Publisher: Sekai Project
Genre: Exploration Platformer
Release Date 01/28/2016
Right from the start, you know you’re in for something different, as Rabi-Ribi stars Erina, a bunny rabbit who has been magically turned into a bunny-girl and wakes up far from her home. As you try to find you way back to your master, a larger adventure unfolds. You quickly meet Ribbon, a fairy in the woods, who joins you on your quest to get back home and stays for your ultimately much grander journey.
Rabi-Ribi is a two dimensional, sprite based game that unfolds similarly to games like Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night; there is a lot of jumping, a bunch of fighting, and power-ups galore. You run your bunny girl around, find all the things in the area you can, realize there are places tantalizingly out of reach, then move on. Once you find a boss and a new ability, you then backtrack to those hard to get to places and find more stuff, and this process repeats to the end.
The controls work pretty well, though jumping can be a little finicky now and then, but on the whole it tends to work really well. Combat is also quite fun and combo heavy. Erina whacks the heck out of enemies with her hammer and Ribbon adds magical projectile attacks. You do have a stamina bar though, so if you get too whack happy you can leave yourself open to attack as you recover. The only notable mechanical issue is that, when mapping inputs to a control pad, for some reason you cannot bind item use to the pad; it stays on the keyboard, and while I luckily rarely needed items, that made it worse because I could never remember how to when I did have the occasion to use something.
The graphics are very nice looking sprites that feature solid animation. In the preview build, the outlines around the characters were off-putting, as they were too light and blended into the background, but this has fortunately been updated with bolder line work, and it looks much nicer and cleaner now with more visual pop. Level designs are the standard platformer template: woods, snow, towns and so on, and they all do a good job at accomplishing a specific vibe.
The sounds effects do their job, but nothing stands out. What does stand out is the music, which is absolutely phenomenal. Despite the pixel-heavy, retro-style graphics, the music is orchestrated and full of beauty and nuance. While many games would have gone for a chip-tune soundtrack (which I love), Rabi-Ribi went all in, and it sounds amazing. I will be listening to the music longer than I play the game, that’s how strong it is.
Unfortunately there are some drawbacks. The “get stuck, find a power up, reach new areas” gameplay loop can be very satisfying in games, but it started to feel old pretty quickly in Rabi-Ribi. It feels less exploratory and more mandatory, and overall less satisfying. It never clicked, and that is a shame when it is the main hook of this style of game and the rest of the package is so appealing. Erina constantly referring to her owner as “master” also feels a bit weird; that may be a cultural thing, but it comes across a bit tone-deaf and a little creepy out of context. I had issues with controller bindings more than once, as well, as the default setup just does not feel right. It is easy enough to fix (aside from the aforementioned item usage issues), but it will just default back to normal from time to time. After an update this got better, but it’s still not perfect. None of it makes the game unplayable, but it keeps a pretty good game from being a really good game.
Short Attention Span Summary:
Rabi-Ribi is a good game and a worthwhile jaunt for fans of 2D exploration platformers and people who like girls in skimpy clothes with rabbit ears. It has some problems, but overall it is solid, though unspectacular. Except for the soundtrack, which is rather sublime and worth repeated listens. Erina and Ribbon’s quest is an enjoyable one, but lacks that power to really make you want to keep going. Rabi-Ribi is worth playing and very enjoyable when the music, level design, and action coalesce, but when everything isn’t lined up perfectly, it just kind of exists.