What’s a tender-aged schoolgirl to do after her dad gets mowed down by demons and giant robots? If this were any other medium, maybe she’d hire a gravelly-voiced US Marshall to set things right; but since Hikaru lives in a videogame, the obvious course of action is to take up the family samurai sword and start doing some serious slicing and dicing. Created by veteran Korean RPG developers Mobicle and CJ E&M, Samurai Girl feels immediately reminiscent of last year’s Illusia in its platforming Action RPG style. Where Illusia was billed as a “Casual” Sidescrolling Action RPG, however, Samurai Girl appeals much more heavily to the hardcore action fan — and judging from the preview build iFanzine received, this is definitely a good thing.

Like just about every mobile RPG protagonist before her, Hikaru rushes around completing a variety of NPC-given quests, hoping they’ll all add up to more information about the shadowy villains upon whom she means to exact vengeance. Her strengths and weaknesses develop over time depending on how the player assigns Level Up points – ever a genre staple – while skill books dropped by felled enemies allow the player to upgrade her array of sword techniques. As far as iFanzine has played before the preview writeup, these appear to be learned sequentially from a sword arts master as part of the story rather than through the traditional mobile RPG skill tree.

Where Hikaru most differs from her RPG predecessors is the supreme amount of exercise she’ll be getting during her quest. Leisurely jogging just isn’t her style; instead, she’ll be spending most of her time bouncing around like a crazy ninja as the player relies on her special attacks almost as a mode of travel, considering how many enemies stand in her path. Hikaru’s sword arts are very geometric in nature, each specialized for attacking at a certain angle and generally compensating for her normally limited attack range. Players who fondly remember Zero in the old Mega Man X titles for PlayStation will feel absolutely at home here; what the developers have done is essentially tie all those D-pad dependent moves to virtual buttons in the absence of a physical controller. This is a “for better or worse” situation, as it means the player may have only two special moves active at any given moment, popping into the character menu to swap them as needed. Still, it’s a welcome evolution on the gameplay model introduced earlier in Illusia, and one sure to open Samurai Girl‘s appeal to fans of action sidescrollers.

Hikaru’s special attack meter recharges at an insanely fast rate, which leaves the player free to invoke her sword arts with extreme prejudice. Good thing, too, because Samurai Girl is decidedly more challenging than your average Action RPG. If she isn’t unleashing some barrage or parrying incoming attacks with her blade, chances are Hikaru is getting juggled around by enemies with punishingly aggressive AI. There’s nothing casual about this Action RPG; if the player doesn’t learn to instinctively reach for the block button and exploit enemy patterns, Hikaru’s stock of revival potions will run out very quickly!

While hack-and-slash action is definitely the core of Samurai Girl, there’s also an interesting familiar system that pairs Hikaru with a pet phoenix as part of the storyline. The jury’s still out on how heavily this impacts gameplay over all, but the gist is, the phoenix evolves as the player feeds it various meats purchased at town shops. Once it reaches a certain size Hikaru can employ it as her trusty steed, which is sure to make travel much less treacherous and allow the player to access previously unreachable areas. The usual item forging is also on tap, as well as a minigame where the player’s goal is to knock as many enemies off a cliff as possible.

Samurai Girl is slated for late April, with publisher Appsasia targeting April 21st as of this writing. Fans of Action RPGs and sidescrolling action platformers, as well as those who enjoyed Illusia but craved a game with a bit more attitude, would do well to keep a close eye on this one’s status as it nears release. Be sure to check back with iFanzine for a full review when it does!