Terra Feminarum Review
Japanese shoot-em-ups meet Finnish folklore in Polar Night Games’ new danmaku Terra Feminarum. There’s no shortage of bullets and challenge here, but does it manage to stand toe-to-toe with Touhou?
Terra Feminarum Review
Told at the beginning of the game and during brief text interludes during gameplay, Terra Feminarum’s story is one about the “women’s land.” The northern lights are dying, and it’s up to sisters Lempo, Talvikku, and Aino to save the land of Pohjola. It’s a pretty basic tale, and though it pulls from Finnish folklore, the character portraits are inspired by Japanese anime. This is somewhat disappointing, as a more unique direction could have been explored compared to the genre standard.
Each of the game’s seven levels is presented in a vertical shmup format. Locales include meadows, forests, rivers, lakes, and even the land of the dead, though there is not a lot of detail between them. Rather, the focus is on the hundreds of multicolored bullets that flood the screen at any given time. Terra Feminarum is a game where defense is just as important as offense – there are patterns amidst the chaos, though it may be hard to see at first. Players can slow things down and view their dot of a hitbox when necessary, focusing their fire in the process. A Mana meter can also provide reprieve in the form of added firepower or a way to prevent projectiles from piling up, which is definitely welcome.
This Mana meter also requires players to play somewhat aggressively. Enemies drop mana upon defeat, but those looking for the highest score should grab it sooner rather than later. This calls for players to constantly be in motion, which creates a welcome dynamic that forces players to step outside their comfort zone for the highest score.
Along the way, players will come across sauna goddesses, ferrywomen, pain maidens, and even traps that want to stop them from progressing. These bosses have multiple phases, each with a metric ton of firepower. Though they provide a challenge, those that can see through their bullet patterns will come out ahead. It requires a lot more trial and error than usual for shmups, but those looking for a challenge can find it here.
If each of these bosses was a breeze, there are other ways to ramp up the challenge. A “Hard” and “Brutal” difficulty mode are available in addition to “Normal,” along with the ability to take on challenges after successfully completing each level. There is also an arcade mode, which is more in line with what the genre is like. Though each level can take anywhere from five to ten minutes to complete, the difficulty curve will have players shooting away for far longer.
Terra Feminarum is one of the most difficult shoot-em-ups you’ll ever play. Though it is a shame it does not make the most of its Finnish setting, it still provides a refreshing experience that will force players to get good at all costs.