Shooters/shmups have always been a favorite genre of games to play when I want a quick gaming fix. Games like 1943, Raiden, R-Type and many others would challenge eye hand coordination, reflexes and patience against a hail of neon color bullets and enemies. But for some reason shooters/shmups haven't been making it over to the West as much as they have in the past.
Sure there's games like Sine Mora and an updated version of 1942, but the games I'm talking about are the weird shooters / shmups. Games like DeathSmiles, or in the case of this review Mamorukun Curse.
Multiple Modes - With most of the modern shooters that do make it to the West, they only have a couple of modes to play in. Usually it's two versions of the score attack and arcade mode(one standard and one practice). Now Mamorukun Curse does have multiple modes similar to other shooters, but with a few twists. For one thing, there is a story mode that actually has a simple story complete with cutscenes (more on that next). The game also has the standard arcade, practice modes, and a mode called Meikai Katsugeki, localized as Netherworld Adventures. This is the game's take on score attack but slightly different. Here players will be able tackle each of the different levels as courses. There are three different courses, each ranging in different difficulty. Players will be able to pick three characters to use to run through the course. Sounds simple enough, but when you get to the harder courses, you'll start to think about who you want to use and what order you want to use them.
A Full Story Mode - Here's something that you don't see often in shooters/shmups; a story mode. With most shmups, the most story you'll get is an intro screen that describes the setting of the game and that's about it. Mamorukun Curse stars Mamoru-kun. One day he finds himself in a terrible accident and dies, but instead of properly crossing over, he awakes in a section of the Netherworld with three other people. They have been summoned by Ms. Fululu to help her save the Netherworld from merging with the Dark World. The story simple and pretty much the standard anime style found in JRPGs, but it is a nice change in pace. In other shooters you only rest for a few seconds and are thrown right back into the hail storm of neon bullets.
Colorful Cast - Speaking of Mamorukun and his newfound friends, there are seven characters to choose from, five being from the story mode and two extras that were DLC in the previous version on the Xbox 360 in Japan. Each of these characters has their respective shooting patterns that range from novice to advance. In most modes, players will have to pick a team of three characters to use. At first players will just pick any three, but after a few playthroughs, they'll start to think about who starts off first and who do they want if that character gets hit. This creates a bit of strategy not really seen in shooters.
Branching Paths - Unlike most shoots that lead players on rails down a single path, Mamorukun has branching paths in each level. Depending on which path is taken, the difficulty changes for a bit before players come back to the main path. This give some limited exploration, which is really nice to see in shooters and should be added in future games.
Curse Bombs - Like with most shooters, the game has bombs that players can fire at enemies, but they have a twist to them. First off, players can use them over and over again provided that the meter recharges after each use. Second, they're not bombs, they're curses. Players can uses the curses on themselves to active for a limited time a hyper shot or use the curse bombs on enemies, though that will give them a boost. If the player manages to shoot the enemy down while it’s cursed, extra points will be awarded. This risk/reward mechanic adds to frenzied pace of the game.
Widescreen Not Supported in All Modes - I only had one minor gripe about Mamorukun and that is there is no wide screensupport for the other modes outside Netherworld Adventures. In the other modes the screen is in its original 4:3 vertical ratio. I say that this is a minor gripe is that this is easily fixed by tilting the monitor on its side vertically. The problem is, my monitor is a 36' TV. I mostly play on that and not a smaller monitor. As I said, it’s a minor gripe that doesn't affect gameplay in any way.
With a lack of shooters/shmups, Mamorukun Curse is a welcomed sight. Its branching paths, multiple modes, colorful cast and unique use of bombs make for some intense but fun gameplay. My only minor complaint was the lack of widescreen support for the other modes outside Netherworld Adventures. Other than that, we need more games like Mamorukun Curse to come to the West.
*This review was based on the PS3 version of the game with a review code provided by the publisher.*