience. Finally, we have Adventure Mode, being more the challenge course approach with online leaderboards.
You know how I say “left to right scrolling progression portions?” While it does sport the occasional air combat like the usual shmups, the majority of the action takes place on ground level; which is very reminiscent of Pocky & Rocky, a classic scrolling shooter on the Super Nintendo. While on the ground, instead of the screen scrolling like normal, you progress at your own pace through stages with divergent pathways to shortcuts or harder areas to gain more points and candy. Each mode starts out with a reasonable enough challenge, but then quickly takes a hike in difficulty. Things get a lot more unforgiving, with the intensity of the action going on screen filled to the brim, with enemies shooting extremely bright colors of various bullet effects, hence the term “bullet hell.”
While the arcade mode has the usual life system with health bars for one character, story mode and adventure mode do things very differently. Both use the characters themselves as your health and lives, picking what order you play as them and what firing patterns you use. If one falls in battle, the second character chosen goes up next and so on. However, while the story mode allows up to five characters to be chosen, adventure mode allows only three. The only issue is that all modes share the same stages, with only slight variations, with the goal in mind being virtually the same, so it can get on the repetitive side.
Of course, what shmup would be complete without some bosses at the end of some stages? In this case, they’re in all of the stages. Design-wise, they’re creative when it comes to size, shape, and attack patterns, each different from the last. They provide a mutual challenge with the rest of the stages that get you quite pumped, and some have ridiculous over the top special attacks; basically what you would expect a good shooter to have. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many of them, since there aren’t that many stages to begin with, and even with the minor alterations that other modes provide, the bosses are too similar with the same attack patterns.
Even when it was released back in 2008, it seemed quite dated in the graphics department, and even with the high-definition makeover, it still looks inferior to most other shooters out there. The illustrations and character portraits for the game are well drawn, detailed, colorful, and simply good as always. It seems that no matter what, this is a field most developers always nail with their shooters. I say this, and while they they indeed look good with the pillarbox, I wished there was an option to remove it in the arcade and story mode, just like how Adventure Mode handled it. Not a deal breaker by any means, but with the game being upgraded when ported to the PS3 and supporting widescreen, it squanders that opportunity for the whole package to be enjoyed this way.
Of course, when speaking of shmups, you can’t forget the soundtrack and boy is it… something else. It is full of electronic synthesizers and beats, with the Japanese vocals comprised of cutesy anime-like sounds. I wouldn’t call it extravagant by any means, but it certainly fits well with the design and feel of the game. Most of the tracks are catchy and even may be an earworm after replaying the stages to increase your personal high scores. The game has its technical problems, suffering frame rate drops when so many bullets or candy appear on screen. Though this may be intentional, as developers at times do this to make the game more fair to its players. In other shmups you can tell it taxes the system when graphics flicker, which this game doesn’t show any sign of. At the end of the day, your mileage may vary when it comes to this, but it’s worth noting.
For $19.99, Mamorukun Curse might come across as a bit steep for the amount of content is has, even with the free DLC that it comes with. It took me less than a week to clear out most of the modes on the standard difficulty and on hard difficulty. Though if you can get past the dated graphics and somewhat repetitive nature, you are in for a good time with its interesting soundtrack and unique shooting system. It may not be one of the best, but it’s a keeper and I recommend it to new fans and old fans of the genre alike.
Review copy provided by publisher.
digitalG.revGultiMamorukun Curse!PS3PSNReviewShmupUFO InteractiveVertical scrolling shooter