Terra Feminarum (PC) Review

By Gabriel Jones 21.03.2018

Review for Terra Feminarum on PC

In the land of Terra Feminarum, many children are borne from the Northern Lights. This wondrous aurora gifts them with powers beyond comprehension. However, in a short time, it's all going to fade from existence. Without the aurora's magic, everyone will disappear… forever. Three shamans set out on a journey to restore the Northern Lights to its former glory. They must survive the cursed forest, make peace with the spirits of the lake, and then cross the river of the dead. Their final destination lies deep within Pohjola, where the living dare not tread. Hopefully, these heroines brushed up on their dodging skills, because they are about to enter a Bullet-Hell.

In Terra Feminarum, players lead Aino, Talvikki, or Lempo through seven stages of Touhou-inspired insanity. This shmup features everything fans of danmaku have come to expect. Scores of frightful beasts and other vicious creatures crowd the screen with bullets. The three shamans must do their best to navigate this sea of fire, or pay the ultimate price. At the end of each stage is a boss. They are notable in the sense that their attacks are divided into phases. These phases consist of bullet-patterns so ornate and intricate that they have been given names. If somebody is having trouble with the fourth boss, it's probably because of her confusing "Riptide" pattern.

In most cases, this is one of those STGs that's best played with a keyboard. The "z" key fires the main weapon and the "shift" serves as the focus ability. What this does is it makes the shaman's hitbox visible, and greatly slows her movement speed, allowing gamers to make those surgically accurate dodges. When enemies are destroyed, they leave behind cubes, which raise the power gauge. In an emergency, the "x" key can be tapped, emptying the gauge and clearing all nearby bullets. If the gauge is full, then the key can be held down to unleash a power attack. For a short time, this weapon does immense damage and causes crystals worth 99,999 points to appear. Knowing the when to use this technique is essential for chasing high-scores.

Screenshot for Terra Feminarum on PC

Upon successfully defeating each boss, the player is allowed a choice between a 1-up, an elemental orb, or magical boots. Elemental orbs increase damage output, which is always useful. The boots, however, are more situational in their effectiveness. One of the shamans, Talvikki, can use the footwear to create shields, which slow and then erase bullets. Lempo gets a short burst of invincibility, allowing her the chance to zip through seemingly impassable walls of bullets. It's a pity that all Aino can do is create orbs of fire underneath her current position. It will take some very inventive and risky play in order to make that special ability work.

In accordance to tradition, the arcade mode requires the ladies to survive all seven stages. Once their lives are depleted, the game is over. Continues? Maybe they can be found in another shmup, but definitely not here. Considering the stiff penalties for failure, learning each stage inside and out is a great idea. That's where the story mode comes in. Here, progress is saved after the completion of every stage. However, the finale is locked away until the player can beat all of the challenges. The conditions tend to involve reaching a certain score, performing some unique task, and not losing a life. Whatever the case, there are also three difficulties to choose from. Newbs are free to jump straight to the brutal level, but anyone who wishes to maintain their sanity should start off with normal.

Screenshot for Terra Feminarum on PC

In most respects, Terra Feminarum is a fine game. It showcases an understanding of the basic fundamentals and is pretty entertaining. The bosses are suitably epic, and their patterns require skilled fingers in order to survive. However, there is something that's holding this title back. At first, it's hard to notice, but the realisation is likely to dawn on someone, as they struggle to get into "the zone." Remember that feeling? It's all about going into a trance, evading death by millimetres, and just being awesome. It's nirvana like nothing else. Unfortunately for this critic, nirvana is out of reach, and now it's time to explain why.

Unlike almost every other vertically-scrolling STG out there, this game has an aspect-ratio designed for widescreen monitors. Usually, it's the opposite, as arcade titles like Raiden and Mushihime-sama are designed for vertically-oriented monitors. Fans of the genre have a habit of rotating their monitor 90 degrees, so that the games can be played in their intended aspect ratio. If this method isn't possible, then they have to rely on concessions, such as borders that take up two-thirds of the screen. Since this shmup is both widescreen and vertically-scrolling, it has a lot of additional space, which is filled by enemies and their hundreds of tiny projectiles. The final result is a game that feels more claustrophobic than others of its ilk.

Screenshot for Terra Feminarum on PC

Usually, it's best for reviews to refrain from direct comparisons, as games are designed to stand on their own merits. For now, at least, this unwritten rule will be broken. Basically, the problem is that there's either a lack of restraint or lack of a countermeasures. The Touhou series restrains itself by giving the protagonists just enough space to move about freely. Their weapons usually have sufficient range, so they can reach practically everything that appears on-screen. Most importantly, the size of the game-screen itself isn't too large, which makes it easier to track everything that occurs. Gigawing, a shmup designed for wider screens, has a mechanic specifically for catching and reflecting bullets. As long as the counter meter is properly monitored, it's impossible to become trapped. The extra real estate is effectively used to give that title its own identity.

Terra Feminarum makes the mistake of being far too cluttered. Two of the shamans have weapons that are too narrow, so they can't really mitigate the constant influx of bullet-vomiting enemies. All of the instant death flying everywhere at once is extremely difficult to keep track of, especially when the source of it is located just out of sight, but not off-screen. Most of the time, all one can do is huddle into a corner and play as defensively as possible. It's natural for videogames to have a tough learning curve, or require several attempts in order to find the rhythm, but this one just can't seem to establish itself.

Screenshot for Terra Feminarum on PC

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

As far as STGs go, Terra Feminarum plays well enough and could take many hours to master. The arcade and story modes approach the game from different directions, and they complement each other nicely. The bosses are also capable of some clever patterns. However, the wide playfield is more a hindrance than anything. The extra real estate is just an excuse to pile enemies and bullets into every margin. Even for a Bullet-Hell, there's just too much going on at once. It's overwhelming, but not in a way that encourages players to try harder. Ultimately, it left this critic feeling a little cold.

Developer

Polar Night Games

Publisher

Polar Night Games

Genre

Shooter

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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