Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Bambi. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Alice in Wonderland. Bunnicula. Watership Down. You might think all of these fictional works have nothing in common, and that’s perfectly understandable. After all, what could a book about a vampire rabbit have in common with an animated Disney film? What all of these fictitious works bear in common is that they understand and incorporate one of the quintessential pillars of life into their narrative. Since the dawn of time, mankind has struggled to fully comprehend the nature of this pillar and just what it represents. What has taken philosophers and researchers centuries to understand is now being distilled into its purest possible form by a group of video game developers from Asia. Today, we at LewdGamer will be reviewing Rabi-Ribi, the first video game – nay, the first documented piece of work humanity has ever created that wholly understands bunnies, their appeal, and why they’re essential to maintaining a healthy, long-lasting life.
Rabi-Ribi is a game that is many things but is primarily a 2D exploration-based game in which the player ventures around a large open world, collecting power-ups to increase their arsenal of abilities that will, in turn, let them explore more of the world. It’s a style popularized by the Metroid and Castlevania series though it’s seen something of a renaissance in recent years with more games clearly being inspired by the legacy those two franchises have left. Rabi-Ribi was developed by Kano-Bi, a group of developers based in Taiwan and Hong Kong, who didn’t develop anything prior to this game. There was actually an Indiegogo to fund the title sometime in August 2015 though it only reached 51% of its $20,000 goal. Nonetheless, the title was approved on Steam Greenlight and was picked up for publishing courtesy of Sekai Project.
In Rabi-Ribi, you control Erina, a rabbit who was separated from her master for unknown reasons. She was also turned into a human, which she gets adjusted to surprisingly fast. After first awakening in a cardboard box sitting inside a dark building, she encounters a seemingly familiar face before drifting off into unconsciousness once again. Some time later, she’s awakened in a forest by yet another mysterious girl, who leaves Erina by herself as she tends to other matters. Erina decides to venture back home to reunite with her master, taking her on an adventure that results in a chance encounter with Ribbon, a fairy who clad more in wit than in cloth. Ribbon has her own reasons for roaming around, and so she and Erina team up to help one another on what initially seems to be nothing more than an afternoon’s worth of adventure; however, it soon becomes clear something odd is afoot in the eponymous town of Rabi-Ribi. Thus, it’s up to Erina and Ribbon to scour the island in pursuit of magic users to aid them in their quest.
Erina and Ribbon, shortly before a 6-hour lesson in “equality”.
The story in Rabi-Ribi is somewhat more complex than that, but you won’t learn about what’s truly going on for much of the game. Upon being presented with the main mystery of “What’s going on?”, the story more or less involves characters throwing something against a wall until it sticks. While cutscenes are extremely prevalent early on in the game, they surprisingly don’t contribute a whole lot to the overall story until towards the very end of the main game. Since much of the story between the beginning and end of the game are inconsequential, it’s filled with Erina and Ribbon’s interactions with other characters on the island. The dialogue between characters is fortunately rather charming, if a bit cliché at times, poking fun at how contrived certain events are, such as how Erina and Ribbon always wind up in a boss fight whenever they meet someone new. It’s actually a bit jarring how seriously the game begins to take itself towards the end, considering how lighthearted the dialogue that the naive Erina and the sarcastic Ribbon partake in is. While Rabi-Ribi occasionally veers into the stereotypical phrases and scenarios of ecchi games, it usually knows how silly the entire premise is and will reference how typical certain character and gameplay tropes are.
There’s a bit of irony here, I’m sure.
When it comes to gameplay, Rabi-Ribi hops into the genre with an impressive array of mechanics under its belt. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, the game features a bunny as a playable character. Moreover, the game is structured like a standard 2D exploration game like Metroid. There are various areas with enemies and environmental hazards you won’t be able to overcome without the proper upgrades, which encourages you to go out of your way to explore the world and power yourself up for the oncoming challenges. Adding onto that is the fact that Erina’s first three weapons (the Piko Hammer, the carrot bomb, and Ribbon herself) aren’t very versatile at first. By continuously defeating enemies with one of the three, however, you level that weapon up, increasing its attributes in some capacity. While I was initially horrified at the thought of grinding enemies to combo melee attacks, Erina’s primary arsenal levels up quite fast. Beyond that, scattered throughout the 10 different areas of the world (including varying amounts of sub-areas within those 10 areas) are powers to help Erina traverse the world, such as easier movement underwater, reduced damage from spikes, a slide, a high jump, and so on. The world in Rabi-Ribi is quite large, full of hidden passages and carrot bombable blocks to find potions that increase your stats or badges to make combat easier.
Combat in Rabi-Ribi is where the game gets really interesting. Erina’s melee attack is assigned to one button while Ribbon’s projectile attacks are assigned to another. Both run off their own exclusive power meter, which depletes with each successive attack, meaning you can’t spam your attacks recklessly and need to mind your SP and MP gauges. All upgrades to Erina’s hammer and new forms of magic for Ribbon to use run off these gauges, so whether it’s a 100% run or a minimalist run, the basic principles of combat are the same. The enemies you’ll be hopping past in the title aren’t very varied, but they are quite entertaining at first glance, what with being an extremely obsessed group of bunny-loving girls that want to capture Erina at all costs due to her being, as you might expect, a bunny.
I assume this stands for “United, Proud bunnies of the Republic’s Personal RollerCoaster.”
While the UPRPRC (henceforth known as “bunny lovers”) are initially quite amusing and cute, as are the normal enemies, their cute nature belies the terrible truth of Rabi-Ribi that will prey upon the unsuspecting as a rabbit preys upon a holy knight. The true reason common enemies are either bunny lovers or aggravatingly small is because the game will gradually begin to assault you with curtains of bullets as you draw closer to its end. It’s not very noticeable early in the game, assuming you’re playing on the normal difficulty, but you will eventually be forced to learn how to properly use Erina’s deceptively small hitbox to graze through intricate tapestries of bullets. Bosses in the game even have desperation attacks in which they jump into the air and give you a front-row seat to different forms of bullet hell. Watching the boss’s character portrait pass through the screen as they’re doing this actually brings to mind memories of Touhou Project, another series featuring cute girls that shoot other cute girls with a storm of bullets.
Boss fights are easily the best part of Rabi-Ribi. There’re dozens upon dozens of different boss fights in this game, and while they might not be huge monsters with wildly different strategies, animations, and attacks, the female magic users you’ll encounter eventually start incorporating the aforementioned torrents of bullets. The official website’s “about” page might not be mincing words when it says there’re over 1,000 attack patterns. Each one has their own unique set of attacks in addition to raining bullets down though you can feasibly wail on all the bosses in the same manner when you eventually do slalom through their attacks just to smash them with a hammer and a few magical lasers. The game even ranks you upon completion of these boss fights based on your style gauge, which is an incentive for perfectionists to try acing boss fights as flawlessly as possible.
Maybe it actually IS Touhou Project, and I haven’t realized it yet.
One of the many mechanics in Rabi-Ribi is the style gauge, which builds up as you deal damage to enemies. Once you’ve continuously dealt a certain amount of damage, the gauge will fill and start from the bottom of the next level, whereupon it must be filled again. The gauge has nine levels: E, D, C, B, A, S, SS, SSS, and MAX. Unlike a certain action franchise by Capcom, the style gauge in this game doesn’t completely reset upon taking damage; instead, it simply drops down to the previous level, so screwing up once in MAX won’t lock you out of getting a MAX ranking on a boss if you can get the gauge back up. Additionally, building this gauge up will increase the damage Erina and Ribbon do, rewarding players for playing efficiently in boss fights.
Rounding out the smorgasbord of mechanics in Rabi-Ribi is an equipment system in the form of badges you can find scattered through the world. These badges can augment Erina’s abilities, giving her attacks a poisoning effect, more offense for less defense, resistance to status ailments, and much more. The badge system is almost note-for-note the same system used in the Paper Mario series, down to a point system giving badges a point value and limiting how many badges you can equip without exceeding your badge points.
I’ve hopped all over the place discussing various mechanics in the title, but that’s due to an overabundance of them. Rabi-Ribi even gives Erina and Ribbon their own special screen-nuke attacks, with Ribbon’s attack changing based on her equipped weapon. There’s an in-game store to purchase upgrades with the currency you gain from fighting enemies, hidden techniques the game doesn’t even remotely hint at (which I will not rob you the pleasure of discovering for yourself), and despite the game seemingly railing you onto a set path, you can explore the world at your own leisure so long as you have the appropriate abilities. A small handful of areas are locked off until endgame, but I spent much of my time in the early chapters of the game exploring areas I wasn’t supposed to be in yet. Since the story of the game gives you the objective of “find X amount of magic users,” you could theoretically find and face any boss you wish past the first chapter or two. The Indiegogo page for Rabi-Ribi claims that “Any items in the game are optional to pick up, you can even try to beat the game in the hard way – without collecting any items!” While I don’t know about every single item in the game, quite a number of upgrades can be skipped altogether. If you’re really crafty, you can even access an area or two earlier than intended, which makes it feel as though Kano-Bi was extremely thoughtful in how the areas were structured in the game.
Even Rabi-Ribi can’t escape the growing trend of censorship in video games.
With all that praise does come a few drawbacks, however. There are a few scenarios in the game where things can get somewhat cheap. At one point, there was a screen where dropping down one of three holes could result in an upgrade to your MP while the other two holes lead to spiked death. There is absolutely zero indication of this, worsened by how spiked pits are common enough to look out for, but not enough for one to remember they exist. The only other criticism I have is the map system in Rabi-Ribi, which feels a bit underdeveloped compared to Nintendo’s own intergalactic bounty hunter. Rabi-Ribi is generous enough to tell you how much of an area’s map and items have been discovered, but there’s no real clue as to where the items are. Whereas Metroid would mark the map with a dot or a small circle where an item is located, Rabi-Ribi only marks the location of items you’ve already discovered. Additionally, the map doesn’t show all the ways rooms connect to other rooms, meaning the map doesn’t convey as much information as the layout as it should. It doesn’t detract from the experience a large amount, but it’s a bit puzzling when considering how many other games of this genre nail the map system.
That said, the presentation in Rabi-Ribi was given extreme amounts of care. The character portraits are a bit too static for my liking, with only character’s expressions changing during conversations to reflect their mood, but the artwork overall is quite soft and easy on the eyes. The sprite work you’ll be seeing for much of the game ranges from “alright” to “real good stuff.” Perhaps due in part to every character being super deformed outside of dialogue, the sprite work is absolutely adorable. Much like an actual rabbit, the game might even be too cute for its own good, giving diabetes to those who stare at it for too long. Everything is smooth and pleasant to look at though I feel things run the risk of being too crowded at times during normal enemy encounters. When there’s streams of bullets flying everywhere and Ribbon is firing a screen-length laser of bunny-based destruction, it can be a challenge to see oncoming bullets. Sprite overlap when Erina is too close to human enemies will also obscure their sprites, making it hard to see just what attack they’re queuing up next. The areas in the game were given more or less equal amounts of care, though the tile sets in a few areas aren’t fully detailed, making some areas feel blander than they ought to be.
The music in the game is also worth mentioning since four different composers contributed to the score in the game. It’s overall a very upbeat soundtrack that can be appropriately tranquil, mysterious, lighthearted, or energetic when the situation calls for it. Some songs are definitely better than others while some are good, yet repetitious, and some are simply passable. It’s entirely possible this is due to different composers creating different songs for the same game, so it’s only natural to notice small patterns like that. Overall, the presentation in Rabi-Ribi feels professional, polished, and adorable. Depending on your tastes, it might even be the cutest game we’ve reviewed yet.
I, too, enjoy spending my free time riding in a block of cheese with wheels.
Truthfully, I was initially skeptical of how this title met our lewd criteria to be eligible for a review, but it eventually became apparent throughout the 18-hour adventure. If a scantily clad fairy and a bunny girl in a bunny suit don’t get you going, there’s an assortment of other cute girls who might meet your fetishes. Included in this package are a young scientist with all panties and no pants, a maid, a teasing succubus clad in revealing lingerie, an alraune whose name wasn’t translated properly, a pseudo-Egyptian princess clad in naught but bikini, and more. The actual content never fully ventures into ecchi territory, meaning that your imagination is gonna have to continue where the CGs leave off.
In closing, Rabi-Ribi is a title that honestly surprised me with how thoughtful a lot of its design choices were. While the story more or less totally absent throughout the majority of the game and the lewd content is a bit lacking, the gameplay more than makes the package worthwhile. I felt as though various mechanics were derived from different games across completely different genres, but was never done so in a way that the game had no identity or felt like “Now That’s What I Call Good Game Mechanics Vol. 3”. Each mechanic was integrated into the game with a reasonable amount of consideration how it would work and where one would use it. With an array of mechanics, a non-linear world to hop around in, engaging boss fights, five (?) difficulties to choose from, a speedrun and a boss rush mode, and most importantly of all, a bunny, Rabi-Ribi is worth coming back to every now and again. The game comes recommended to fans of bullet hell, 2D exploration games, cute girls, and bunnies.