Note: Review Copy was provided by Sekai Project.
What drew me to this one…besides the cast consisting mainly of cute and sexy girls was the concept behind it, a bullet hell shooter mixed with a Metroidvania style action-platformer. The question is whether the combination is a match made in heaven or an overambitious mistake? Let us find out as we take a look at Rabi-Ribi, developed by the Taiwan company CreSpirit and published by Sekai Project.
WARNING! The game’s content may not be suitable for people who have experienced epileptic seizures due to the game featuring moments of flashing lights.
Platforms: PC (Steam), PS4, PS Vita, Nintendo Switch
Genres: Action, Adventure, Exploration, Metroidvania, Touhouvania, Bullet-Hell
Themes: Moe, Animal Girls, Yuri,
Length: 12-20 hours
Plot Summary: The story follows Erina, whose humdrum life as a regular rabbit is turned upside-down when she finds herself in an unknown world and turned into a cute and attractive (cutractive) human (with rabbit ears)!
Along the way she meets the cheerful pink-haired fairy, Ribbon, who mysteriously chooses to stay by Erina’s side.
These unwitting heroes embark together on their quest to restore Erina’s life to normalcy, but who knows what troubles lurk, waiting for them…
As mentioned in the introduction Rabi-Ribi is a “Bullet-Hell meets Metroidvania” action-exploration platformer or for readers who play Japanese Doujin games, a Touhouvania game (Not to be confused with the two games that are nicknamed Touhouvania by fans due to them being inspired by classic Castlevania games, the Koumajou Densetsu duology.). For readers who do not know much about either the “bullet hell” or “Metroidvania” subgenres let us briefly discuss both before continuing.
While there are certainly other kinds, Touhou games come closest to mind when talking about bullet-hell games, especially when describing Rabi-Ribi. See, Touhou is a franchise best known for its top-down shoot-em-up entries where some enemies but especially bosses have attack patterns that involve MANY bullets being fired in all directions to the point that the entire screen is covered with bullets and to survive (especially in harder difficulties) it is a essential to master the playable character’s “hitbox” and knowing exactly where to be positioned in order to avoid as many bullets as possible by being mere pixels apart from them.
Next up is Metroidvania. The term was popularized by two very popular entries in both series that share similar gameplay styles, Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Metroidvania is a subgenre of action-platformers revolving around exploration of one world connected by multiple mini-dungeon like areas. Progression depends on finding key items that grant the playable character new abilities to access previously unreachable new paths leading to other dungeons. This means players will visit already explored areas after obtaining new abilities in order to access/unlock new paths and secrets.
And those two descriptions sum up the core gameplay of Rabi-Ribi. As Erina along with Ribbon, players traverse through the different areas of Rabi-Rabi Island exploring as much of the island as possible taking on various foes that either charge at you or fire bullets and lasers culminating with battles against trigger happy bosses. To progress in the game Erina must use her Piko Piko Hammer and other bunny skills with Ribbon providing ranged attacks using her Mega Man/classic shoot-em-up inspired ranged attacks and special abilities that they discovers throughout their journey and overcome obstacles while accessing different paths and uncovering secret passages to hidden items and mini-dungeons. There are over 20 areas/dungeons to explore every nook and cranny to find as many powerups as possible to make boss battles less difficult. Trust me, players are going to need them. Keep in mind though that despite not many of the enemies posing much of a threat there are some that if not taken care of will chip away at your health fast. Certain powerups can also be purchased using EN at Miriam’s store in Rabi-Rabi Town.
The game allows the player to go wherever they want provided they have found the right ability to access new areas (such as sliding and the double jump). Mission objectives are given to guide players but apart from main story missions, every dungeon that Erina and Ribbon can access at the time they are free to tackle them in whatever order they please.
Each mini-dungeon has a theme to it along with some neat traps. Some of these are familiar to platformer fans like Fire, Water and Snow themed with some that are not often seen so the diversity of locations makes it fun to explore all the dungeons and not have players get bored by saying “When will I get to the next boss?”.
While it is preferable to play the game with a controller it is possible to get through it using the keyboard. I did just that and managed. The default button layout is not complicated at all so all players need is to get accustomed to the controls should they not own a controller. Really a controller is more for players who want to tackle the post-game unlockable content, specifically the Speedrun and Boss Rush Modes and higher difficulties. As for how Erina controls, smooth as silk. She plays excellently and should give players no trouble at all traversing Rabi-Rabi Island, provided they have a strong enough PC. Yes, while the game does not look like it eats a lot of memory there are occasions where it drops some 60-40 frames per second. Not game breaking by any means but worth mentioning. Check out the spec requirements on the game’s home page at the end of the review just in case.
Now for the game’s second main event besides the Metroidvania inspired gameplay, the boss battles. Every single one is a unique fight. Even girls Erina has rematches with later on are not repeats of their previous encounter but with their moves hitting harder. Every single one has their own set of tackle attacks, tricks, attack patterns, bullets, lasers and “Pinch Modes”…oh the “Pinch Modes”. Unless players are used to playing Bullet-hell style games several of these battles will test one’s vision and depending on the difficulty, reflexes as well. This also ties in to the freedom players are given when choosing which mini-dungeons to explore. It does not matter which one is tackled before the other because all bosses that have yet to be beaten will level up. For example, if Erina defeats Ashuri before Chocolate then Chocolate will become stronger when Erina faces her and vice-versa. This makes some battles that were already tough before tougher with the added Stat boost. Still, it makes victories all the more satisfying.
Rabi-Ribi is a very colorful game with pretty backgrounds and adorable retro style chibi characters while the visual/kinetic novel style cutscenes highlight all the ladies in their “cutractive” glory. The CGs also do a great job capturing the “cutractiveness” of the girls. The soundtrack is also pretty good. While some of the songs are not particularly long (some being around 50 seconds to 1 minute or so) they are all enjoyable enough for people to not mind the looping.
I have not mentioned the Story Mode at all throughout the review. The reason being is that unless readers have the same affinity for anime about “Cute girls doing cute things” and moe archetypes, then the story will be considered the game’s weakest point. See, while the main plot revolving around the mystery of why Erina was turned into a human and a certain mysterious organization causing trouble around Rabi-Rabi Island and “why bunnies?”, the entire cast is filled to the brim with cute and “cutractive” moe archetypes. It is one of those “Eh the story’s weak but the game’s great so it’s no big deal”…unless the player is one of those people who considers a good/great story being a major selling point. Basically it all depends on the player’s tastes and needs. For fans of mine’/regulars of this blog what I said here should not be a problem. It just means to be patient and the payoff will be worth it.
And last but not least, the yuri. Let me put it this way. The adversaries Erina and Ribbon encounter consist of the following:
A: Bosses that only exist to be smashed and blasted.
B: Girls who attack Erina and Ribbon either due to a misunderstanding or association with a certain organization causing trouble or just for kicks.
C: Girls who attack Erina because…to bring up a phrase used throughout Yuri Kuma Arashi, they want to “eat” her…if readers catch my drift.
Besides Point C there also several strong ships like the one pictured above and even one or two canon pairings. Which ones I leave the interested to find out for themselves. Like the rest of the cast the yuri is delightfully cute.
Overall Rabi-Ribi is a great game for Metroidvania fans, Touhou Doujin game fans and even players who want to try out a hybrid of game genres that is uncommon in the West. The cast are cute and “cutractive”, the gameplay is both fun and hectic, there is a pretty solid amount of content, the presentation is nice and the yuri material is plentiful when it pops up. While the story will not win any “best writing in video game” awards it is still enjoyable for what it is though not essential for players who just want to kick booty. Highly recommended.
Purchase the game on Steam HERE. Also available for PS4, PS Vita/TV and Nintendo Switch.