A sequel to the original Rosenkreuzstilette (released this very same year!), Rosenkreuzstilette Freudenstachel (say that three times fast) is a spiritual successor in almost every regard to the legendary Mega Man franchise. Controls, level design, interface, even sound effects are all but mirror images of what many fans of Mega Man are used to seeing. The one major difference: the "Man" has been replaced by "Woman", as the game features a number of different female beauties taking the starring role. That, and quite a bit of the German language. It creates an image that, despite the heavy resemblances of past works, makes the game something of its own variety of flavor.
Rosenkreuzstilette Freudenstachel is available via Steam for your regional pricing.
Freudia Neuwahl is on a mission to retrieve her dear friend, Tia, from the clutches of the Church-led organization of baddies. Along the way, she meets up with a little fairy named Strudel, who takes a liking to to Freudia and decides to join her in her quest. Together, the two venture off to take down anyone who stands in their way, even allies under the spell of magic or misunderstandings.
Put adequately, the story is fairly straightforward, though it gives more than traditional Mega Man titles would in terms of both dialogue and cinematic complexity. Not everyone you face is immediately villainous and "character" is accentuated more than what may initially be expected (more on that later). In the grand scheme, however, it is still "Beat all eight bosses to continue on to four more bosses, until you get to the final, multi-stage area where you fight the final boss." Typical Mega Man structure with an added flair of anime-esque flamboyance.
Another aspect worth noting is the fact that this is a sequel game—and I for one have not played the original. One may wonder if they need to play the original before playing the sequel, to which I would advise doing so. For the most part, the things that occur throughout stages and the story were straightforward enough for people to fill in the context without added detail. However, there are sequences later on in the game that lose a lot of impact due to not being aware of the story told prior to this game's events. Most of the time I would just chuck it to obvious plot twists and what-not, yet there's something about this game that makes me want to delve deeper, and it was unfortunate that I hadn't the emotional cushion to appreciate the drama that unfolded. For a Mega Man-esque story, it gives a little spark to an otherwise blank sheet narrative.
Yet again, the concept of difficulty rears itself for the public viewing. That said, I have something to confess: I have yet to beat this game at the time of writing this. I'm stuck on the final boss. This may sound blasphemous, but it should also indicate just how strenuously difficult this game is. Freudenstachel is like Mega Man in almost every way, including difficulty. The intensity of a number of levels, full to the brim with death traps—where one slip-up leads to the player's demise—can lead to some incredibly frustrating play-sessions. It requires a lot of trial-and-error, with precision platforming and muscle memory taking over in many cases. Strategizing, memorization, and taking advantage of boss weaknesses are as integral to one's sanity as it is progressing through the game.
Unlike a game such as Glo, where each death immediately puts one back to the beginning of the stage in a second flat, Freudenstachel uses the traditional "Game Over" system, with lives and a password system (No "Continue Game" option, folks!). Each death triggers a flashy death animation, some dialogue, and some time to load the level once again and be shown this game's variation of the "READY" sign before Freudia blasts down from a streak of light. Getting a Game Over will result in being given a password and having to start a stage from the very beginning. It is this constant time-constraint that makes difficulty with this kind of game so infuriating, knowing one has to go through all that hassle again while having to constantly hammer down buttons to skip all the processed screens to get back to the game. It certainly made me consider just putting the game down permanently on many occasions.
Lastly, it is this difficulty that makes me hesitate to recommend the game to just anyone. It is a "Mega Man" game for Mega Man pros, those who may have found the original games a little too easy. I wouldn't argue I'm some messiah of video games, but I did have this premonition that the game catered more to veterans of the series than casual players. I like and have always liked the Mega Man franchise, though I wouldn't call myself a veteran by any stretch. I can't be sure if the game really is that hard or if I'm simply inexperienced, but what I do know is that people aren't going to pick this up and instantly be good at it. Not by a long shot.
Gameplay that isn't Mega Man
One major difference between this series and the one it pays homage to is the fact that every weapon has ammunition. Even the standard weapon, which serves as an icy machine gun similar to Bass's weapon in Mega Man & Bass, can run empty. This provides an added measure of urgency that invites the player to not aimlessly shoot for long periods of time. Much like the platforming, the effectiveness of one's weapon is integral to time and situation. The already stressful difficult only gets a small notch higher with this added dependency.
While not essentially gameplay itself, there are a number of references to other games that play into the situations faced in certain stages. Winks to Castlevania, Super Mario Bros., and Super Ghouls & Ghosts make their way into the game to cause more mayhem than already conceivable. It almost garners attention to whether or not the developers could think of their own ideas for challenges, but I think the essence of an homage has a lenient hand in dealing with such matters.
Seeing as Freudenstachel is basically Mega Man, it goes without saying that the mechanics, controls, and stage design are all fairly phenomenal. There are certain stages that feel a little short all things considered, with gimmicks that feel a little too uncoordinated, but it harbors the kind of creative spark that the original Mega Man games provided, nonetheless. There was never a moment in my blind fury with the game's difficulty that I felt it wasn't my own inability to get things done. Freudenstachel sets a very high bar, and if the player isn't up to the task, they only have themselves to blame. Nothing about this game is unfair; it's simply very, very precise. Its controls are solid and never unresponsive, with the length of each jump, slide, and shot perfectly synced into how one can efficiently be able to use it. A perfectly capable game, which is probably the best compliment it can receive.
Graphics & Audio
Where Freudenstachel begins to show its indie roots is through aesthetic presentation and sound quality. There's something about Japanese-based games and the incessant need for characters to talk constantly. Why does there need to be dialogue spewing with every battle with a boss, with every death? It's just noise, though I don't speak Japanese, so how am I to know if what they're saying is of any importance? Regardless, I would prefer the typically silent alternative of Mega Man over the chatty banter of the characters here.
Artistically, it's sleek and clean, though I don't think it has distinct enough of a style to be altogether memorable. Freudia's a constant, so her design and normally unchanging face is easy to etch into the mind, but aside from some really bizarre character designs (such as "The Metal Hero"), there isn't much to see here. Pixel art is pleasant enough to identify threats and stage structures (most of the time), yet it doesn't speak to the inner fascination of one keen on vivid expression. Tone plays some part in this, as the story is naturally grim, save some "comedic" moments involving Strudel and other characters' female anatomy.
What I will praise is the variety of stage presentation, with all sorts of different things to find hazardous and spectacular all at once. From deserts to underwater facilities to spooky castles, there's a lovely variety to the color palette that makes the game feel multi-faceted in spite of the game's one-track structure. Aside from the multiple references to Mega Man games (including enemies that almost look like bootleg knock-offs), it offers plenty of different tendencies to showcase its independence. That is, if the entire foundation of the game wasn't based on the foundation of another.
It's Mega Man with anime girls. There's not much more that needs to be said. All that one would love with the original line of games is here with an added shot of female vitality. Like a shiny primer over a structurally-sound building, Rosenkreuzstilette Freudenstachel implements itself as a riveting experience that should ring familiar for old fans of video game's now-long history. Its only drawbacks are the insane level of difficulty that could draw off potential players and the level of aesthetic grievances that could also turn some heads. As a game on its own, it's well worth playing. Just don't get too wrapped up in it. Breaks can work wonders for one's concentration.
|+ Encourages intuitive strategizing||– Almost exclusive to great players|
|+ Controls and mechanics are sound||– Aesthetically underwhelming|
|+ A picturesque homage in every way|