Hopping its way to the Switch following a release on PC and PlayStation platforms, Rabi-Ribi is quite possibly one of the most bonkers games we’ve played in a good while. But you know what? It’s really good. It takes the familiar Metroidvania template, blends it with the bullet-hell genre, and throws in some fantastic RPG elements for good measure. It’s got an extremely cutesy vibe that some folk might find a bit off-putting (and if sexualised anime characters aren’t your thing, you might want to give it a miss), but to dismiss Rabi-Ribi for this reason would rob you of the opportunity to experience one of the most unique games on the Switch.
You play as Erina, a once-cute little bunny rabbit who finds herself unknowingly transformed into a, er, scantily clad girl. Understandably concerned, she sets off to find her human master, kicking off a storyline that, while somewhat entertaining, is largely inconsequential. It more or less serves as a backdrop to the superb gameplay, and is mostly utilised to introduce the many boss characters you’ll encounter on your journey. That said, the characters themselves are really quite endearing, and although very similar to one another in both looks and personality, we enjoyed our encounters with most of them.
The game plays out like a typical Metroidvania, with a variety of environments ranging from sandy beaches to snow capped mountains which, once discovered, you’re free to roam about as you please. You’ll come across many different foes on your journey (and quite frankly they’re so darn cute that we felt a tad guilty getting rid of them), but the real joy of Rabi-Ribi comes with the boss encounters. These play out like beat-em-ups with a generous dollop of bullet-hell mechanics. It’s very tempting to run in and button-mash your way to eventual victory, but this rarely works well, particularly on the higher difficulties. Beating your enemies requires a balance of offence and defence, and you’ll often spend a good amount of time simply weaving in and out of the countless bullets flying towards you.
Attacking can be done either at close range or long range. Close range melee attacks are mapped to 'X', and tapping this several times unleashes an impressive combo. You can also press 'up' and 'X' to hit enemies in the air, or 'down' and 'X' to drop explosive items. Everything mapped to 'X' consumes SP, so you'll need to be careful not to go too crazy with your attacks, or you'll leave yourself vulnerable whilst it replenishes. Long range attacks become available when you meet the fairy Ribbon early on, and these essentially take the form of projectile weaponry, which can be fired in rapid bursts, or charged up for a powerful blast.
You’re initially equipped with a simple hammer at the start of the game, but as you progress, you’ll acquire a vast range of different weaponry to take down your foes. Pickups are plentiful as you progress through the environments, including permanent boosts to your HP and SP, and you can consume items on the fly - like tasty donuts - to recover health. Additionally, the game has a badge system that provides permanent perks such as lowering the overall damage taken from enemies. The RPG mechanics aren’t particularly deep, but they work well in the context of the overall gameplay.
All this is shown off with very accomplished pixel graphics that burst with colour and personality. The animations are top-notch, and the artwork used for the static cutscenes is similarly impressive. Admittedly, the character design in-game is a bit ‘samey’, and most of the characters - apart from their hair - look pretty much identical. A little more variety would have been welcome.
The soundtrack, however, is simply perfect. There are excellent themes for every environment, and the music really ramps up when you get into a boss fight. We suspect these tracks will get stuck in your head hours, maybe even days, after putting Rabi-Ribi down.
Rabi-Ribi is a fantastic Metroidvania that injects a whole heap of originality into a genre that's arguably a bit overdone at this point. The bullet-hell boss battles are thrilling, the soundtrack is absolutely superb, and the RPG mechanics are really useful without being overwhelming. On the negative side, the storyline fails to excite, and we would have liked a bit more variety with the character design, but overall this is a great, 'feel good' game that deserves to be played if you're after a different flavour of Metroidvania.