Developer Soft Circle French-Bread is well known in the doujin circles and is my favorite doujin company. For those of you that don’t know, they created the Melty Blood series, which grew so popular that it was ported to arcades and home consoles, but we’ll leave that for another review…
Lilian Fourhand is a fast paced side scrolling action shooter. Your character constantly walks you to the right, while enemies come from all directions. Because of the large number of enemies, it has more of a shmup vibe than a platformer. Its characters and locations are based on the light novel and manga series Maria-sama ga Miteru.
At the beginning you select from three pairs of characters, each having their own specific stats. Some pairs do more damage, have longer range or higher number of lock on targets. From the pair of characters you picked, you control the main character while the other one follows you around while providing support fire and homing lock on fire.
Even though the supporting character is pretty much immortal, if she falls down a hole it will take some time for her to respawn again. While you are waiting for her to come flying out of the sky (like Tails from Sonic!) you won’t have her support fire, which is pretty important.
Your controls are jump, fire and dodge. You can fire both left and right. This is useful for enemies that like to sneak up behind you, as well as for boss battles. Dodging lets you quickly get out of the way of incoming fire. You can also lock on to enemies in the background by holding the fire button. Enemies don’t just come from left and right, they also walk in the background periodically shooting at you. Your regular shot doesn’t hit enemies in the background so this is why you must use homing lock-on attacks.
The game also features a set of power-ups, which range from enhancing your fire power for a limited amount of bullets, strengthening your lock on fire, short turn invulnerability, healing, to gaining bonus points.
The levels are varied, each featuring its own locations which change over time. For instance the first level is set in a town, but after a while houses in the background are replaced with trees. Not only do you go to different locations, but also each level is set during a different time of day. The first level begins early in the morning, while the last stage is set in the evening. All of this gives a nice sense of progression.
Enemy types are also varied. They go from multiple types of birds, spiders, different school girls to angels. Even though they rarely shoot they will still hurt you if you touch them, so it gets a bit more challenging when the screen is littered with enemies.
Bosses are probably the best part of the game. Each level has two boss fights and some even feature multiple bosses at the same time. They are so wacky and unusual that it’s hard not to laugh when you see them for the first time. Some of the funnier ones are a giant girl, an elephant and even a car (two of them). Reminds me of the 90s when most brawlers had at least one car to beat up. Unfortunately most of the boss fights last less than a minute and are pretty easy.
In fact, the whole game is pretty easy and won’t pose much of a challenge. Losing all your lives allows you to continue from the level where you left off with full lives. Even though the game is a bit easy, it features a hard mode where it ramps up the challenge. So if you are shmup fan, Hard is definitely the way to go!
The music is nice and soothing and the sound effects are great. Boss battles have their own music themes which is always a plus. On the graphics side the game looks phenomenal. Everything is highly detailed and very colorful. Killing an enemy has them flying off the screen, shooting down birds turns them to roasted chicken and each boss has a different death animation. All in all the game has extremely high production values which is to be expected from French-Bread.
To be honest I planned to review another game, but once I played a bit of Lilian Fourhand I was immediately captivated by the fun gameplay and high production values. I played through the game and had a blast. Even though the game can be cleared in less than an hour, clearing the game with all characters opens additional modes. It definitely lives up to the quality French-Bread is known for.