It’s no secret that I absolutely love Madoka. I’d say it’s easily the best anime I’ve watched all year, and that’s saying a lot. I also happen to be a complete fan boy when it comes to beat-’em-ups (TMT: Turtles in Time is easily in my top five, tied with Knights of the Round). It’s good, stupid fun that doesn’t require a whole lot of thought. Walk right, punch anyone you run into, repeat for about five or so stages. So, you can guess how excited I was when I found Grief Syndrome, a Madoka beat-’em-up. I’ve been putting this off for way too long, so let’s get to it, shall we?
I’ve only played the first two stages, but I already love this thing. The control is nice and smooth, if a bit floaty. The characters all have their own unique feel. Sayaka is fast as sin and hits like a truck; Kyouko is slow, but has great range, so on, so forth. It’s not necessarily your standard beat-’em-up, either. There are a lot of little mechanics that not only make the game interesting, but also fit the story if you’ve seen the anime.
For one, you can not die… at least in the traditional sense. If your health runs out, you just respawn and your soul gem ticks down. Oh, and it’s always ticking down. It drains itself to heal and revive you, but it’s also losing time as you go on, so don’t mess around too much. Each character also has what I like to call a ‘desperation attack.’ In most games, this would take your health down a bit. In Grief Syndrome, using your big attack is much more risky. Part of your health becomes blue, and if you take a hit from anything, you lose the entirety of that blue part. Which means you’re that much closer to dying. Which means you have to burn more of your soul gem to heal yourself.
Second, if one of your characters die? They’re gone for good, at least for that playthrough. Permadeath in a side-scrolling beat-’em-up. I haven’t had this happen to me, but I’ve heard the final level is absolutely brutal (as expected, given how the anime’s ‘final day’ is). So you’re going to need every magical girl you can afford, and you’re going to need to level them. Leveling up gives you increased Soul Gem ‘points,’ which means you’ll be less likely to accidentally get killed. I want to say it increases damage as well, but I haven’t seen anything for myself. Nothing noticeable, anyway.
My only real complaint about the actual game (which may be fixed in a patch) is the lack of any built-in network multiplayer. I’m sure you could possibly rig something to make it work, but it’s still a bit of a disappointment that we don’t have anything like that by default. A minor complaint, given how great everything else is. And I haven’t even touched on the aesthetics of it!
I mentioned earlier that I’m a complete sucker for Madoka and beat-’em-ups, but I’m also a sucker for good art. The art in this game is simply amazing, the screenshots don’t do it justice at all. You really need to see it in motion to enjoy it, because everything is animated so nicely. The enemies are delightfully creepy and disjointed (at least in the first level), the backgrounds are nice and clear. Everything is downright faithful to the anime, which makes me happy.
I’ll admit, I didn’t notice the music a whole lot. Maybe that’s a good thing, maybe it isn’t. I personally just zone out and maul things to death when I’m playing games like this, but even when I tried listening to the songs, I couldn’t really pick anything spectacular out… until I got to the second level.
Charlotte’s theme is delightfully weird and creepy. It sounds like a twisted, evil circus or playground; it’s all upbeat yet with a hint of sinister intent behind it! Again, I’ve only played up to the third level, but this could very well be the best song in the game.
Well, that’s about it for now. I’ll touch on some other points in another post down the line after I get around to beating it. Once again, thanks for reading, and have a good’un!