Guns, schoolgirls, and world-eating robots: if your first thought is a popular new anime, you wouldn’t be too far off. Instead it’s Nutaku’s Shooting Girl, a turn-based tactical combat game that takes place in a future version of Japan devastated by alien invasion. Locked in a war with spiraling casualties against a superior foe, the remnants of the Japanese government have begun arming teenage ‘shooting girls’ in a desperate bid to reclaim the city of Tokyo.
In Shooting Girl you take on the role of a veteran instructor at the White Lily Metropolitan Technical College and Boot Camp, a girls’ school cum guerilla training camp tasked with producing the next generation of freedom fighters. As an instructor, your primary mission occurs off the battlefield: rather than fighting, you’ll make sure your squads have the training and equipment they need to defeat an ever-improving enemy, assembling teams, sending them on missions, and rotating through injured recruits. The game places you firmly in the role of a commander rather than a frontline warrior, managing a multi-layered campaign to take back Tokyo’s 23 lost wards while building relationships with the schoolgirl-students fighting under your command.
When combat occurs in Shooting Girl, it takes the form of a top-down 2D map displaying friends and foes’ positions on flattened battlefield terrain. Weather effects, fighting status, and information on the enemy is also provided, though if you haven’t taken these environmental factors into account before the battle begins, you’re probably in for a rough ride. Once the combat commences, your shooting girls sprint across the battlefield like furious animated bobble-head dolls, laying down suppressing fire and following your predefined orders to the best of their ability. Snipers hang back and deliver powerful kill shots to exposed enemies, while shotgun girls and pistol-toting runners attempt to close the distance to their preferred engagement range. Though the character models and UI have a cartoonish quality, the combat display yields valuable information on how your tactics are panning out, and when the battle is over you can return to the academy and incorporate the lessons into your next strategy session.
The online multiplayer component of Shooting Girl arrives in two forms. In the first, 1v1 battles against other players’ squads (dubbed Practice Missions) allow you to take on real opponents’ teams to unlock the critical ‘individual engagement’ orders that expand your options beyond frontal assaults. In the second, massive cooperative battles against major boss enemies rage for over a week, offering the chance for players to send their squads against these terrifying foes and potentially reap some major rewards. Prizes are awarded by tallying up overall damage contribution at the end of the event period, and reaching certain thresholds will qualify you for better loot. These mega bosses are serious customers, generally taking the form of fire-spitting war machines that can wipe out unprepared squads very quickly. Fittingly then, major contributions to the overall battle will provide you with the highest tier gear and girls - with the strongest contributors receiving rare, one-off characters.
Only a game from Japan would feature assault rifle-wielding heroines in pleated kilts and school blazers battling it out against a merciless robotic enemy. The setting is both dark and whimsical, but despite its sci-fi trappings, it pays great attention to recreating classic real-world firearms, from Russian bolt action rifles like the Mosin-Nagant to modern submachine guns such as Heckler & Koch’s MP5.
Shooting Girl was released June 29th on Nutaku.com.