Hands-on with the standout indies of Tokyo Game Show 2018!
The recent Tokyo Game Show was full of things do see and do, especially in the densely packed indie area where Playasia’s PLAY Exclusives booth was located. The indie zone grows with each year of TGS; soon it’ll begin to absorb the other hall with its elaborate booths and giant God Eater statues. Of course Playasia was there letting gamers get their hands on upcoming releases like RXN -Raijin- and Death Road to Canada, but we were in good company. Here are some of the coolest upcoming indie titles that we sampled at the show:
This attractive action platformer comes from Bombservice, the developer of the Momodora games. Indie “metroidvania” titles are a dime a dozen nowadays, but Bombservice’s Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight was a standout in that genre thanks to its beautiful pixelated labyrinths and challenging combat. Minoria is set to be a successor to that series by retaining the gothic horror vibe while updating things with new characters and 3D visuals. New protagonist Semilla switches Momodora’s familiar maple leaf weapon for a more practical blade, which players will put to work in cutting down any witches that stand in her way. Combat is tough but fair, with Semilla able to parry and dodge out of danger before countering by calling in a helper. Even with a bit of assistance, I didn’t see anyone beat the boss at the end of the demo, but apparently players can adjust the challenge in the final version. The new cel shaded look works amazingly well with the hand-painted backgrounds to create a world I can’t wait to lose myself in.
Minoria is scheduled to release on PC and Nintendo Switch in 2019.
The Ninja Warriors Once Again
The Tokyo Game Show was also the first place where players could get their hands on this revival of Taito’s side-scrolling action game (and definitely not the Japanese game show). What once was old is new again and the classic trio of robot ninjas are back for this remake of a remake. This first taste of the game was classic beat-em-up action, with your ninja of choice dodging bombs while slicing up their foes. The three characters from the SNES version were playable in the demo, each with their own perks like the speedy Kamitaichi or the powerful ninja known as… Ninja. There are a pair of new characters who will be playable in the final game too, as well as the addition of two-player co-op. The old Super Famicom version of The Ninja Warriors was set up at the booth for comparison; the sprites have come a long way in twenty-plus years, with the hulking boss of the first level dwarfing anything on the 16-bit system. It’s The Ninja Warriors as you remember, only better. This demo even seemed to have the same music as the Super Nintendo game. No word if the amazing arcade soundtrack will be included too, but keep your fingers crossed for some Zuntata goodness coming your way soon.
The Ninja Warriors Once Again is scheduled to release for the Nintendo Switch in 2019.
This Kickstarted dungeon crawler from Dangen Entertainment features very little in terms of swords and sorcery, and a lot of your fists! Assuming a first-person view, players explore every corner of a tall tower step by step. Encounter a random enemy and the game seamlessly to a battle scene where players must duck, weave, parry and pummel their way to victory. Everything moves in real time, so you need to think quickly to figure out the best way to use your fists. It’s tough to keep track of foes when they start to outnumber Fight Knight, but this knight also boasts an arsenal of speciality moves to bust out. Such an odd action-packed take on a traditional RPG also features a striking art direction. Fight Knight looks like nothing else, with a mix of filtered photos and bold pixelated backgrounds. The style is a little distracting at first, but it creates a unique tone and mood. I didn’t expect boxing and dungeon exploration to work so well together, but Fight Knight’s first-person action is showing a lot of promise. This is definitely a knight to remember.
Fight Knight is scheduled to release on the PC, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.
For those after some chaotic multiplayer matches, the place to be was huddled around the Battloon booth. Playing Battloon couldn’t be simpler: up to four players pick a balloon and maneuver it around an arena, pushing their opponent into the walls. The goal of each match is to either use the spikes on the sides to pop your enemies on simply survive for long enough. Easier said than done, though; it’s tricky to master the momentum and bounciness of the balloon and an unexpected collision can send you straight into spiky oblivion. The match doesn’t end there, though. Once eliminated, players can get their revenge before the end of the round by pushing other balloons around as a ghost. The result is a surprisingly competitive game that’ll likely cause a lot of laughs and rivalries. It’s a cute and colorful little title from Japanese indie developer noname studio, which could have an unexpected party hit on their hands.
Battloon is scheduled to release on PC and Nintendo Switch in 2019.
No Straight Roads
Now here’s a title with plenty of style to spare. No Straight Roads is developed by Malaysian studio Metronomik and directed by one of the lead game designers of Final Fantasy XV. It’s a far cry from Final Fantasy, though as this unique title could be best described as a musical action game. Music is the most important part of the game, with players switching between a guitarist and drummer as they get into the groove. Every action is synced to the soundtrack is some way, with the pair able to reflect projectiles with careful timing or tune up some turrets to add extra instruments and attacks. A good sense of rhythm is required to survive the game’s chaotic battles; the clash of classical music and rock shown in the demo kept on building on itself with increasingly intense music and attack patterns. Naturally, the music is excellent, with the shifting soundtracks weaving together different genres as the two indie rockers go up against a huge EDM label. No Straight Roads is still quite early in development (presumably the voicework is just a placeholder) but it’s still impressive stuff that’s got me ready to rock whenever it releases.
No Straight Roads is scheduled to release on PC and PlayStation 4.
So over at the PLAY Exclusives booth we were showing off our recent release of RXN -Raijin-, but if you asked me what the second most impressive indie shooter at TGS was, I’d have to go with Protoculture Games’ Devil Engine. This classic side-scrolling shmup grabbed my attention with an opening level that has players weaving through an armada of spaceships, evading giant lasers while firing off all kinds of weapons. There’s more to Devil Engine than just shooting and dodging a boatload of bullets: players are encouraged to destroy enemy ships in quick succession, racking up a combo and unleashing burst attacks. It’s all very Thunder Force, right down to featuring terrific tunes by Thunder Force V composer Tsukumo Hyakutaro. The beautiful spritework and intense action left me looking forward to seeing how wild things get in the later stages.
Devil Engine is scheduled to release on PC this winter, with a PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch release to follow.
Why did the chicken go to TGS? After playing Iseki Climber I still don’t have an answer, but I’m glad this chicken made it to the show. The most inventive game I played at the Tokyo Game Show also happened to be the one least likely to see a release, but it was an experience I couldn’t get anywhere else. Players control a chicken climbing a maze of ropes up a tall tower, as chickens tend to do. What makes it especially interesting is the game’s controller: a pair of buttons and a piece of rope. Pulling on the rope to quickly ascend the tower is as unique as it is exhausting. Chicken climbing becomes quite competitive in multiplayer too. As I discovered from losing, controlling your speed is important; go too fast and a tricky trap will send your chicken flying.
The game’s developer at Miyazaworks, a friendly chicken-hat-wearing fellow caught in the middle of the booth, makes all kinds of experimental games with odd controllers like bananas and bottles of lotion. It’s nice to see quirky titles like this even among all the colossal corporate booths at the Tokyo Game Show. TGS is a melting pot of mad ideas and brand new genres that resulted in a range of titles I’m excited to see more of in the future.
Iseki Climber isn’t currently being released anywhere but we still love it!~
Our own indie hunt at Tokyo Game Show as a great success, with new indie titles coming to PLAY Exclusives in 2019 and beyond! Stay tuned for more!