How Metroidvania is it? High Fit. The game is completely non-linear, and while it’s technically possible to beat the game without picking up any items, there really is no argument here that this one belongs in the genre.
Primary Challenge: Melee Combat, Ranged Combat
Time to beat: ~5 hours
Review Info: This game was played on Steam
Buy Rabi-Ribi if you like…
- Sequence Breaking and Challenge Runs
- Combo-Based Combat
- Cutsey Anime Visuals
▼ Review continues below ▼
Danmaku, or “Bullet Hell”, is a genre about filling the screen with as much crap as possible that you have to dodge or take damage. The image is beautiful to the point of maybe being headache inducing, but also very satisfying to navigate successfully. Well-constructed Danmaku games make the onslaught of attacks manageable by making the bullets move slowly and by making the player’s hurtbox much smaller than their sprite. Generally speaking, Danmaku has been traditionally done as part of the Schmup genre, but there’s enough crossover with Schmups and Platformers in terms of boss and encounter design that it makes perfect sense to combine the two. Rabi-Ribi is one of those games, and it’s a fine example of an expert crossover between Danmaku and Metroidvania. In fact, with only a few caveats, it somehow manages to marry the two ideas in a way that it could arguably be considered best in class for both genres.
On the Metroidvania side of things it boasts an incredibly meaty offering. Just about any part of the world can be accessed from the outset, and the plot never drives you to any specific point required for your progress. A majority of the game your goal is literally just to find bosses and convince them to join your cause – each one providing its own contrived excuse for why they have to fight you first. You’re often guided to boss options, but you can completely ignore any “quest” you’re given and go wherever you want. More impressively, there are “secret techniques” you can discover which allow you to bypass a lot of ability gating and sequence break to the point that you can avoid picking up any items. People that like to challenge themselves can easily find hundreds of hours to play with here.
The bosses too are a highlight of the game – if you like Danmaku that is. There are some limitations since your rabbit girl is grounded and unable to move wherever she wants like you would in a schmup, but if you’re diligent with your pickups you’ll gain enough abilities to mitigate this weakness. Every boss has a huge variety of attacks, providing a unique enough challenge each time that it’s difficult for it to get old. On the contrary, the density of Rabi-Ribi’s content was so rich that felt like eating an entire cake at once if I didn’t take breaks. If you like hard bosses, Rabi-Ribi delivers in spades.
If you’re worried that Rabi-Ribi might be too hard a game though, the designers still have you covered. You’re given 4 difficulty mode options from the outset, along with two different types of game progression. You can customize exactly the kind of game that’s right for you, and even if casual mode isn’t enough, if you’re on normal mode or easier and you die a lot the game will even offer to give you a buff to make it even easier. After you’ve started the game you also always have the option to turn the difficulty down one notch (though you can’t go back up.) It would seem that a painstaking amount of time has been taken to make sure the player is as comfortable as possible. I think players of any skill level could find a difficulty setting that they’d be satisfied with.
I have mixed feelings about this particular approach to the accessibility problem however, since turning back the difficulty isn’t really too far removed from just entering a cheat code. Even though I’m sure there are many players who won’t have a problem with it, I think there are just as many who don’t really feel too good about crying uncle and turning the difficulty back when things get too frustrating. Plus, since you can’t go back up in difficulty once you go down, you run the risk that a player gives in only to find themselves getting bored as they power up beyond the challenge that made them turn it back – either by collecting items or just getting better at playing. Exacerbating this difficulty curve issue, because the game is so open, they also employ a level scaling system that either tracks how far you are in the story, or how many items you pick up, and makes the bosses harder as a result of these milestones. This is intended to keep bosses interesting, but it also sort of undermines the whole idea of powering up on the standard setting, and punishes you for continuing the plot if you choose the alternate setting. As-is Rabi-Ribi kind of boasts a “design your own experience” approach to difficulty, which is praiseworthy on one hand, but maybe it puts a little too much responsibility on the player on the other. Maybe it would have been better to have a dynamic difficulty system more similar to God Hand or Resident Evil 4, the key difference being that the difficulty will go up when you’re doing well – thus helping the player to grow while also helping to avoid the frustration. I say this with a full understanding that a dynamic difficulty would much more difficult (and expensive) to design and balance, and this is an indie title. For what it manages to accomplish within its means, Rabi-Ribi should still be considered an incredible achievement.
Another aspect that MAYBE is a little too much for Rabi-Ribi to juggle is including some more difficult platforming challenges. The sprites in this game are relatively stiff and simple, so when your rabbit girl jumps off of walls, it feels floaty compared to more polished Metroidvania platformers. Lacking the same kind of feedback as the upper tiers of platforming design, I often felt like I was button mashing when trying to access some of the game’s harder power-ups, as I just repeated sections over and over until I almost randomly got things right. Obviously this complaint is entirely on my own ability to adapt to the game’s controls – and they DO function well enough. Later in the game though there are a few sections that are trying so hard to be that difficult final challenge, but the game doesn’t include enough challenges leading up to the final test for it to feel like it’s a fair progression. It’s really only the platforming that has this issue though, I feel like the bosses are as close to perfect as I think is possible in a video game.
Before I wrap up this review, I do want to mention a few things about the game’s theming. I’ve said in previous reviews that I feel like “story” isn’t really that important to Metroidvania games outside providing the player with a drive that makes them want to keep moving forward, and Rabi-Ribi does provide that even if it’s a very silly plot. However, there may be some checking this game out that might be a little concerned about whether this game crosses the line into Eroge or Hentai. I can’t make the call for everyone, but I don’t think it does. It gets highly suggestive at some things might be happening when the screen fades to black, but in general the very idea of sex is handled with the kind of innocence that a child would view the subject with. In fact, at one point the game even cries out that it’s “not some kind of H-Game”, and I mean, there are a lot of very suggestive CG pictures in the game, but again while it may skirt that line very closely I don’t personally think it ever crosses it. There are enough pictures on the game’s store page to clearly demonstrate what kind of images you’ll be seeing – so you can judge for yourself. I can attest that the written subject matter of the game doesn’t necessarily create a weird fetish game – unless you want to interpret it that way.
All of that aside, Rabi-Ribi is a remarkable accomplishment from a gameplay standpoint and is one of the most impressive offerings available on Steam for the sheer amount of stuff there is to do. If you’ve ever enjoyed a Danmaku game, and you happen to enjoy the Metroidvania genre as well, I definitely recommend checking this one out.
Combo Based attacks combined with Bullet Hell Bosses make for a frantic series of fights that are sure to test your mettle
Has a lot of the mechanics necessary for some deep platforming, but lacks focus - Combat is definitely the greater draw here
World is absolutely full of goodies and you'll want them all. Progression is open to your discretion
Not really any puzzles that come to memory
The story serves the purpose of providing a mystery to strive for but the payoff is confusing at best
Pixel art is pretty but low detail. Combined with some high detail character art it gets the job done for differentiating the characters
Catchy sugar coated music reminiscent of the Kirby series
Dozens of ways to customize difficulty and many challenge run achievements to go for. Sequence breaking is totally possible
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