GENRE: Metroidvania + Cute Anime Girls and Bullet Hell
GET IT HERE: Rabi-Ribi (Steam)
You’d be forgiven for going “Oh look, a scantily clad fairy and a bunnygirl. This is one of THOSE games, isn’t it?” But let me assure you, cute anime girls in revealing outfits aside, Rabi-Ribi is an absolute gem of the Metroidvania genre that not enough people have played. I’m hoping maybe, just maybe I can fix that. More after the jump.
Rabi-Ribi is a Metroidvania, or as the Japanese like to call it, a Search Action. Any way you slice it, this is a game that’s about a combination of fighting and exploration, gathering new items to become stronger, reach new areas, and overcoming the challenges you meet along the way. What sets this one apart exactly? Well, a lot of things. But let’s get the obvious one out of the way first.
You’re a bunnygirl. Apparently a normal bunny turned into a bunnygirl for some reason. Why? Why not? And frankly it wouldn’t be fun of me to give the story away entirely. Anyway, the premise of the game and its progression are probably one of the big things that set it apart as a Metroidvania. In most Metroidvanias, you typically have an intended, set order of doing things. IE, get Upgrade A to reach Boss B, beat Boss B to reach Upgrade C, and continue until the end of the game.
Rabi-Ribi doesn’t go like that.
You will absolutely need to find new abilities to explore new areas, and you absolutely will be fighting bosses. The key difference is that Rabi-Ribi has a much more open structure in how you do it. A massive, and I do mean MASSIVE chunk of the game’s world is open for you to explore after the introductory chapters. Your objective in terms of progressing said story is to find girls with magical talent (or close enough) to operate the game’s central plot device, the Stele, which appears to have connections to our bunny heroine Erina, and the vanishing of her owner’s sister Miru. Operating the Stele will advance the plot after you overcome the challenge it throws at you, and then you have to find even more girls to operate it again…And repeat until the end of the main storyline. So, how do you recruit these girls?
Duh? VIOLENCE! Cute violence, but violence nonetheless.
Yep, all these cute girls you need to recruit for help won’t come without a fight, so it’s up to Erina and her fairy friend you meet in the opening chapters, Ribbon (Hence the name Rabi Ribi) to use a combination of blunt force trauma and variety of magical weaponry to convince the girls of Rabi Rabi Island to join your cause. And you’ve got a LOT of ground to cover to find these girls, Rabi Rabi Island is huge.
The beauty is Rabi Rabi Island’s design allows for very open ended exploration, with only a few areas being locked based on story progression. Where most Metroidvanias have a somewhat linear aspect to their progression but allow you to backtrack to find new things as you unlock new abilities, Rabi-Ribi is all about forging your own path, choosing where to explore, with the ability to do things well out of what the “intended” order of progression may be. Heck, some of the achievements in this game actually REQUIRE you to do things out of said “intended” order, like making your first recruitment a very late game one. Another involves a massive sequence break that skips a good chunk of the main story and goes straight into the post game epilogue storyline. Most Metroidvanias try to actively block sequence breaking, while Rabi-Ribi is one that outright encourages and rewards it.
Now, that said, I don’t want to spoil too much about the actual exploration process of Rabi-Ribi, because that’s half the fun of a Metroidvania right there, right? So we’re gonna focus a bit more on the other half: The combat.
Erina herself is armed with the hammer I mentioned, while your fairy friend Ribbon is able to launch a variety of projectile based magic attacks, and thus acts as your ranged weapon. As to be expected in a Metroidvania, you’ll fight through all manner of enemies using these techniques, but the real meat of the game’s combat? The boss battles, of which there are a LOT. And they’ve taken some obvious influence from a popular Japanese doujin series with an all girl cast…Yeah, I’m talking about the Bullet Hell that is Touhou.
Yep, Rabi Ribi is all about magical bullet dodging, except this time in a platforming sidescroller environment! And before you go “Welp, that’s too hardcore for me” I can assure you that your fears are unfounded. Rabi-Ribi was designed with all skill levels in mind via a wide variety of difficulties, buffs to help you out after consecutive game overs, and the fact you have HP instead of lives, so it’s not like one bullet’s going to end your game. On top of this, you have a lot of collectable items to help along the way like various stat ups (Health, damage, MP for Ribbon’s attacks, all that stuff) and Badges that you can equip to provide all kinds of benefits to your duo to give them the edge they’ll need for tougher battles. And you have quite the diverse set of options in combat, with the game actively encouraging said variety due to the SP and MP Erina and Ribbon respectively need to use their attacks. Both resources drain relatively quickly, but also recharge relatively quickly, encouraging you to mix it up with the girls. Unleashing a devastating hammer combo with Erina, and then have Ribbon start blasting away with magic while Erina’s catching her breath being a very common and useful tactic. The good news is that Ribbon only spends MP when using her stronger charged attacks, her basic magic attacks can be used freely for situations where it isn’t safe to get in close, letting you still chip away at your foes while you wait for an opening to use the hammer, or getting enough MP to let loose a charged attack. To keep things interesting however, you are rewarded for keeping your damage going without getting hit in a boss battle, as you’ll fill a Combo Gauge, and the higher your combo rating, the more damage you’ll start dealing via a bonus multiplier! And in a surprisingly polite move by the developer, the combo meter that acts as a sort of timer before you lose the combo will stop during phases of a fight you’re expected to go on the defensive, so you don’t need to worry about landing hits to keep that sweet damage bonus.
Both girls also get some fancier moves as they progress which I won’t spoil, aside from the one you gain early and plays a key role in battles: Ribbon’s Boost ability. As you deal and take damage, you’ll fill a second meter for Ribbon, the BP Gauge, and when it has enough power? Ribbon can unleash some absolutely devastating attacks, some of which come with additional benefits for Erina like healing or buffs! It’s an absolute table turner when used properly.
In the end, this is a game that has combat which is both simple yet has amazing depth to it. You don’t need to memorize a bunch of complex input strings to do an impressive combo, just fiddle with your attacks for a bit and learn how they link together and you’ll be befriending through violence in no time. Combine a satisfying melee combo system with a large variety of ranged options, and a badge system to let you customize and build your bunny fairy duo to your liking, and it’s easy to see why this game is such a blast to play in the combat department.
And then there’s the music, oh my, the music. It’s boppin, all of it. It’s got a bit of everything, and it’s a joy to listen to. And hey, if that isn’t enough, as part of its recent anniversary, an Orchestra DLC has been added giving a ton of the music a full on philharmonic treatment. I never thought some of the game’s wubwub heavy boss music would work via orchestra, and yet…Here we are.
Speaking of DLC, if you enjoy the base game, the DLC is absolutely worth picking up, all of it. You can enjoy cut content, an additional storyline to fill in some gaps and give you a more satisfying ending, and some fun sidestory content like a Halloween Event.
Another thing that is absolutely great is how much love GemaYue (The main developer) has shown to the community, adding much requested features like a Speedrun mode, and the ability to re-enable an old, glitched version of a move used in speedrunning. And on top of that, he even went and made it possible to beat the game with 0% Item Collection for those who REALLY want a challenging speedrun. What we’ve got here is a game that has a lot of community love, because it has a lot of love for its community.
So seriously, don’t let the fanservicey CG art dissuade you, this is absolutely a must play. It’s available for PC via Steam, PS4, and Switch, so go get it on one of those already!