War. War never changes… until you get to Japan.
The age-old Fallout maxim appears is getting a run for its money in the turn-based strategy RPG Shooting Girl, the latest free online webgame from Japanese localization company Nutaku. Gone are the faeries, princesses, and mercenary maidens that defined their previous games. Now your foot soldiers are a band of guerrilla schoolgirls operating from the White Lily Metropolitan Technical College & Bootcamp, a strange mishmash of girl’s academy and underground training camp. Also absent are the goblins, shapeshifters, and evil centipedes that defined yesterday’s foes… replaced with a horde of alien robots bent on wiping out humanity.
Unlike certain other anime franchises, you have to give kudos to the game’s developers for attempting to bring logical consistency to a setting with such an out-there premise. There’s a reason why the world’s military forces have been replaced by heavily armed teenagers, and it’s not a pretty picture. From hints contained throughout the game’s dialogue and description text, it seems the Japanese military didn’t fare particularly well against the alien invader – in fact, they were wiped out within the first few hours. Mirroring the earth’s military in Half Life 2, their defeat wasn’t just a route, but a six-hour massacre. Likewise for the military-aged males in the next great call-up. By the time the leaders of the human resistance clue into the fact that guerrilla warfare was the only way to deal with a foe possessing such overwhelming firepower, they’re down to arming whoever’s tall enough to hold a gun.
As can be expected with games of this genre, the artwork for the girls is crafted with care and detail. It’s characters sport a blend of high school fashion and military chic, combining knee socks and pleated skirts with flak jackets and camo. Like Kancolle, the girl’s personalities match their weapons: pistol girls tend to be younger and more acrobatic, reflecting their high evasion scores, while sniper rifle women are literally “standoffish”.
The gameplay itself follows the model of previous titles like Kanpani Girls: as an instructor at the White Lily academy, your job is to train and prepare, not fight directly. Once the battle has begun the girls’ AI will make every effort to follow your orders, but fighting can quickly degenerate into a confused mess. I was somewhat disappointed with the lack of cover on the battlefield, though the game attempts to make up for this in other areas by including weather, terrain types, and terrain features that can disrupt otherwise carefully planned formations.
Shooting Girl will also be featuring weekly events in which players conspire to bring down the biggest of the alien bosses. In a curious game-wide linked combat system, the total contribution of the game’s players will be tallied at the end of the event, registering the amount of damage delivered against the most dangerous foes. If players succeed in destroying the big boss, rewards are doled out in proportion to a player’s overall contribution.
Check Shooting Girl today out on Nutaku.com. The game is free, though it requires registering on the website to play.