Update: I have been told that the framerate slowdown was intentional in order to make the parts that are packed with enemies and bullets more manageable, especially for one-credit clears. I was also informed that all of the previously released DLC for the Japanese version (2 playable characters, 7 alternate costumes, 2 Netherworld Adventure challenge courses) have been included with the NA version of the game at no extra cost. While this does slightly alter my view of the game and add value, it is not readily apparent from within the game without being informed externally. Due to this change we have updated our score from a 6 to a 6.5. Read our review policy here for more info on review scores.
Original: Mamorukun Curse! is the latest port in a string of titles that began with the Japanese arcade game Mamoru-kun wa Norowarete Shimatta! back in 2008. It was later released as an Xbox 360 game in Japan in 2009 and then as an enhanced PS3 game in 2011 for Japan only under the title Mamoru-kun wa Norowarete Shimatta!: Meikai Katsugeki Wide Han. Five years after its initial release it’s hitting North American shores under a much simpler title: Mamorukun Curse! Will it crash our shores in a shipwreck or can it dock safely at the harbor?
The story is mildly interesting, albeit very simple: a group of people who have just recently died are now tasked with saving the netherworld from a dark force. The problem comes in the story being told in the very obnoxious and often sidetracked way that lighter “cute” anime narratives are consistently told. You aren’t going to find deep characters to get attached to here and there are no English voices, so you’ll be listening to Japanese while reading English subtitles. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good dark anime, such as Death Note and I would much prefer to listen to the original Japanese audio. Unfortunately, Mamorukun Curse! is full of adorable bright eyed anime guys and girls that too often have obnoxious, high pitched voices and go off on tangents that don’t matter despite the dark and urgent, yet simple nature of their mission. When you pair that with having to read all of their verbiage only to find a lack of depth, it becomes that much more of a chore to wade through.
Alright, let’s forget the story and the lack of general interest for this type of narrative in North American markets. Long time readers of PSLS will recall that I’m not one for these shallow characters and stories that Japanese ports tend to bring, and perhaps I’m a little spoiled with awesome narratives in titles like The Last of Us and BioShock: Infinite. Mamorukun Curse! is an arcade title anyway, so let’s focus on the gameplay.
This is a twin stick shooter with a variety of modes, characters, and enemies. Each character has a certain pattern of projectiles that they shoot which require different strategies depending on who you choose. In the story mode, each life that you lose is a character lost, meaning that you switch to the next character in your roster and must re-adjust your strategy to match the new pattern. Skipping over story aspects, the fast paced arcade style shooting was a lot of fun and definitely has a steep learning curve which fans of a challenge will have fun with. I felt accomplished every time that I was able to make it a little bit further through a level by figuring out how to utilize each character, the environment, and enemy weaknesses.
One necessary part of making it through Mamorukun Curse! successfully is the curse shot. The curse shot is an interesting little modifier that can curse enemies, slow down objects (such as spinning blades), or curse yourself for powered up projectiles. When firing a curse shot, all enemy projectiles are destroyed so it can help you out of some very tight situations. Due to a lack of tutorials, I didn’t know about the curse shot starting out, so when I discovered it on my own it changed the game quite a bit for me.
There are a few different gameplay modes, from single and multi-stage challenge missions, to the arcade and story modes. The issue here is that you are essentially playing across slight variations of the same five levels for all of these modes. The different modes also don’t offer a lot in the way of different challenges, and no matter what you choose, your mission is essentially the same: Get through the level(s) killing as much as you can and not getting hit yourself. I managed to get quite tired of the game in less than a week due to the repetitive nature of it.
The boss fights that are encountered at the end of each stage do offer some level of variance from the status quo. Each one is different from the next and requires unique strategies and skills in order to be defeated, but again, as there are only five stages, I found myself getting bored of these all too quickly. Unlockable art and leaderboards may keep some going for quite some time, but I found myself wanting nothing more than to play something else in my backlog.
The visuals of Mamorukun Curse! are also quite dated, with this being a port of a Japanese arcade game from 2008 really showing. The game significantly slows down with too many enemies on the screen at once which happens quite often. While playing the story and arcade modes, the gameplay screen is limited to the central 50-60% of your screen, with the outside edges being taken up by a changeable border. What made this all the more annoying was that the challenge missions were displayed in full screen without any screen area going unused. I’m not sure why some modes couldn’t fill up the screen real estate while others could, but gamers with smaller TVs will likely be annoyed by this. All screenshots provided for this review are full screen images from the challenge missions.
I can see enjoying Mamorukun Curse! if I was in the arcade at my movie theater, waiting for Pacific Rim to start. I can even find enjoyment in it if I only have time to get a brief 15 minutes of gaming in at home. The price seems a little steep for a title of this quality and content, but it does come complete with a (difficult to obtain) platinum, so that’s one consolation. Putting aside the quirky and cute foreign styling and the heavy framerate dips, the gameplay is solid, if for nothing else but a “turn off your brain” kind of arcade fun.
Review code for PS3 provided by publisher.