Rabi-Ribi isn’t exactly a recent release. This CreSpirit and Sekai Project game first appeared on PCs last year. It charmed people then, but now even more get access to it thanks to PQube’s assistance in bringing it to the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita. While this was absolutely a valued game on computers, especially since it made the thought of an action game with a heroine that can also use bullet hell attacks seem more manageable, it is just as good a fit on the console and handheld. It’s a game designed to both charm and challenge players.
Sony platforms are no strangers to Metroidvanias. There are games like Axiom Verge, Dust: An Elysian Tail, Guacamelee, Shantae, Teslagrad, Sundered, and Apotheon. But there’s a distinct tone to Rabi-Ribi that isn’t exactly present in these games. Touhou Double Focus comes close, but doesn’t exactly match it. Rabi-Ribi is very much focused on everything adorable and cute. Each of the characters is designed to be as appealing as possible. Their chibi designs, official portraits, and character sprites are all charming. They have big, expressive eyes, detailed accessories or animalistic appendages, and attractive outfits. This applies to enemies as well, though those are sometimes limited to sprites.
This deliberate direction applies to personality. Every character has some sort of defining personality trait to make people like them. Erina is a total innocent. After all, she’s gone from an actual rabbit to a bunny girl. She’s growing accustomed to a whole new world where she happens to be an endangered species. Her partner, Ribbon, is a fairy that has a tendency to get over emotional, but whose heart is in the right place. Rumi, Erina’s master, is loving and devoted, though not the strongest magic user. Ashuri is a master mage, but gets a little carried away when it comes to a possible test subject. Irisu can get a little shy and is easily infatuated with cute things. (Like Erina!) Rabi-Ribi goes out of its way to make sure you get to see and appreciate these characters with plenty of story segments.
Rabi-Ribi is definitely going for anyone who enjoys moe media. But what’s nice about it is that it isn’t just about fan-service. Yes, this is an extremely cute game. It isn’t just about being pretty. It has multiple difficulty levels. Four are immediately available, with casual and novice helping people learn and normal and hard making things a little more challenging. You can also go with Standard or Alternative modes, with one being more streamlined, removing grinding and backtracking, and altering how bosses’ levels are determined and the other forcing people to put more work into the game. There are eventual Speedrun and Boss Rush Modes, in addition to the Story Mode.
Learning to properly master and play Rabi-Ribi takes time. This is because of its unique playstyle. While it is a Metroidvania that eventually tasks players with acquiring items like the Carrot Bomb, Double Jump, Wall Jump, Air Dash, Slide and other abilities to reach every possible area, all of that is to be expected. What sets it apart is the bullet hell elements. It is simultaneously a cute’em up. Both Erina, thanks to Ribbon’s aid, and plenty of other characters in the world can send off magical projectiles. This means only part of the game revolves around using Erina’s Piko Hammer to address issues with melee attacks. You also need to aim and use Ribbon’s bullets to hit enemies from a distance. While ordinary enemies aren’t terribly complex, every boss has bullet patterns you need to recognize and address to survive and complete the challenge.
There’s this sense of actual challenge here. Casual is really a more relaxing experience, for people who may want to enjoy the story (or get screenshots). But when you start going for difficulty levels like Hell or Bunny Extinction, things do get much more challenging. The number of enemies, amount of time you need to spend fighting to increase your hammer’s capabilities or bond with Ribbon, and strength of enemies is always growing. You have to know exactly how and when to use each heroine’s abilities and skills. It really pushes you to be your best. It can easily be over a ten hour game when you are just trying to accomplish the most basic tasks and could double if you are really trying to do it all.
Rabi-Ribi is a case where we have a game that is designed to be as attractive as possible on multiple levels. People who are looking for a game with some rather quality fanservice will find it here. It is quite cute, with characters that will easily charm people who allow themselves to connect with them. As for the gameplay, it is also challenging and demanding in all the right ways. It invites you to come back, keep exploring, and find out what lurks in every area of the map. Then, when you think you’re done, it offers a higher difficulty to test yourself with. It is a game that keeps giving.
Rabi-Ribi will come to the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita on September 1, 2017. It is immediately available on PCs. North American release dates for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita versions have yet to be announced.