2D shooters used to be about giant battleships, laser cannons, and a bunch of other sci-fi hoopdedoo. These days you’re probably no longer the lone surviving pilot in an experimental space-craft about to face down an entire alien armada. For example in Trouble Witches Neo you’re one of eight different maid-witches out to stop other witches from…causing trouble? I’m not even sure what maid-witches are supposed to be. Maids with magical powers I can assume sure but if everyone has magic then who needs maids? It’s better to simply use your own magic to keep the house clean yourself. They’re probably expensive to hire anyway and if this game is any indication they’ll just fly off and destroy entire countries over the most minor of squabbles. This is what I get for trying to make sense of a videogame.
The conflict facing our heroines involves mysterious shards that are the key to some ultimate power that is actually pure evil. This original storyline is backed by an equally original cast of characters. Expect to take the fight to evil schoolgirls, a boy who dresses like a girl, identical twins, and practically everyone we commonly associate the term “moe” with. It’s all good though because like any competent shooter you can expect to do lots of bullet-dodging and coin-collecting as you obliterate enemy armies with heavy firepower.
Each maid-witch is backed by a familiar that assists by offering support fire or summoning a magic barrier. This magic barrier is the key to the various scoring systems in this game as it will collect any enemy bullets and said enemies that are destroyed will cause their bullets to turn into precious money. This cash can then be used to buy magic cards which serve as temporary weapons. Destroying enemies with these weapons leads to more money as well as additional bonus points so they’re best saved for large numbers of foes. It’s nice to have a 2D shooter where the scoring system is relatively easy to understand. Then again I probably shouldn’t talk because my highest score is still less than a third of the current top-score in the leaderboards.
The action is generally quite entertaining although some of the boss-fights can be a bit annoying. The weapon cards are very necessary for destroying bosses quickly and for best results the player should be as close as possible while fighting as it seems to do the most damage. It’s not always guaranteed that I’ll have cards handy and this can make for some really frustrating fights. The second form of the fourth boss for example has a weak-point that is only open for a couple seconds at a time. With a good weapon-card and an opening this fight can end almost immediately but if I don’t have access to either it means I’m stuck literally wandering in circles as there are too many bullets for me to risk a continued assault for very long.
The regular weapons the maid-witches have access to also feel a bit too weak at times and I end up getting overwhelmed. I guess this situation could have been averted if I had the right weapon-card at the right time but I kind-of wish that more than three cards could be carried at a time. They can be a little over-powered though so it’s in the best interest of game balance that they’re as limited as they are. Maybe I should consider sucking less when I play the game.
This game is certainly not lacking for content. Aside from the aforementioned leaderboards and eight playable characters Trouble Witches Neo also features four difficulty settings, a full story-mode, a handful of challenge modes, replay-saving, and even the original PC version of Trouble Witches is playable. Co-op both online and off is also supported and that’s always good. It’s a tremendous value for a tenner although I have to wonder what SNK/Playmore was smoking when they localized the game.
The English voice-acting is amazing. I’d go as far to say it’s the best in a 2D shooter since the legendary Castle Shikigami 2 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jLE7cM2ZI7w&feature=related). Many of the lines are spoken as if SNK/Playmore found random people on the street and said “Hey! I’ll give you $5 if you can read the lines on this piece of paper!” The voice-actors frequently sound like they’re either confused or sarcastic and the ones that actually put effort into their work stand out with hilarious results. The voice-acting coupled with the numerous grammatical errors in the text make for quite an interesting experience. Still if you’re not into that sort of thing you can always roll with the Japanese voices.