By Mathew Imfeld / November 29th, 2017
|Developer||[erka:es], Darksquid Media|
|Release Date||October 17th, 2017|
For a Mega Man fan like myself, I wish the Blue Bomber could come back to the spotlight in some capacity. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely as the classic Mega Man games are simply re-released by Capcom instead of them developing new games. To fill the void, multiple independent developers have taken matters into their own hands to make their own games. Some games are based on Mega Man itself such as Mega Man Unlimited, while others are simply inspired by the formula. Rosenkreuzstilette Freudenstachel is the latter, developed by [erka:es] and translated by Darksquid Media. The first Rosenkreuzstilette was developed by two people and they developed Freudenstachel as well. However, one of the developers went missing during development. WOMI, one of the two to develop the game, pushed on and finished the product on October 20th, 2012 in Japan. With WOMI’s permission, Darksquid Media was allowed to translate the game. After numerous delays, has the game come out relatively intact? Does it aspire to be more than just another game based on Mega Man? Let’s find out.
You take the role of Freudia, close friend and rival to Spiritia, protagonist of the first game. A force called the Schwarzkreuz kidnapped Spirtia under order of the Pope himself. Freudia pursues the assailants in order to rescue Spiritia. During this event, she meets a fairy named Strudel who tags along with Freudia to assist her. First however, she must face the Rosenkreuzstilette, a group of ten individuals that Spirtia and Freudia are a part of. You must combat them for reasons unknown. What plans does the Pope have for Spiritia by capturing her alive and unharmed?
The story is straightforward as are most retro-inspired platformers. Yet, there are plenty of events that unfold as you progress through the game. As such, there are a few twists and turns that makes the plot rather enjoyable despite its simplicity. All of the characters, while simple, have fairly decent interactions with Freudia as well. These interactions can be funny, sad, or disturbing depending on the situation. However, these cutscenes can be intrusive for those who simply want to play the game. Thankfully, arcade mode is an option as it removes every cutscene in the game.
Freudia’s moveset is reminiscent of Mega Man’s moveset in Mega Man 3, where she can jump and slide. However, she doesn’t wield a typical buster-like weapon. Instead her default weapon is firing a rapid stream of icicles forward. This weapon consumes ammo, but since the ammo count is very high, running out is no issue. It is exceptionally powerful against enemies and mini-bosses but is mediocre against bosses. The bosses are designed with their invincibility frames in mind though, and there are plenty of opportunities for damage.
After the prologue stage, you have a selection of eight bosses to choose from. Most of them returned from the last game, with one brand new character taking the spot of Freudia. Thankfully, they have brand new patterns keeping things fresh. After defeating a boss, Freudia gains a special weapon to her arsenal. These weapons range from slowing time down to a projectile that can be fired in multiple directions and travel along the environment.
Personally, I found the stages and bosses to be by far the highlight in the game. Each stage has one or two gimmicks that make them stand-out. These gimmicks are rarely annoying, making each stage a joy to run through. One of my favorite stages actually involves instant-death lasers. Unlike Quick man’s stage that forces one to memorize the level layout to succeed, the lasers are simply integrated as a seamless obstacle. That said, there are a couple stages that are far more intrusive than fun. One stage turns the screen dark outside a small area around you. Combined with slow and small platforms, the pace slows to a tedious crawl. Fortunately, the game is otherwise fair and balanced.
The bosses are as well-designed as the stages themselves. Most bosses in the game are fast-paced and frantic, making them exhilarating to fight. Most have very recognizable patterns, where using the default weapon feels like a welcomed challenge instead of a handicap. In contrast however, abusing weaknesses makes it exceptionally easy to just tank a fight. Weaknesses can defeat a boss in about four to six hits. For some, this can be hilarious due to how easy it makes the bosses. In my opinion, the bosses should pose a small amount of challenge even when using their weakness.
Presentation-wise, the game looks and sounds appealing for a doujin title. The aesthetics of the stages employ backgrounds with a large amount of scope to them. Structures also have engravings making the game stand-out. The only issue is that the game can be rather monotone in terms of the color palette. With Zorne’s stage for example, there is a lot of red and nothing else. Schwer-muta’s stage also has this very brown palette after the first room. Otherwise, the game looks fine, albeit not spectacular.
Music-wise, the soundtrack is incredible. The game’s soundtrack has plenty of pumping tunes to get you excited. There are also many atmospheric tracks when the pacing slows down a bit that fit the setting very well. The variety of music is fantastic, where very few tracks feel out of place. “Born of Metalhead” and “Castle of Eternal Night” in particular stand-out due to how rich their melodies are.
In truth, it is very rare for me to have two consistent problems with a game. Both are small but do impact my enjoyment just a tad. One problem is the blatant level borrowing from the classic Mega Man games. For example, one room is taken from Needle Man’s stage, specifically the first checkpoint where one must slide and avoid needles from the ceiling. However, these rooms are few and far between. Another issue is in regards to the special weapons. Not many are all that useful due to a couple of issues. Either the default weapon can do the same purpose but better or the weapon is very situational. One exception is the shield, as it can easily tank a hit by both enemies and projectiles. It is exceptionally useful when traversing small platforms. Otherwise, the only time I pulled out the weapons was to defeat a boss with their weakness.
Truth be told, Rosenkreuzstilette Freudenstachel is by far one of the best 2D platformers I have ever played. It is easily a love-letter to not just Mega Man, but classic games as a whole. There are a slew of references and parodies to games such as Castlevania, Bomberman, and many more. For seventeen stages with around six hours of gameplay, as well as a secret unlockable character, the game is very much worth the $14 dollar price tag. The game easily succeeds at the Mega Man formula and then some.
Review copy provided by the publisher
[erka:es]2D platformerAGM PLAYISMdarksquid mediadoujinFantranslationMegamanRosenkreuzstilette Freudenstachel