Liberation Maiden wasn't originally an eShop title. It comprised one fourth of a retail game called Guild01, developed by Level 5. Guild01 is four very different games by four well-known directors- Goichi Suda, Yoot Saito, Yasumi Matsuno, and America Zarigani. Though the names may not all stand out to you, we have Suda 51, the guy who created Seaman, the guy who directed Final Fantasy XII (among others), and a comedy duo. They each designed a game separately and they were compiled and sold. The game apparently did well enough in Japan to warrant a sequel, and though it won't be getting a full release, three of the four games have been announced as eShop titles in Europe and North America. The first released in NA was Liberation Maiden, by Suda 51. I played it, and now I shall review it.
So there's a malicious and aggressive axis force threatening to take over the world, and Japan is this utopian society with really pretty landscapes. But when the axis power starts encroaching on Japan's borders and setting up Spikes, this awesome righteous guy decides to step up and become Japan's first president to protect the country, like a boss. But he gets assassinated.
Wait, no! Not "oh well"! His teenage daughter can take on the job just as easily! Because the main thing you have to do as president is board a giant robot and kill everything yourself!
That's Liberation Maiden's story in a nutshell. The voice acting is high quality but very campy, the cutscenes are gorgeous, and the presentation is pretty gorgeous. It's over-the-top but in a delicious way.
As for gameplay, Liberation Maiden is very Kid Icarus-esque in its design, but there's some differences too. Using the circle pad to move, you pilot your mech, Liberator, through massive fields of enemies. Dragging the stylus over an enemy will lock on to it, letting go with fire off a shot. The L shoulder button allows you to strafe- or move on a line if you aren't locked onto an enemy. There's a few other intricacies, like drawing the blade on the touchscreen to perform a "melee" attack and switching between the two weapons, but the game shows you how to do them and they're responsive and well-implemented so I won't go into detail.
The game's design makes it so that there's a lot of isolated bases of enemies interconnected by sparse engagements, but you are essentially given a massive arena and an objective to complete. Going to certain areas on the map will trigger bonus objectives that you can complete to boost your score, and destroying more enemies will get your purification rate up, which will become a multiplier at the end of the stage. As I said before, the production levels are really high, and the game looks very decent. But there's only five levels, and there isn't much variation found within. Objectives kind of change and hazards get in the way, but it's the same target, shoot, dodge, rinse, repeat formula. However, the game has three different difficulties and encourages players to tackle all three with its gallery mode, which unlocks new pieces of artwork as you complete certain objectives. While a few of the objectives are a bit vague, they make enough sense to pad the game's life out quite a bit, and the hard mode is suitably hard with some definite mastering to do.
Is Liberation Maiden fun? Yes! It's pretty, it's amusing, and it's a great pick-up-and-play experience. But what is really great about the way Nintendo of America is handling Guild01 is that it allows players to pick up whichever games they want, and buffs the eShop library significantly. There are far too many mediocre games on the eShop right now, despite the few standouts like the Mighty Series, Mutant Mudds, Pushmo, and arguably Sakura Samurai, Ketzal's Corridors, and Dillon's Rolling Western. With the three Guild01 games heading over and their vastly different play styles and genres, we'll have quite a bit of variety injected into the eShop. I'm really hoping that Guild02 also gets the same treatment, because it's a great way to flesh out the eShop and give players a chance to play something they wouldn't normally get to try. I think it's great, anyway. I'm very excited to pick up Crimson Shroud, Yasumi Matsuno's title, though I'm not too certain about the last title... but that's what's totally great! I don't have to spend my money on the whole package to enjoy it! It's lovely and it saves me money.
Final Verdict: If you're looking for some over-the-top fun on the eShop, this could be the game for you. However, you're bound to get more out of the game if you attempt to complete the large unlockable tree, which features some sharp art. In terms of presentation, Liberation Maiden delivers, and the game is great for arcade-like score attacks.