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Libera Wing - DSiWare Review

Game Info
Libera Wing

DSiWare | Pixel Federation | 1 Player | Out Now | 800 Nintendo Points
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17th May 2010; By KnucklesSonic8

Games like Libera Wing sure are a pleasure to see on DSiWare. Rather than porting an existing mobile game to this platform, Pixel Federation took the more ambitious approach of creating a game specifically for this platform. As it turns out, they've brought a new gameplay aspect to the table for the tower-defense genre to make for a more memorable game.

    The game's story centers around the Captain of Libera Wing, an elite team of galactic defenders. As you progress through the game, you'll realize that some of the support towers used to defend the galaxy from invaders are beginning to malfunction. Before long, you realize that this is just the start of your troubles. Soon, previously-safe sectors are being overrun by enemy ships emitting from a mysterious alien force. You take it upon yourself to rid the universe of these evil creatures by taking control of and managing towers to keep them out. In between each stage, you'll encounter cutscenes which use a combination of level sketches and dialogue bubbles to portray what's unfolding over the course of the game.

    Libera Wing's main campaign consists of over 30 levels spread out across multiple chapters and episodes. Controls are mostly touch screen-based, with the exception of the camera, handled by use of the D-Pad. To direct movement of a ship, simply tap the unit in question, then select the destination point. Tapping will also bring up a dialog menu which displays a variety of options depending on abiltiies you've unlocked and what items you have in your possession. It's pretty easy to tell everything apart from another, which is great since all information is displayed on the top screen. You have an area showing an outline of the map from top view, as well as areas that display text when you give something a tap with your stylus. 

The game makes use of some very unique gameplay mechanics that most TD fans may not be used to at first. Each stage consists of two different portions: offensive gameplay, and defensive gameplay. During the 'Offense' phase, you'll need to control the Captain's starship and guide him past a series of towers, and towards the goal point at the end. You'll need to make wise decisions and avoid as much confrontation as possible so you can advance to the next stage. As you advance the storyline, you'll become aware of Nanohives, small cruisers that can come in real handy during the 'Defense' phase. If you have any on your team, they'll release one-by-one from the starting point after a certain amount of time. Each of them have a limited supply of HP that's very small compared to the Captain. It's your duty to escort them to the end in the best condition possible. 

    Later on, your ship will gain upgrades that can give you a much bigger advantage during these segments in the game. For example, you can use a temporary Force Field to pass by towers unscathed, or place a target market on your ship to cause the AI to focus on your ship instead of the nanohives. And then there's the Nuke Missiles which can destroy a tower instantly. They'll help you make it to the next round but can you afford to not have it as part of your arsenal when you're on defense? It's these kinds of choices you'll need to make as you play, involving a surprising amount of depth and forethought.

The 'Offense' phase is the part in the game where fans of tower defense games will say "Now this is more like it!". Those same towers that you had to get through in the preceding round are now yours to command against a series of enemy units. There's a good sense of variety in the different kinds of towers you can control, and they're all colour-coded. Red lasers, yellow cannons, blue shock pads, and green missile launchers. Each enemy is also colour-coded by the same system; so, if you encounter one of the green tanks, the missile launchers will prove to be most effective. At the same time, each enemy also has an element that they can resist so be sure to take notice of this as well. Nanohives take a more important role during this phase. You can assign these small, but helpful spaceships to the towers themselves to level them up. Each tower has two to four open pockets that allow nanohives to reside in, increasing the attack power, and range. It's a great system and it's pretty user-friendly once you get the hang of it.

    You'll earn gold that you can later use for each enemy you defeat. But, for every enemy that makes it to the end zone, you'll suffer a loss somewhere. It could be green energy diamonds, money, items, nanohives, or even HP from your ship! Certainly you can appreciate that enemies need to be defeated at all costs, otherwise you could very well lose your life if too many go by. And if the Captain goes down, it'll be Game Over - for the team, the universe, and for you. If your HP is getting low, you can restore it using certain items. But if these aren't available to you, then you can use the nanohives to come to your aid. Each unit can give a certain amount of health to the Captain or, vice versa, they can also take some from the Captain. It's a great feature, to say the least.

    Libera Wing makes use of some great power-ups and items that can be used in either one or both of the gameplay phases. For example, the 'Comet Strike' item impact enemies within a medium-sized range with a powerful hit, while the 'Freeze Void' item will cause all enemies on the playing field to stop in place for a few seconds. There are even items that can change the colour of the towers or give them fully-supported status for a short time. So be sure to experiment and make use of them in the best way possible.

At the beginning of both rounds, you'll be able to access the shop where you can purchase items that can be used for the next round. You have a budget to work with that's shared between both phases, creating an increased sense of strategy. In addition, the shop only displays a selection of items, not all of the ones that are found in the game. In other words, the items available to you varies per episode, so sometimes, you just don't know what you'll be able to use moving into the next round. As a result, players need to plan and allocate resources very carefully. If not, they could wind up in trouble during the more difficult segments. 

    In later chapters, it becomes rather easy to mess yourself up for an entire episode if you make poor decisions. There's quite a difficulty spike towards the end but thankfully, the game does a good job of preparing you for this with a constant sense of personal progression. Still, it can be upsetting to have to start an episode all over again because of a hopeless situation. What's even more frustrating is retrying an episode by accident. At the conclusion of each stage, your results are tallied and then you have the option to continue with the episode or start over. No dialog box appears asking you for confirmation of your decision, so players had better watch out for that.

    The game looks pretty good, albeit it doesn't look as polished as some other DSiWare efforts. There aren't a lot of music tracks but the ones that are included are decent enough. One in particular sounds like something that would suit a docking bay of some kind, which is a pretty good fit. The images that players will be exposed to during cutscenes are neat to look at, even if they lack crispy edges. Something else that you'll take notice of is the fact that there are quite a few spelling errors that creep up as you progress through the game. It likely won't annoy anyone other than perfectionists and strong English students, but the impression lowers a bit when these little kinks turn up.

Aside from the somewhat-substantial campaign, the game also features a Tutorial mode whereby players can learn how to play the game thanks to some pretty straight-forward instructions. There's also the Quickplay option which provides you with a series of stages that you can access at any point for some quick TD sessions. Then you have the Hall of Fame, a records menu that displays the best score you achieved upon completion of the Campaign mode. This gives players some replay value in aiming to go back and aim for a high-score. Especially because once they run through it the first time, they'll be armed with new tactics that they can use to do even better at the beginning of the game. Finally, the Library option is a place where you can view images and 3D models of towers, units, and even the sketches used for the development of this game.

    If you've already tried DSiWare's other TD offerings, this likely won't impress you as much. At the same time, though, I can say that Libera Wing does hold its own ground rather well. Mind you, the presentation values aren't terribly strong, and the game can get pretty difficult later on (for better or worse). But there's a possibility that the unique gameplay mechanics will stick with you, thus making it worth a look for fans of this genre.

23/30 - Good

Gameplay 8/10 - Two unique phases for each level, straight-forward navigation but the action is anything but, lots of strategy involved
Presentation 7/10 - Sketches from development appear in the game, models and icons are pretty recognizable, good layout 
Enjoyment 4/5 - TD fans who like to be challenged will be pleased, can be frustrating towards the end of the Campaign, engaging offensive phase
Extra Content 4/5 - Over 20 levels, Tutorial for first-timers, additional missions in Quickplay, high-scores motivate players to play Campaign a second time

Equivalent to a score of 77% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Libera Wing
Review | Screenshot gallery | Trailer | Preview | Feature | Interview


Review by KnucklesSonic8

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