With the popularity of shoot ‘em up games on the rise in the past decade thanks to the Dreamcast classic Ikaruga and the more recent downloadable title: Sine Mora. Gulti brings the five year old Mamorukun Curse! – originally a Japanese Arcade game – to the North American shores for the first time. The narrative revolves around a mysterious dark presence invading the Underworld, but the bright eyed bubbly anime characters in Mamorukun Curse! present the narrative in a lighthearted manner.
The three different main game modes: Arcade, Netherworld Adventures and Story Mode features plenty of content, but the developers have also included all of the original DLC from the Japanese PS3 release – giving players access to additional characters, bonus artwork and alternate costumes. All of the voice work is in Japanese with English subtitles appearing on-screen. At first the controls felt clunky, but once I went into the options and found the dual-stick control scheme, my view on the game immediately changed. If you have played other shooters, this control method will feel more natural.
With a visual style more akin to games that are designed for a younger audience, Mamorukun Curse! is one of the most difficult bullet-hell shooters I’ve ever gotten my hands on – also the cutest. All of the seven playable characters feature different bullet patterns to master, some better suited for newcomers to the genre, featuring wide spraying of bullets and even homing shots. You can think of the different characters as the usual power-ups you would find in other shoot ‘em up games. The additional curse mechanic allows you to either curse your own character yielding stronger and faster bullets for a limited amount of time or allowing you to curse enemies, dropping their defenses and slowing them down. When you find yourself completely surrounded by bullets, a frequent occurrence in the game, casting a curse will dispel any incoming attack, but it must be properly timed as you will completely vulnerable until it recharges.
In the Story mode multiple characters can be selected, as a single hit will kill the current character, giving you control of the next character on the list until you run out of available characters. In Adventure mode however, you only gain control of a single character, but are given a set amount of lives to play with. Even on the lowest difficulty, I felt death loom over my head constantly. My first time playing the game, I failed to complete the opening stage, which was quite an embarrassment for myself. Unlike a majority of other games of the same genre, Mamorukun Curse! requires strategy due to the variations in each characters bullet pattern. Not only are you able to shoot and walk/fly directly in front of you, but you are able to shoot to both the left and the right directions. The online leaderboard allows you to rank yourself against the best in the world. I found even when the game tells you it is uploading a score, the leaderboard doesn’t appear to instantly update.
As a five year old port, visually the game doesn’t hold up well, marred with blurry textures and basic character models. The frequent slowdown in the game happens intentionally, allowing you to better manage the incoming onslaught of bullets. While not featuring a long narrative, the challenging nature of the game provides plenty of entertainment, while the online leaderboards will keep you shooting to see your three initials crack the top 100. No doubt, Mamorukun Curse! will be the cutest bullet-hell shooter you will ever play.
Note: The Mamorukun Curse! review was written based on the PS3 version of the game provided to use for review.