Yes, you’re reading the title correctly. It roughly translates to “Blades of the Rose Cross“, but for some reason Rosenkreuzstilette holds onto its original title despite the release otherwise housing English text. However, I’m sure you’re more likely to question the game content than just the title. Your eyes won’t be deceiving you, either; this game is Mega Man with anime girls. It’s to a degree that I don’t even know how the developers got away with doing this, but I guess it isn’t like Capcom is bothering to do anything with the franchise anyway.
At some point in the past, a Holy Empire and Orthodox Church persecuted magic-users known as Magi. One magic-user named Rosenkreuz led eight others into a battle for their freedom and rights. He died in the midst of the battle, but his dream for Magic to be a branch of the Empire’s military was achieved. Still, Commander of RKS Count Michael Zeppelin ordered a strike against the Empire. One Magi under the name of Spiritia Rosenberg – or Tia for short – happened to be away when the order was issued, and as devastated as she was by the turn of events, she set out to fight for everlasting peac-I mean, quell the rebellion.
This is the best the exposition can be summed up, because my God there is a LOT that is told throughout the game! There is so much dialogue that it became rather cumbersome to follow up on. Each of the characters have their own unique personalities, and they all have a common goal: To rebel against the idea that those with powers are being ordered around by those that don’t. There is some solid characterization and writing filled with depth, but it might be kind of overwhelming for the crowd Rosenkreuzstilette is aimed at: Mega Man fans. After all, Mega Man stories are usually at a minimum as it otherwise lets players hop right into the meat of the game. Fortunately, Rosenkreuzstilette does have an Arcade Mode in case you don’t want to have to keep skipping all of the lore to get to action.
Rosenkreuzstilette looks really impressive. As self-explanatory as it may sound, it’s like if Mega Man 8 got injected with a heavy dose of anime. The sprites and tiles are richly detailed, and the visual effects do a superb job at making the levels constantly feel alive and kinetic. The Gothic scenery also can make one think of the Castlevania games, particularly Symphony of the Night. All in all, the production values in this game are way beyond what anyone may expect from a clone of a beloved game series.
They even go as far as to have voice acting for several of the characters. Granted, the text dialogue isn’t voiced (and they are only in Japanese), but the characters have a lot of one-liners and audible grunts. That isn’t to say they outweigh the sound effects and music in the game, though. The former has as much of an impact as that of the series the game takes inspiration from. Powerful attacks have a delicious crunch to them, and sounds like Tia’s jumping are endearing. I also dig the soundtrack; it’s filled with diverse melodies that rival that of Mega Man‘s later entries. They sure as heck are superior to whatever was in Mighty No. 9.
I may be comparing Rosenkreuzstilette to Mega Man a lot in this review, but that’s because that’s exactly what it is. There are eight starting levels with an end boss in each, just like Mega Man. Eventually you get to a castle-themed series of levels that test the abilities and reflexes you’ve obtained throughout the game, just like Mega Man. There are even instant-death spikes, lasers, boss rushes, and “Devil” bosses just like Mega Man. However, it doesn’t really matter how much one work may be similar to another; what matters is how well the work in question is executed.
In that case, Rosenkreuzstilette plays well. The platforming is tight, and shooting enemies feels good. Each level has a distinctive set of platforming challenges and enemy varieties for you to take on in an amount of ways. Tia is also capable of sliding underneath things and using any of the projectile attacks she gained from beating bosses. She also eventually gets two abilities that can serve as platforming aid; one lifts her upward briefly, and another flies across the room until it bumps into a wall. With all of this in mind, Rosenkreuzstilette is great fun when the challenge is just right. For the most part, it is. As for the rest? Well, that’s where things are tricky.
The bosses and later levels are sure to hand you a new one several times over if you aren’t careful enough. Heck, they may still be able to do that even if you are. Rosenkreuzstilette gets absolutely ruthless with its boss patterns. Not only do they move fast, but they will change things up even further if you bring each one down to half of his or her health. If you have any powers obtained from beating some of them, use them. Find the bosses weaknesses because you will need them. And while I enjoy the levels for the most part, there are certain instances where the game just feels like throwing something out of nowhere to kill me. Case in point: The Flash Man lasers that plague one stage by spanning probably thrice the rooms they did in Mega Man 2. Easily the worst offender has to be the boss rush stage; some weaknesses don’t even work as well as they once did against the previously fought bosses, and Tia can only take about five or six hits from any of them. To get through this and the final boss, I ended up grinding E-Tanks so I could refill my health enough times to scrape by. And when I have to do that, am I having fun anymore? By the end of it, I was exhausted.
Also, there are password saves. Passwords. In 2017. What in the…?
Nevertheless, I do think Rosenkreuzstilette is a decent game even in spite of the things I would be quick to rage at. It’s a far better game than Mighty No. 9, so if you’re a Mega Man fan and are looking for a better spiritual successor, the Rosenkreuzstilette series should totally be on your radar. I’m just not entirely sure if this first entry is specifically the way to go since its difficulty spikes can require loads of patience and quick button presses. Still, if you’re curious, feel free to give this one a go.