Grief Syndrome

        Today I’ll be talking about an interesting fan game I found recently called Grief Syndrome. I decided to take a look because it was made by Twilight Frontier, the same people who helped create the Touhou Project fighting games like Scarlet Weather Rhapsody, as well as many Touhou fangames that were absolutely stellar, so I thought that if they made it, it has to be good. And as expected, they did not disappoint.
        Grief Syndrome is a side-scrolling action fangame based Puella Magi Madoka Magica, a magical girl anime. Luckily for those unfamiliar with the anime, it doesn’t play into the game very much- it simply takes the main characters and enemy witches and has them face each other. Every level has you face another witch in her domain.
        The entire game is also timed, and if you beat it you can start over on a harder version of the game. It also has to be beaten in one sitting- turning off the game will reset your progress, but it’s not very long. While there is elements of the anime’s story, all you really need to know to play it is that the magical girls are trying to stop the evil monstrous witches.
        However, for those who are curious, knowing a bit about it does go a long way to explain some of the gameplay. For instance, while you do have health, your health isn’t actually very important. Much more pressing is your character’s Soul Limit. Your Soul Limit is a number above your health that goes down constantly, and if you are injured, it starts getting used up more rapidly to heal the damage.
        If you die or fall down a hole, a set amount is used up to bring you back. In other words, as long as you don’t reach the end of your Soul Limit, you are functionally unkillable. What happens when you run out? Well, your characters dies for real, and permanently.
        As for why this is exactly, we’d have to look at the anime. Magical girls in this story are functionally liches– that is, humans whose souls exist outside their body, making them impossible to kill by normal means. Even if you were to hurt them, their injuries would heal up, no matter how fatal. However, any harm to their Soul Gem would kill them instantly.
        In addition, Soul Gems are the source of their power, and become ‘tainted’ as magic is used- meaning that they’re basically using up their souls to accomplish their magic. The only way to fix this is to use Grief Seeds- items left behind by defeated witches that can absorb this taint and purify their gems.
        However, if they take in too much taint, the Seed will transform back into the original witch. In order to stop that, Kyubey, the creature that gave them their powers in the first place, will consume the Seed once they can use it no longer. As for how this translates into the game, you are fighting the witches both because they cause havoc, and because you need their Grief Seeds.
        While attacking does not literally use up your Soul Limit, it does go down over time, presumably representing all the magic required to run as fast as you do, perform double jumps, and yes, attack. In particular, every character has a special move that uses up their health, represented by a segment of it turning blue.
        This isn’t an issue on its own, and will go back up without cost, but if you get hit, that blue segment is turned into actual damage that must be replenished with your Soul Limit. Luckily, you can also increase your Soul Limit via leveling up from destroying enemies, since that raises your total. However, you can’t really bank on that to keep you in the game.
        Moving onto the controls, aside from the health using super move, every character has weak and strong moves. Generally the strong ones take a little more time to use or are more situational in some way. A character only has one weak move, but strong moves can be changed with depending on the direction you push when you attack.
        For instance, Mami normally spawns a collection of muskets to fire at her enemy, but if you push forward she will instead step forward and fire forward and behind. Pushing down has her jump up and strike with a ribbon. Pushing up will have her form cannons on her arms and fire at the air above her. Her special move, called Tiro Finale, summons a giant cannon to blast anything in front of her. Note that anything that ends up behind the musket will be unaffected, so it may be less helpful than you expect. It takes some practice to use properly.
        All of the characters, in fact, use vastly different attacks and moves, having nothing in common in terms of fighting style. As such, they all take some getting used to so as to find out exactly how to use them. Mami is primarily a mid-range fighter- her super move has to have the enemies be a certain distance away, and many of her attacks are good at a range- but at the same time her weak attack has her summon and fire muskets, which only work if they are close enough to her.
        She is one of the more difficult characters because of this distance oddness. She also has a fairly high Soul Limit, but she loses it faster than the others when coming back to life, meaning she can last a long time if she must, but once she loses her health, it goes down very quickly.
        Sayaka, on the other hand, is a distinctly close range fighter. Her weak attack is a fast combo. Her attacks do not do much damage, but they add up quickly. Her strong attacks, on the other hand, are all dashes of some sort. Her usual move is to hold still and charge up a powerful forward charge, with a sigil at her feet showing how far she has changed as it grows. Her left/right strong move is a slash in that direction, sending enemies flying.
        Her up strong attack is a upward diagonal thrust, while her down move is to jump into the air and then shoot downward diagonally in the same manner. Her super move is to dash forward very quickly, ignoring the usual hit stun though she does still take damage. She can add an attack to this with the strong attack button, but hat costs a little more of your health bar. It would best be used to get out of a tight spot. Sayaka is ultimately a close range striker who can strike quickly and move quickly while she does.
        Kyoko uses a massive spear in combat, and as such as much more range than Sayaka, and for the most part hits even harder. Her basic attack has her jab twice before the spear turns into a chain allowing her to swing it six times. It doesn’t do much damage per attack, but covers a lot of range. Her regular strong attack is near identical to Sayaka’s, a charged up forward rush. Her up strong move has her swing upwards, and down has her hop up to slam down on things under or near her. Going left or right has her slash in that direction twice, the first hit doing little damage while the second blow does much more and send the foe flying.
        Her special move has her summon a box-shaped barrier around herself made of shards. Running into a shard does little damage to a foe, but it will stop them in their tracks, allowing Kyoko to hit them while getting some room to breathe. While seeing her in action may make her seem like a better version of Sayaka, with more reach and power, that is all she has going for her. She is a powerhouse, but Sayaka has more life than she does and can take much more punishment, meaning she is less likely to have to rely on her Soul Limit than Kyoko is. Picking one or the other is a choice between offense or defense.
        Next we have Homura. Contrary to the other girls, she doesn’t carry magical weapon, but can instead produce a seemingly endless arsenal of modern weapons, which seems to work just as well. As you might expect, she is the long range character. Her weak attack is to fire up to seven shots from a pistol. The attack is a bit better than Mami’s in terms of range, but do less damage than hers per shot.
        Her strong move is to summon a machine gun to fire a much bigger barrage of stronger shots that go all the way across the screen. This actually pushes Homura back a little, but it is great for clearing out foes. Her up move is to shoot off a mortar at an upward angle. It can be a bit hard to actually hit with, but if you have foes above you it will do tremendous damage.
        It can also land and hit things in front of you, but for that you’ll want to use her left/right attack- firing off a rocket. Both the mortar and rocket are explosives, and even if an enemy isn’t hit directly, the explosion will damage anything nearby. Her down move is to jump up and throw out a pipe bomb, which is a bit weaker than the others.
        As you can tell, not only is she great for long range attacks, but her moves can easily wipe out groups of enemies with no issue. Her special move is to use her actual magical item, a shield on her arm, to stop time for a few seconds. This allows you to set up a massive amount of attacks and get out of dangerous situations. However, by that same token, she needs that firepower because she has less Soul Limit and health than any other character. She has to wipe out her enemies quickly or she won’t last.
        And finally we come to the last character and the main character, Madoka. Her vitality is slightly smaller than Kyoko’s, but her Soul Limit is by and large the highest of any of them, meaning she can endure even the worst punishment. This ties into the show as well, where she was sought out by Kyubey because she had potential to be the most powerful magical girl that ever lived. As such, her soul gives out much more power.
        In any case, getting into her attacks, she is indeed very powerful, but does not have much versatility. This makes sense by the show’s logic as well- she is the last of them to become a magical girl, so she hardly had time to come up with inventive uses of her power. As such, she uses her bow and arrow, and firing off at foes is pretty much all she does.
        She also works differently in that while the others have one weak move and several strong ones, she has several weak moves and one strong attack. That said, all of her tricks are very similar. Basically, she gets ready to fire, and you can hold the attack to charge up, like Sayaka and Kyoko’s basic strong attack.
        The longer you hold, the more arrows she will fire. Aiming up will have her shoot at a upwards diagonal angle, and pointing down will have her do the same downward. Unlike the other down attacks, she won’t jump, but will instead simply fire where she stands, even if that is into the ground. This is actually helpful in the air, as unlike the other characters, she can hover in place if she attacks in midair.
        Her strong move is to charge up a single much larger arrow, which will do much more damage than the others and can pierce through foes. While a normal strong arrow will dissipate after hitting a few enemies, her fully charged one will pierce every enemy before her, and will do more damage than any other character can do to boot.
        The catch, however, is that this attack cannot be aimed like her weak attacks- she can only fire straight with it. Her special attack is also suitably impressive- She fires one arrow straight up, then a giant storm of arrows rains down on her location, doing massive damage to anything around her spot. As with all her other attacks, this can be done from midair as well, meaning she can ensure complete safety while she uses it.
        Ultimately, Madoka is a very powerful character who can wipe out just about any foe and withstand just about anything, but at the same time, she has to hold completely still while she charges up her shots to get that damage you need. This can leave her vulnerable, and as stated she does not have much health. However, the sheer size of her Soul Limit means that dying has much less consequence for her than the others. Still, this means you have to use a little strategy so that she isn’t attacked while she is trying to attack.
        And that concludes my ramblings about Grief Syndrome. I wouldn’t want to spoil the actual levels, after all. If the game sounds interesting, I urge you to go out and find it; you will not regret the time spent at all, that I promise you. In any case, I’ll see you all next time.

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