Mamorukun Curse! Review
Shoot-em-up video games aren’t just tough as nails — they’re an endangered species. Shooting and dodging your way to victory might sound like a simple task, but finding (and completing) games from this genre can oftentimes be the most challenging task of all. Thankfully, UFO Interactive is coming to the rescue with Mamorukun Curse!, a “cute-em-up” shmup straight from the land of the rising sun. Does this game give fans the bullet-dodging fix they crave?
Shmupaholics will feel right at home with Mamorukun Curse! — especially since it was designed by the co-developers of genre classics Ikaruga and Gradius V. The same rules apply — shoot everything in sight without getting shot, collecting powerups and score multipliers along the way. Its two-button setup makes it easy to pick up and play, but two wrinkles make this shmup stand out.
Rather than rely on power-ups or screen-sized bosses (though it has both in spades), the major selling point to Mamorukun Curse! comes with its risk-reward curse feature. A single button press unleashes a curse on either the opposition or yourself, allowing for more damage or tougher baddies that will grant more points. It does not revolutionize gameplay — in fact, you can go the whole game without using it. Still, it is a welcome feature that prevents players from taping down the fire button the whole game.
The other major tweak in Mamorukun’s shmup-based roots comes in its control scheme and its reliance on pivoting. Making angled shots is a real pain with a d-pad, yet is a breeze when analog controls come into play. While both options are supported, more support for old-school fans would have gone a long way. I know for a fact people will be dying to play this with an arcade stick, but ironically a DualShock is the best weapon of choice.
Of course, Mamorukun’s still got the arcade spirit firmly planted in its cute little heart. Each character has a set amount of guys, there are continues if you lose those guys, the game is as tough as nails, and your combo meter and high score are king. Some may see these mechanics as old-fashioned, but more seasoned players (like myself) will appreciate how it adds to the old-school arcade experience.
Unfortunately, these factors also work against itself simply due to the fact that it is an arcade port. One can easily blow through the arcade mode in the good part of an hour, especially with the use of unlimited continues. Online leaderboards and 60+ Trophies urge the hardest of the hardcore to complete the game on one credit, but those who simply want to reach the end credits will not get as much enjoyment. It all depends on how much you care about the core game.
So how does the core game of Mamorukun Curse! stack up? It’s design nails the basics, with solid controls and unique Japanese-themed levels packed with multiple paths. The difficulty curve (sans continues) is fair too, with the waves of bullets never getting out of hand. It all feels and controls as it should. True, the cutesy look and Japanese yells of the characters will no doubt be emasculating to all but the most confident of players, but that is what volume controls and window blinds are for.
Mamorukun Curse! gets points for simply existing in this day and age. It’s not a trailblazer like Ikaruga, but it does strike all of the right notes and serves as a fine way to stir up some nostalgia or fine-tune your shmup skills. Mamorukun Curse! is for a very select group of gamers, but those in that know will be downright thrilled.