You don’t have to be David Attenborough to know that symbiosis is a key part of nature. The clownfish and sea anemone provide protection and food to one another, as well as producing animated films that gross millions. The oxpecker bird sits on top of a rhinoceros and keeps its skin free of parasites along with drinking some blood now and then, which is actually kind of gross. Hipsters provide money to baristas, who then serve the hipsters overpriced caffeinated beverages.
One can’t survive without the other. Such is the case in Rabi-Ribi, an anime-flavored Metroidvania take on mutualism from Sekai Project.
The Rabi in question is Erina, a rabbit who wakes up one day to find she’s become a human girl. She’s dressed in a skimpy bunny girl costume, naturally, because this is one of those games and you probably shouldn’t be surprised at this point. This sets the stage for Erina to embark on a quest to discover what’s happened to her and why. Ribi, meanwhile, is Ribbon, a stray fairy that Erina meets early in her adventure who provides quest direction, comic relief and plenty of firepower. Rabbits (bunny girls?) and fairies are, as we know, a symbiotic relationship found throughout the wild, so it’s unsurprising to see these two working together.
In practice, the rabbit/fairy combo plays out in typical Metroidvania style. You typically control Erina directly while Ribbon flutters about nearby. Both members of the pair have a variety of skills that you’ll put to use clearing out obstacles and getting around the world. Exploration will help you proceed in the plot, naturally, though like most Metroidvania games you can also find new skills and stat boosts laying around. As always, you’ll want to remember when you see secrets located “in plain sight” that you can’t quite reach so you can return with the appropriate skill.
There are plenty of baddies around who are convinced it’s rabbit season, of course, so combat’s also a thing. Erina can get rid of baddies by pummeling them with a giant hammer, though she’s also got access to every rabbit’s staple defense: time-delayed carrot bombs. Once Ribbon joins up she’ll provide a little magical punch as well, offering some ranged damage that you’ll be grateful to have and eventually learning different flavors of magic to suit your tastes. One of the more interesting points of Rabi-Ribi is the ability to level up your skills via use, which can make a huge difference in how effective any given technique is. Those carrot bombs, for instance, are kind of awful at first but can become a reliable part of your arsenal if you stick with them.
Combat is turned up to overdrive for Rabi-Ribi’s boss fights. While most of the game is an exploration-focused platformer, bosses take a page straight out of bullet-hell shooters. Typically you’ll start a battle by learning a boss’ patterns, dodging and countering as you would in most games. Toward the end of the battle, though, most bosses will flip out and unleash a screen-shredding shower of glowing bullets that you’ll need to carefully guide Erina through. These are surprisingly difficult, particularly given that unlike most shooters you’re still subject to gravity and can’t just float through holes in the bullet pattern. Fortunately, you’re given a bit of leeway during these segments, at least on easier difficulty levels, so one shot isn’t going to end your game.
As we’ve come to expect from Sekai Project, Rabi-Ribi is a gorgeous game. Yes, it’s pixel art, but Rabi-Ribi’s style is vibrant and colorful enough to stand out against the neverending horde of me-too pixel art indie games. Sound and music are solid as well; they’re exactly what you’d expect, really, down to the saccharine-sweet music and intermittent voice clips from Erina and Ribbon. The voice clips might be a bit aggravating if you aren’t used to the style, but I found them to be less grating than the average anime RPG or platformer.
All in all, Rabi-Ribi is a solid, competently-produced Metroidvania that shakes up the formula just enough to feel fresh; the game’s even worth multiple playthroughs, as it bonuses like a boss rush mode. It’s nice to see more of these games; after the Cave Story clone fad died down and indie devs moved on to Braid, Portal and Super Meat Boy clones, well-made exploration platformers gradually grew less common. Games like Rabi-Ribi and last year’s excellent Axiom Verge show that the genre is still alive and kicking. Well, hopping. You know what I mean.