RosenkreuzStilette (ローゼンクロイツスティレッテ) / RosenkreuzStilette -[erka:es] The Best- Edition - Windows (2007)
One thing that doujin games are known for is the tendency to create parodies of one popular game series or more. Examples include Battle Moon Wars, a Super Robot Wars style strategy RPG which has Type-Moon characters, Ragnarok Battle Offline, a side-scrolling beat-em-up with character classes from the MMORPG, Ragnarok Online, and Eternal Fighter Zero and Queen of Heart, classic style fighting games with characters from bishoujo game developers, Key and Leaf respectively. While I admit that most of these parody subjects are not particularly well-known in the west, they are quite popular in Japan. Of course, those are only a few examples. With that said, it shouldn't come as a surprise that doujin game developers would try to parody the Mega Man series. To those in the know about doujin games, one such example that may spring to mind is MegaMari, a game that stars characters from another doujin games series, the Touhou Project, but has gameplay elements straight from Mega Man. However, there is another Mega Man-style game that's on the doujin market that is not quite as well-known, called Rosenkreuzstillete.
RosenkreuzStilette is the first, and currently only, game created by up-and-coming doujin developer, [erka:es]. Like MegaMari, this game is played exactly like the Mega Man games, however, its setting and cast is completely original.
Here is the story as I understand it: Thousands of years ago, humans possessed the ability to wield the power of magic, know as "Magi." Since then, however, they had mostly lost that power and only a few were born with such a gift. Those with the power to use Magi, however, were doomed to a life of being feared, hated, and persecuted by the Holy Empire and Orthodox Church. Finally, the Magi users decided to stand up against their opposes and fought a great battle, which ultimately resulted with the Magi users being accepted as part of the Holy Empire's fighting force, known as erka:es (yes, the same name as the doujin group). The persecution of Magi users seemed like a thing of the past, but, to erka:es, it was not forgotten. A few decades later, the game's heroine, a Magi user named Spiritia Rosenberg, returns home to find that all of her friends are waging a "holy war" of sorts, believing that it is their right to use their power to claim dominance and end their persecution once and for all. Spiritia doesn't agree with their way of doing things, and decides to get to the bottom of their sudden madness.
Opinions on story quality vary from person to person, but RosenkreuzStilette's story is pretty good, by most doujin standards. At the very least, it delivers some weighty issues like discrimination. It's a departure from the usual "fanfiction in game form" doujins are known for. As was probably made relatively apparent by some of the story's content, the game has a distinctly old European setting to it. Besides the Japanese used in the story's dialogue, every other instance involving text uses German words.
Spiritia's fairy friend who is always with our heroine, much like Navi, only without all the "Hey!" and "Listen!" Getting a hidden power-up will allow you to sic her on enemies, like Beat.
The daughter of erka:es' leader, Michael Sepperin, who gets hauled off by a dragon in the game's prologue. Obviously, rescuing her is an objective, among others, but...
RKS002 Zwei. The game's "ice boss," who is fought a grand total of three times throughout the game. She is Spiritia's best friend, though their opposing views have put a slight strain on their friendship. She's so cool, she gets her own boss music when she's fought the second time!
RKS003 Drei. The game's "fire boss." She fights using bombs that explode in a cross-shaped pattern, like Bomberman's. She also has a mechanical arm/gauntlet, which just seems to be there for show and a bunch of robots throughout her stage that try to look like her. Seeing as her last name is "Sepperin," it appears she's somehow related to Michael and Iris. Hmm...
RKS004 Vier. The game's "water boss." Has some of the sexiest curves I've ever seen on a fictional character. Fights using a spear and her stage branches off, giving two arenas in which to fight her, one of which make the battle with her moderately difficult, and the other making it insanely difficult, provided you don't have the weapon she's weak against.
RKS005 Funf. The game's "wind boss." A loli devil girl that doesn't wear much. She's this game's version of MetalMan in the sense that after you beat her in a battle where both you and her jump around a lot, you get a strong energy-efficient weapon that can be shot in any direction! Oh, and when you fight her again in the game's final castle, use said weapon on her. Yeah...
RKS006 Secks. A girl that effectively wields a big sword. Entering a certain code on the game's opening logo allows the player to play as her! She plays like Zero from Mega Man X.
RKS007 Sieben. An overly well-endowed girl who throws knives and controls time, just like Dio Brando from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure and Sakuya Izayoi from Touhou. Apparently, she's good friends with Grolla, as they are seen together a lot.
RKS008 Acht. A sweet and innocent-looking girl, who seems to have some self-esteem issues, who can call down storms of killer rain! She cries if she kills you. Poor thing.
Schwer-Muta Casasola Merkle
RKS009 Neun. The game's obligatory "shield boss." Strangest character ever, that's all I gotta say. Her pet squid thing spits out ink, causing blindness. Her stage is like a funhouse, filled with parodies and generally giving the player a good laugh... usually at the cost of one life.
The cast of RosenkreuzStilette is diverse, colorful, attractive, and definitely leaves a lasting impression.
The levels are structured just as in Mega Man 4, continued in Mega Man 5, and ended with Mega Man 6. There are eight bosses Spiritia has to fight through, getting the powers from each, and each of those bosses is weak against one power, so part of the fun is determining the order. After beating the eight bosses, it's on to the castle, which is followed by another castle. Spiritia is capable of all the techniques used by the original Mega Man: She can shoot, charge up her shots for a more powerful blast, jump, and slide under small spaces and also get an extra burst of speed that comes in handy for avoiding attacks. All of the bosses' weapons, with the exception of the auto-fire Freuden Stachel, can be charged up for a varied attack. Spiritia also gains Silberflugel "Eins," the power to create ascending platforms, and Silberflugel "Zwei," the power to create a horizontally moving platform when beating certain bosses, as well as being able to have Lilli attack enemies if she finds an item hidden in one of the eight stages.
RosenkreuzStilette has two modes of gameplay: Story Mode and Arcade Mode. Story Mode shows text conversations between characters during cutscenes and before and after each boss battle, advancing the game's plot (holding the fire button can skip through the diologue). Arcade Mode is pretty much the exact same thing, only without all the talking and just straight up gameplay.
The game also allows the players to save replays of their games. It's an interesting feature, though there isn't much of a point to it, other than to reminisce on the first time one had beaten the game (and making decent screenshots for this article). However, the replay data can be uploaded online for other people to see. Pressing the jump button makes the replays fast forward.
True to the series its gameplay is based off of, RosenkreuzStilette uses a password system. This may come as a good thing to old-school Mega Man fans, or an annoyance to those used to the more modern data saving. It keeps track of the weapons you received and the bosses that were beaten, but, also true to Mega Man, once all eight bosses are defeated, the castle stages all must be played in one sitting, because passwords don't cover those.
The controls are about as tight as any Mega Man game, and the setup is as any veteran of the series would come to expect. Throughout each stage, there are several enemies to beat. As usual, pits and spikes are to be avoided at all costs, because those are instant death. Other special obstacles are tossed in here and there, like the reverse gravity from Gravity Man's stage in Mega Man 5, and water stages, where being underwater allows for higher jumping. This game indeed pays homage to the Mega Man series, but that is also where one of its flaws arises: It has very few of its own ideas. For the sake of nostalgia, it provides many traps and features from mostly the 8-bit Mega Man games, but does little on its own. That's not to say that they didn't try, though. For example, one stage in the game has the "gravity-defying water" feature that was used in Centaur Man's stage in Mega Man 6, which tries to add to the challenge by having overhead enemies drop electrified balls into the water, causing damage if you are submerged at the time. I can't recall any Mega Man games off the top of my head that did anything like this, so I'll give it props for that, but that is not true innovation. Rather, it just adds on to an already-established feature. Mega Man fans looking to expand their horizons won't really find much in this regard. It's not a bad thing, but it had the potential to do so much more. Still, players unfamiliar with Mega Man altogether will find this to be a fresh and diverse playing experience.
Another major gripe people may have is that this really is not an exceptionally difficult game, at least by Mega Man standards. This is especially true considering other similar games like MegaMari are quite challenging. While people who are unaccustomed to the 8-bit Mega Man games, or really, the 8-bit era in general, will probably get a good challenge out of this, veterans will find this no harder than the games they had played. The old Mega Man series had always been about getting weapons from the bosses and finding the next boss that is weak against it, but the weapons are so effective on the bosses weak to them, that it really just becomes a matter of spamming the weapon to win. This isn't unusual, but it would be a lot better if the weapons just did a little more damage than everything else on a boss, but still require some skill to win. Granted, there are still some areas that present a decent challenge, like falling into pits lined with spikes and having to fall the right way, or an area paying homage to QuickM an's stage where the player has to die several times to find the best route down a shaft with instant-death beams, or use the time-stopping weapon, which the stage's boss just happens to be weak against. All-in-all, however, the obstacles shouldn't present a major challenge.
The game is also very generous with providing E-tanks (well, "crucifix tanks" really, but I'll just call them E-tanks for the sake of convenience) and there isn't a strict limit as to how many can be carried (unlike Mega Man 2). They are also saved if the player gets a game over, so, through such a method, they can, in fact, be farmed. However, passwords don't keep track, so the player will be back to zero when continuing. Still, self-imposed challenges like "buster only, no E-tanks" still present significant feats to accomplish.
However, the explanation of difficulty thus far was specifically referring to Spiritia's game. After beating the game, a button combination is shown to be entered on the opening logo, which allows the player to control Grolla, one of the game's eight bosses. As said before, she plays like Mega Man X's Zero. She swings a sword, which is more powerful than Spiritia's uncharged shots, as well as combos, can perform a dash, which doubles as a slide, which jumping out of allows her to jump farther, and she can grab and jump up walls. She also has a charged move, which is an attack with slightly more range than her regular slashes. However, Grolla takes twice as much damage as Spiritia, and because she uses a sword, her range is very limited. Finally, she gains no weapons from bosses. These weaknesses cause a game that is mildly difficult as Spiritia to become almost impossibly hard as Grolla.
Besides having different story dialogue sequences and a new boss on what was Grolla's stage as Spiritia, the game is completely unchanged, and therein lay some problems, as Grolla feels a little more like something that was tacked on at the last minute of production. Some of the game's bosses seem to only work without being absurd when being fought with long-range attacks, which Grolla lacks, and approaching the boss means having to maneuver around enemy fire, which is dangerous, because Grolla dies faster than Spiritia. All of a sudden, the E-tanks, which you get too many of as Spiritia, you can't get enough of as Grolla. However, this is not to say that playing as Grolla is all bad. The stages are a blast with her edge in maneuverability, and taking out enemies with a sword is a good way to feel like a badass. It's just the bosses that could have used some tweaking in her favor. In the end, Spiritia works for casual gamers and Grolla works for hardcore gamers, so there's something for everyone here.
The game's graphics are crisp. The sprites, while small, are impressively detailed. The large character portraits that appear during Story Mode are clear and expressive. Most of all, however, have to be the backgrounds, which give each stage a very distinctive atmosphere and one can't help but stop for a few seconds, and admire how beautiful they are. Indeed, a lot of work appears to have gone into the game's graphics, and it shows.
Another high point of RosenkreuzStilette is the music. There are a total of 57 musical tracks, and most of them sound great, have some emotional significance, or are simply memorable. My personal favorites include, "Freudias Thema," which plays during the second battle against Freudia, an epic battle theme, which also sounds slightly sad as Spiritia is forced to fight against her best friend. Another favorite is "Konfrontation mit Liebea," which plays during story mode during the dialogue sequence before the fight with Liebea, a slow and relaxed piece with a melancholy overtone to it. Finally, there is "Lustes Stage ~ Luftfeste Sleipnir," which simply has to be one of the best BGMs I've heard for a "sky" based stage. Other favorites include "Sepperins dritte stage ~ Thanatos," the music for the third stage of the first castle and "Letzte Schlacht," the final boss music. Those five are my personal favorites, but a lot of the tracks are great and definitely make the gameplay experience even better!
As doujin games are not officially sanctioned games, a lot of them use that freedom to make references, shout outs, and parodies of games and series that are, and RosenkreuzStilette is no exception. Even though the core gameplay is that of Mega Man, there are countless references to other games too. One boss makes a reference to Bomberman, as well as a puzzle later in the game. Another parody is performed during one of the stages, which uses a Mario-esqe display and has 100 coins throughout the room, collecting all of which rewards the player with an extra life. The prologue stage and some of the castle stages also look like something out of Castlevania, as well as a couple of the castle bosses. Other subtle references are scattered here and there, like the "game over" screens that appear during Spiritia's game, which differs according to which stage she dies in. Although the game's story seems to be mostly of a solemn nature, [erka:es] made a lot of attempts to amuse the player or feel nostalgic.
Overall, it has a couple minor issues, but is a solid game overall. Granted, Mega Man fans looking for something new and fresh won't find it here, but for doujin game enthusiasts, casual and hardcore gamers alike, and old-school Mega Man fans looking for another game to play in their preferred style will not be disappointed.