No ability to rotate a display in a vertically-oriented shoot-em-up is a worrying sign. Nevertheless, this option is conspicuously absent from Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid. What it does boast – unusual for a niche Japanese release – is a thorough English translation, making this a more enticing import for shoot ’em up fans.
We’ll admit that we don’t know the manga the game is based on, but its manifestation as a colorful bullet hell escapade is nonetheless appealing. This is a game for both anime fans and hardcore gamers, littered with illustrations, attractive menus, and plenty of fan-service. Clothing partially rips off as a character’s life bar dwindles: a translucent, half-naked girl who flashes over the action to alert you to danger; while elsewhere daring galleries are set up by collecting in-game image pieces.
Part Touhou, part Castle of Shikigami, Dragon Maid’s bullets come thick and slow. There are no visible hitboxes, which allows some guesswork as to where your sprite’s weak point lies. It’s still fun to weave through endless blooming waves of orbs and triangles, although graphically it’s a bit simplistic, with its cel-shaded enemies oddly contrasted against the background backdrop.
You have three female characters that you can switch between at will. If one takes too much damage, you can swap them out, leaving the two unused ones to slowly regenerate their health bars. Other novel mechanics include a step back that takes you to the bottom of the screen and a powerful dash maneuver that’s essential for creating combos and attack levels.
The dash can be tapped or charged, causing you to crash into the nearest enemy at high speed. Keep tapping the button and you’ll whip from one enemy to another, increasing your combo chain and occasionally earning a period of increased firepower if you can sustain it. Unfortunately, there’s a sense of inaccuracy to the maneuver, and the risk/reward ratio isn’t overly encouraging if you accidentally eat a bullet.
Each girl has a different shot type – spread, homing, and channeled fire – but they feel underwhelmed for too long in a game that spans only five short stages. Combos build up your “Dragon Knife,” which increases your firing power – but there’s a problem with its slow build-up rate. If you’re holding a decent chain, you can expect to level up near the end of tier one, but the visual feedback and performance increase feel shallow and negligible until you reach tier three status. At this point you are nearing the end of the game.
Improving your skills speeds this up a bit, but takes a lot of practice. For comparison, your average bullet hell affair will often find you slicing the screen at max power towards the end of the second stage. That’s just not the case here, diminishing the kind of positive destructive feedback that the genre is famous for.
Still, Dragon Maid has some solid plus points. It’s colorful, crammed with anime-quality voice acting, text, and humor that even pokes fun at Final Fantasy a little. Its weighty boss fights feature some very creative patterns that are fun, and the game mechanics are interesting. You can practice a level and start over after death, but you don’t get sequels in the traditional sense. Her bomb stash of “Choro-gon Breath” – essentially a large dragon burner – certainly comes in handy midway through, as it’s quite challenging on default settings, especially when one of your three characters is permanently dispatched.
While the long boss fights are certainly the highlight, the overall balance is somewhat lacking. The bullet hell is basically a continuous attack; But while in a CAVE title each stage tends to have a unique personality with different swarms, enemies and rhythms, Dragon Maid all seems pretty much the same.
Dragon Maid is a mediocre shoot ’em up affair: not bad, not exceptional. The tag team concept is solid: it’s fun to juggle characters to keep all your horses running, snatch health items from mid-bosses, and seek paths through the Maelstrom. At the same time, its nuance and novel ideas are paralyzed by unremarkable stage plots and a few nagging missteps, which is a shame. It’s definitely fun to commit to a one-point clear, learn bullet point patterns, and master scoring routines. But when there are so many games in the field that boast greater urgency, flow, and an all-important sense of personality, this one is left more for the moneyed, fans of ecchi Paraphernalia or a burning desire to consume everything bullet hell is.
https://www.nintendolife.com/reviews/switch-eshop/miss-kobayashis-dragon-maid-burst-forth-choro-gon-breath Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid: Burst Forth!! Choro-Gon-Breath Review (Switch eShop / Switch)