Publisher: UFO Interactive
Release Date: July 16, 2013
ESRB: E for Everyone
A download code was supplied by the publisher for this review
While the Xbox 360 has been a sort of obscure safe haven for shmups and bullet hell games this past gaming generation (especially for importers), game releases on PS3 have been rather sparse for fans of the genre for the most part. Fortunately for PS3 owners, however, developer G-Rev has had a hand in developing titles like Ikaruga and Gradius V, and decided to give the console a bit more love with their more recent system ports as of late.
One of these games is the eccentric Mamorukun Curse, which, despite being a former arcade and XBLA release in Japan, has several new additions and modes with this PSN release. With more than enough candy and cuteness to cause tooth decay, does Mamorukun Curse have enough shmup substance for those without a sweet tooth?
Like most shmups, the structure for Mamorukun Curse is pretty straightforward for the most part: You hold down the normal attack button for a barrage of bullets covering the screen, obtain attack radius increasing power-ups, and there is also one touch death for the player character, similar to a good majority of shmups. Movement is less of an on-rails matter like most in the genre as it does allow for some degree of free movement (with alternate paths for levels and such) but with a scrolling stage design that ensures you'll never get lost during actual play. There are also multiple characters to play with in the game, each with different attack properties. Also, thanks to UFO interactive, the localized version has the Japanese paid DLC characters for free by default.
The most complicated and unique thing about Mamorukun Curse's gameplay is probably its ”Curse“ mechanic. In addition to the standard bullet barrage, the alternate 'curse shots' serve two advantages during gameplay and differ based on if they are fully-charged or not. A non-charged curse shot can be used to 'curse' the player's character and increase their offensive power at the sacrifice of bonus points, or candy.
A fully charged curse shot gradually damages larger enemies as well as slows down enemies in its radius, and also dramatically increase the candy/points the enemies drop, but enemy attack patterns also become slightly more aggressive when afflicted by it. There is a bit more nuance to both charged/non-charged curse shots, and a risk/reward mindset when using both, but actual player implementation will be more useful than the tutorials presented in the arcade mode.
Beyond that, Mamorukun has various modes to test players' skills, and it will certainly do that since it is not an easy game... even on the easiest settings. The Three main modes in Mamorukun Curse include: Story, Arcade, Netherworld Adventures (a trial mode of sorts) and practice options for the latter two modes. All modes share stages and bosses, but stage design is slightly tweaked in each mode and more so on higher difficulties. Even if the stages themselves are rather varied overall, and play on the game's mechanics in creative ways later on, it's a bit disappointing that there isn't more overall. Still, The game offers what I found to be a fair challenge without the gameplay being as twichy as many shmups on lower to normal difficulty settings.
Since I tend to not be great and terribly competitive at shmups I found myself dabbling with the story mode the most. This is largely due to the requirements of the 'true ending' throwing me off and me having me repeat it several times before consulting an online FAQ, which has pretty specific requirements.
The story mode itself starts with something along the lines of the group of main characters dying in the human world and are shortly sent to the netherworld after their passing. A strange young girl spirit confronts the main cast and quickly tells them they need seal the gate to prevent any more darkness seeping from, well, the world of darkness and prevent the Netherworld from being destroyed. The group agrees to help and with their newfound powers they try to work towards recovering their memories and return to the real world ...or something like that.
While the storytelling does seem to sound a bit morbid and convoluted at 1st, the actual execution is anything but that, and for the most part, it comes off as more endearing than it probably should because of its tongue-in-cheek nature. It's a shame that obtaining the 'true ending' for finishing off the narrative is needlessly confusing to obtain.
In terms of technical presentation, Mamorukun Curse isn't likely to impress anyone with its visual flair. It is certainly a colorful game an it shows off personality in several stages and especially story scenes, but overall doesn't do much from a technical standpoint. Actually, if there is one real problem I have with the presentation, it is actually based on how much visual clutter there is with the vibrant candy visual effects have during gameplay, which, in its worst moments, can occasionally mask or at least possibly distract you from enemies or their attacks. Also, I do wish the game utilized the cutesy manga-like visuals it had for the story's intro for the rest of the game, since it is mostly propelled by simple character portraits and text-boxes, but that is going into nitpick territory.
When it comes to audio, I found myself enjoying the soundtrack a fair bit, which is appropriately energetic and catchy for the most part aside from some of the more tense boss themes. Seriously, I've listened to the character select music in particular for far too long. Unsurprisingly for a game of this sort, Mamorukun Curse maintains a Japanese dub for audio only, and for the quirky light-hearted narrative and setting the game has, the voice actors are more than fitting for it for it.
I admit, I actually feel bad for not checking out this title earlier as a person who enjoys playing various shmups and at times importing them as well. Despite how Mamorukun Curse presents itself in a cutesy way, it manages to be a rather fun and a challenging game. It's not likely going set the bar among more technical shmup classics like Radiant Silvergun or G-Rev's(/Treasure primarily) previous work, Ikaruga, has done, but Mamorukun Curse still deserves the attention for fans of the genre, especially shmup starved PS3 owners. While Mamoru-kun himself may find himself Cursed during the course of his adventure, I know I'll still find myself blessed while continuing to play this bullet frenzy gem.
+ Cavity-inducing cuteness that carries from gameplay especially to the story scenes
+ Energetic and catchy soundtrack
+ Varied playable characters and flexible curse mechanics brings many versatile approaches to the gameplay
+ Satisfying challenge that isn't oppressive like many shmups/bullet-hells
-â€œCurse" mechanic may be a bit difficult to wrap one“s head around initially
- Not a whole lot of stages
- â€œTrue endingâ€ in story mode is kind of obtuse to obtain
- Candy visual effects can be a bit distracting at times
Overall Score: 7.5 (out of 10)
Mamorukun Curse brings forth plenty of challenge, charm, and fun for shmup fans.