Curse This Shmup –
Outside the mobile environment, the Shmup is a dying breed. UFO is looking to fill this gap by localizing Mamorukun Curse! to the PSN.
Upon starting this Japanese “cute’em up”, I conjured mixed feelings. Thing is, UFO’s track record is pretty terrible thanks to the abysmal Johnny series on the 3DS eShop and even the recently released Outbreak on XBLA. However, a couple of the developers who helped create the wonderful Ikaruga worked on Mamorukun Curse!. Unfortunately, the arcade roots of this title ultimately limit the gameplay and scope of this console port.
Unlike other shmups that involve little more than blasting everything in sight while dodging enemy attacks, Mamorukun Curse! has a gameplay gimmick to separate itself. At its heart, this $20 PSN download is a twin-stick shooter but the flourish comes from its cutesy anime art style and “curse” mechanic. Cursing things has a risk-reward feature that requires a steep learning curve but will keep dedicated players in stiff competition for leaderboard rankings.
Holding down the R1 button warms up a super curse shot that can damage enemies overtime (think of a poison effect in any RPG) but makes they more aggressive while yielding a higher score upon defeat; it can even slow down spinning blades, for example. If this Curse Shot button is simply tapped, then the player can travel over this self-inflicting curse to increase firepower for a short amount of time. There is no limit to this curse ability although it requires time to regenerate between uses. It is an interesting mechanic that will have players constantly considering offensives or defensive strategies.
Unfortunately, learning the game’s mechanics is not easy. The tutorial is a non-interactive video that moves along at a “slow down, I need more time to read the very small poorly translated text” speed. Worse, the entire game is played with a compressed aspect ratio; this was an arcade title after all. The end result means the game is only played on one-third of the screen. The useless anime boarders are terribly wasted space. There is an option to rotate the screen horizontally but finding users with a capable TV mount is slim to none. The graphics are entertaining with the blindingly colorful Japanese art style but the game experiences heavy slow down whenever an insane amount of bullet hell takes place. At the same time, the developers could have done this intentionally as navigating the screen during these segments in real time would be impossible. Negatively, it is sometimes difficult to differentiate between random particle effects, enemy fire, or collectable colorful candy as everything blends together and overlaps. It can be rather frustrating especially considering some of the modes have limited continues.
Mamorukun Curse! also has unique features outside of the curse mechanic. The colorful Japanese art style looks great from afar but suffers when the camera zooms in at the end of each stage. Also, the gameplay reminds me a lot of Pocky and Rocky, a forgotten overhead action title from the SNES era; most levels has the player controlling forward movement instead of being on rails like most shmups. However, despite being a twin-stick shooter, the player cannot shoot backwards which can make gameplay awkward but challenging. Also, this title has a pretty big emphasis on story for a shmup. Trying to make sense of this story is a lost cause as the Japanese translation is too confusing. Luckily, all story dialog can be skipped; you don’t need a story this detailed for a shooter anyway. All voices are in Japanese with no English voice over option.
User interface is also poorly designed. Simple tasks that players take for granted, like menu navigation, is way more confusing than it needs to be. Instead of universally hitting the circle button to return to the previous menu, the player must awkwardly hit Start then select the option with the X button to go back. When each level is completed, the game automatically uploads high scores to an online leaderboard but does not save initial input; the player must re-enter their initials every time. And players will have trouble seeing where they rank via the online leaderboard due to a lack of a “find my rank” button. Combine this fact with the tedious initial input and most spots on the leaderboards are “AAA.” Since score is so important in a shmup, this is a wasted and unfortunately missed opportunity. Oh yeah, and this game is single player only.
There are about a half dozen characters to choose from (these characters were originally sold as DLC in the Japanese version but included in the full price of the game on US PSN) and each character plays a little differently thanks to new bullet options. Each character also has two skins to choose from although they do not alter gameplay in anyway. This game also has tons of artwork to unlock and over 60 Trophies to collect so dedicated players have a reason to continue playing once the novelty wears off in a couple hours.
Mamorukun Curse! has its heart in the right place but falls short to lacking details, clunky UI, and repetitive gameplay; players basically play through the same half dozen stages but with different criteria. This game is not the Ikaruga-style shmup that was hoped for but could still offer some enjoyment thanks to the unusual curse mechanic. I can’t help but think that the PS3 might not be the best outlet for Mamorukun Curse! mostly due to the crunched screen resolution. Playing this colorful game holding a Vita vertically… hmmm, now there is an idea.
Not As Good As: Ikaruga (DC, GC, XBLA)
Better Than: Johnny 3DS eShop games
Wait For It: a sale
By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief myGamer.com
Watch a live stream of Mamorukun Curse! with commentary below (we apologize for the technical difficulties in the beginning).