Top-down shooting games are fun. Ikari Warriors (all of them), Commando and Gun Smoke are some of my favorite. So when I was offered the opportunity to review another one, albeit less 'war' themed, I just couldn't resist.
The story, I think, goes like this. Mamoru (our main character) is pulled into the Netherworld after a terrible accident. Once there, and with nothing to lose, she is immediately asked to fight against the World of Darkness. The World of Darkness is trying to consume the Netherworld, and the gate between the two worlds must be closed to prevent this from happening.
Sounds pretty reasonable.
Let's start this review off simple. Mamorukun Curse! is a cross between a traditional top-down shooter and a weird/warped, colorful anime. You get to choose 3-7 characters to accompany you in the game, which bring their own sort of shooting style and powers. Every time your main character dies, another pops in to replace them (sort of like the fighting style in King of Fighters -- I know, I know, it's a weird comparison, but it's all I could think of). Most of the gameplay is controlled through your analog sticks on the controller, though L1 allows for a special power to be temporarily activated during fighting. You simply go from top to bottom with your character, fighting your way towards an end boss scenario. Along the way, you shoot enemies and objects on the levels, which can either give you little jewel objects (points) or giant power-ups. The power-ups increase your firepower (meaning, your shots eventually start spreading into multiple streams and patterns as you obtain more power-ups), thus allowing you to take out more enemies in a single swoop.
Again, pretty simple.
So, what's the catch? This game was developed by G.rev. Oh, you don't know who they are? Let me just give you a sample video of one of their games called Ikaruga.
Mamorukun is pretty much in the same vein as Ikaruga. The game sends waves and waves of enemies towards you that are meant to not only make the experience of the game a very tense one, but also test your skills as a gamer. If you think of a bubbly, cute Dark Souls then you get the idea of where Mamorukun pretty much is in terms of level of difficulty. That's really the catch of this game. Its sole purpose is to bring you a large amount of difficulty and see how you handle it. The gameplay modes in Mamorukun pretty much spell this out.
The game is broken down into the following modes:
Netherworld Adventures: With this mode, you get to play the courses in various ways. You have the Casual Course levels, which allow you to practice and understand how each world works. There are five initial worlds you start out with, each increasing the difficulty as it goes on. Again, I consider this one mainly a practice set of levels.
The second set of levels is called Fululu's Challenge! Okay, so this is where the game starts getting insane. You basically have a set order of levels to play through with this that are different only in level order and enemy difficulty. When you start the very lowest difficulty, you still get thrown EVERYTHING. The key to this challenge, and pretty much the game, is to not panic when you see enemy gunfire headed your way. Figure out a pattern then adjust your characters as need be. I have yet to make it out of the first set of challenges, that's how hard it is.
The last set of challenges is called Nowa's Challenge! Yeah. Pretty much the same style of play as Fululu's. Same result for this reviewer as well.
Before we move on to the next mode, let me just say that the gameplay in the Netherworld Adventures, while frustrating, is still fun. If you can go into it knowing that you're being graded on timing/scoring then you'll understand the draw and find the entertainment and challenge. The fact that the game requests you to survive through the levels without dying is tough to comprehend for most video gamers out there. Again, the best comparison to this would be Dark Souls, which requires you to stay alive or risk starting over (maybe that was Demon Souls -- oh, well).
Arcade: The arcade mode is a pretty standard arcade experience, if you are old enough to remember arcades. You get to choose your characters and you do a straight run-through of the levels. You have continues, so you can die as many times as you would like. You'll need all of those continues for the end guy. I felt comfortable with this mode the most, but it was the easiest of the bunch.
Story Mode: Same exact game, except you have a nice story of Mamoru accompanying it. You get to choose up to five players to play with and you basically go through the entire game with cutscenes in-between. It adds flavor and pomp to the game, but the challenge of making it through without killing everyone in your party is where the fun lies.
This is pretty much the beef of the game. The fun factor of it all is improving your score/time through different strategies for completing levels. This is why you want to buy this game, and it will drive completion-ists absolutely bonkers. For those of you looking for a straightforward top-down shooter then you might stay away from this one. This is for the best of the best gamers, who are looking for an impossible challenge. As I mentioned before, this is the Dark Souls of shooters. If you're not up for that type of challenge then you may not find much fun/love for Mamorukun Curse! It's meant to be difficult and it's meant to drive you crazy. That is the brilliance of the game, so don't misunderstand its purpose.
With that said, if I had to improve two things about this game it would be allowing for a full 360 degree turn with the characters and pricing.
Staring with the 360 issue, once you go beyond the 180 degree line with enemies, there's literally no turning around to shoot them. That is a great flaw in this title, and one that should have been taken care of in the design process of the game. If you're going to make this game insanely difficult then you have to have some way of being able to reach all enemies from whatever direction you might need to shoot in. This needed that Ikari Warrior's flexibility to kill enemies from every direction. You'll find that is something missing from Mamorukun Curse! that should have been added.
The other issue I have with the title is that the pricing is way too high for this game. At most it should be $14.99; at best it would be around $9.99. I think asking for $19.99 for this type of game that doesn't have a particularly large amount of depth (the depth really depends on the gamer's patience) is asking too much. I don't think it's a complete deal breaker, but it does hurt the game a bit.