Platformers have been a staple of gaming for decades now. On Steam alone there are over eight hundred titles under the Platformer tag. With so much choice, across so many devices, it takes a lot for games in this genre to stand out. From first sight while browsing Steam, Rabi-Ribi from CreSpirit stood out. It’s promise of an Metroidvania-style platformer with RPG aspects and bullet-hell elements (of all things) called out to me. It’s adorable art style featuring an all female cast had me plunking down the $17.99 to give the game a shot. I wasn’t quite ready for the quality contained within this game.
Rabi-Ribi is one of the seemingly rare crowdfunding success stories out there, releasing a high quality product despite only reaching 51% of the goal they set with their flexible funding on Indiegogo. The love put into this game is clear from the very start.
The developers are also very active still six months after release. If you look at their news page on Steam, you can see they release patches about once a month. New content, modes, and quality of life improvements keep on coming. As of the writing of this review they have released another patch adding edited dialog (addressing a gripe of mine), introducing a New Game+ mode on top of the modes already available, as well as various fixes.
Don’t let the adorable anime rabbit girl and cute fairies fool you. There is a relatively deep story in this title, and fantastic depth of fun to be had in the main story, as well as in the various included modes like Boss Rush (exactly what it sounds like) and Speedrun Mode (allows you to play the game without dialog).
The story of Rabi-Ribi alternates from light-hearted to fairly serious as your character starts to put together the pieces of what’s going on in her world. You start the game waking up as a human rabbit girl, which confuses you since just the night before your life was filled with being the pet rabbit of girl named Rumi. You escape from where you held, and head to the main town of the game to meet back up with Rumi. From there go on a hunt for other NPCs to help power up an artifact that Rumi has plans for.
But all is not as it seems, and it’s up to you and your soon-to-be found fairy friend, Ribbon, to start exploring the rest of the land for NPCs to piece together why you are there in the first place.
The story is a strong suit, as well as one of my few gripes in this otherwise fantastic game. It’s a fairly decent tale overall, and a deep story for what it is, but it suffers from being very dialog heavy at times. There is also a lot of exposition that is front loaded in the first map, which wouldn’t be so bad except that they keep interrupting you every five feet with more exposition on the situation. This can cause just a little frustration every time you are interrupted suddenly, but it evens out after the first map.
The other little niggle I had with the story seems to have been addressed in their latest 1.50 patch. The game offers Japanese, Chinese, French, Spanish, German, and English as language options, but the English translation was… well it was there. It wasn’t grammatically bad, but I have a feeling that some of the characters humor and personality may have been lost in translation. Starting up New Game+ to check out the edited dialog shows that it has improved, but so far I wouldn’t call it a complete re-write or anything. It just reads better, and some jokes seem more apparent. The latter bit could be due to me being on my second play-through of the story, though.
For those wondering about the significance of the title, Erina — the main character — is a rabbit, and her sidekick is Ribbon the fairy. Slap some Japanese wordplay humor on it and you get Rabi-Ribi. Get it? I chuckled at least.
I tend to question the use of “Metroidvania” as a genre, but it has use as a shorthand reference for a set of game play mechanics. And that is the best way to explain the core of Rabi-Ribi, though that is only the start. Rabi-Ribi has a dose of RPG elements, as well as bullet hell aspects when you are fighting bosses to help round out a very fun experience.
Ultimately, it was the bullet hell elements that cinched my initial purchase. Though adding in bullet hell aspects to an action game is not the most recent trend, this was still my first real experience with it. And Rabi-Ribi does it very well. A healthy use of grazing (with the ability to reduce your hitbox even farther via badges), and some pattern recognition will have you almost dancing with bosses as you battle your way to victory.
You start out limited in ability, befitting the newly awakened status of your character, but the amount of upgrades and new skills available to your character is huge, though the game lets you play in an open enough way that you can attempt near zero item runs. Beyond the normal systems of skill unlocks you also are able to equip badges on your character. These badges allow you to further fine tune your heroic bunny protagonist to your individual play style — something I am always a fan of.
Rabi-Ribi has a variety of difficulty modes, and even features a New Game+ mode as of the latest update. Even more, this game has a good system for allowing you to get past problem sections without the need to grind your power levels up or change the difficulty. When you die more than twice in a particular spot, you will get the option of getting a little assistance. This comes in the way of a small buff to your stats that wears off after a time, and a cute lil halo over your head for a bit. Don’t use this all the time, though… You could miss some story points.
I really enjoy what they did with this particular system. If you take the help at certain times, you could miss out on a cut scene or a particular fight. When you go back and play the game again (and you will want to play more, it’s a blast) you discover sequences you might have missed out on the first time around.
If you enjoy the meat and bones of Rabi-Ribi, then replayability in this title is astounding. As of this writing you have the core game with its many difficulty levels, a Speedrun mode that cuts all the cut scenes from the game play, Boss Rush mode, and the recently added New Game+. If you are like me, and you love a high game time per dollar ratio, then you will adore this game and all it does to bring you back for more.
Rabi-Ribi is a 2D action platformer, with some really great sprite work. All the characters you come across are distinct, and frankly adorable. The animations on the characters could be just a bit better, but that doesn’t distract from the overall attractiveness of this game’s art style and themes. All the areas of the game have their own feel, but there is a little sprite recycling on enemies at times — though it doesn’t happen as a habit thankfully.
The music in this game is another standout. I love a good soundtrack, and Rabi-Ribi does not disappoint. The boss themes in particular are high energy, and the rhythm tends to match the patterns of the boss you’re up against. They offer the soundtrack as an optional purchase, but you can check it out for yourself just a little below. If Rabi-Ribi is a gift to fans of action platformers, then the soundtrack in this game is the ribbon on top. It wraps up this fantastic game well.
Rabi-Ribi is a love letter to fans of SNES-era action platformers. If you like games like Super Metroid, Y’s III, Castlevania, and Lifeforce then this is a must have for your collection. It wears its inspirations on it sleeve while weaving an experience that is wholly its own. For a game I picked up on a whim, I was totally blown away. I would even suggest this title to folks who normally are not fans of platformers or 2D pixel fare. This game just does so much well, that I feel it will win over hearts. If the 97% approval rate on Steam is any indicator, it already has.
Rabi-Ribi is available on Steam for $17.99 or your regional equivalent. Rabi-Ribi will also be coming to PS4 and PS Vita by Winter 2016!
Purchase at full price if: …you are a fan of platformers, cute anime girls, and supporting devs who just shower love on their game.
Purchase at discount if: … you are only mildly interested in platformers, normally don’t get into anime themed games
Do not purchase if: … you can’t stand platformers, hate 2D games, and are dead inside