First Impressions: Stardust Amazoness

Arc System Works swaps fighting for dungeon-crawling in this saucy RPG

Arc System Works may be famous for the Guilty Gear and BlazBlue series of fighting games, but the company is broadening its horizons somewhat with dungeon-crawling 3DS RPG Stardust Amazoness. Starring an all-female cast trapped in a futuristic prison complex, the game showcases character designs by enigmatic Japanese illustrator Miyama-Zero.

We've spent some time with the recently-released Japanese eShop demo and have found the experience to be pretty straightforward as far as the genre goes. The first-person exploration sequences see you moving one tile at a time, with puzzles amounting to little more than pushing buttons and finding which doorway has opened elsewhere on the map. There are plenty of conversation sequences between the large-eyed (and large-chested) anime cast — most of whom appear to have a very liberal attitude to clothing themselves in the cold, unforgiving recesses of space.

Movement is handled by the D-pad, with 'up' taking you a step forwards and 'down' moving you in the opposite direction. Left and right allow you to turn 90 degrees on the spot, while the L and R shoulder buttons permit strafing. Aside from interacting with doors and other environmental objects, there's not a lot else to see here; objectives are marked by exclamation marks on the map (which is displayed on the bottom screen) but aren't represented by anything physical in the first person view, while enemies are invisible. Combat takes place randomly and without warning — just like the good old days / the bad old days (delete as per you own personal taste) of RPGs .

During these moments you have to select various offensive or defensive moves, and success in battle grants experience points which in turn allow each fighter to level up and learn new moves. Each team member has a battery level which drops after you instigate a move — a mechanic which forces you to recharge when the gauge falls to nothing. Another tactical element is the use of Action Points, which are consumed by each move and shared between your group. Powerful moves require more than one point, which means that sometimes you'll need to let one of your party sit out a turn in order to execute them.

However, the most notable element of the game has to be the questionable "Climax Phase", which occurs when you defeat one of the female characters in the game. Using the 3DS touch screen, you need to — ahem — "tickle" the character is various places to make them "yield". No further description is required, really — just check out the video below, which recorded for the purposes of science. Honest.

The chances of Stardust Amazoness getting a release outside of Japan are slim, which — despite it looking like some of perverse Otaku fantasy — is a shame. Visually it's fantastic; if you can look past the unflattering attire you'll realise that the character models are highly detailed and well animated, and the pumping soundtrack is excellent, too. The dungeon-based exploration elements may be simple, but they call to mind the likes of the Etrian Odyssey games and (casting our memories even further back) Sega's excellent Shining the Holy Ark on the Sega Saturn. However, there's no escaping the fact that the subject matter is highly dubious; the saucy "Climax Phase" would surely cause some furrowed brows amongst concerned western parents. However, with Senran Kagura Burst receiving a release in this part of the world, who knows? Would you be keen to play this title? Sound off in the comments to let us know.

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