News by Britta S., Ginny W, and Lindsay M.
Welcome to Digitally Downloaded’s regular catch-up news feature. With each issue we will bring you the best news that you may have missed. Grab the biggest mug you’ve got, fill it with your favourite brew, and catch up with us (and our favourite news anchor, Dee Dee)!
A different style of otome — Akash: Path of the Five
by Britta S., Contributor
Otome visual novels have found a perfect little biotope on the PS Vita. They also tend to be overwhelmingly in the anime illustration style. Truant Pixel are working on their first otome game, and they have now taken the portable message on board; but with regard to the graphics style, they very much have their own idea. Let me explain. Three months ago, Truant Pixel announced they are developing the otome visual novel Akash: Path of the Five for the PlayStation 4. Last week, they announced that they are adding the PS Vita platform. This is obviously good news and makes sense, especially for a small indie studio, trying to get their game to precisely the niche market they need to target. As regards the “visual” in visual novel, take a look at this trailer:
Not only is the art style by Vanna Le striking, this "semi-realistic" painted look is also highly unusual for a visual novel. You will see a dynamic environment, with time of day influencing weather conditions and the habitat alive with the sounds and movements of nature. Backgrounds are composed of painted textures and custom shader effects. Oh, and the lads do look pretty dishy too! The narrator you hear is voice actor SungWon Cho, who plays Caspian. Truant Pixel is known for PlayStation themes dripping with gorgeousness, and their PlayStation VR title VEV: Viva Ex Vivo. The visuals for Akash will also be available in 4K for the PS4 Pro.
Akash takes place in a fantasy world, where players will take on the role of Aurora, a member of a race known as the “Al’wan,” or elementals, who is preparing for her Coming of Age Ceremony while the threat of all-out war looms. Aurora can conduct a romance with one of her five classmates, navigate the conflict between the two races, and plan the greatest Coming of Age Ceremony in two centuries. Akash: Path of the Five will feature a professional voice cast, an original soundtrack, a large library of CGs, and a branching storyline with multiple endings. We do not have a firm release date at this point.
Introducing Minotaur; or, Why I’m proud to say a game proved me a liar
By Lindsay M., News Editor
It’s documented in the cloud, so I will admit that on April 2 of this year I stated, “I’ve backed all that I will [on Kickstarter], game-wise.” It’s a good thing I didn’t add my usual sarcastic comment — ie. “If I do, I’ll eat my hat” — otherwise I’d be munching on a knit winter toque, tangy with salt due to still being unwashed after nearly six months of daily use. But I digress; my point is that my original statement was an outright lie. The instant I learned that Minotaur, an upcoming visual novel slash point-and-click adventure game, was an option to back, I needed to jump at the opportunity. And I did with little shame, as the game promises to be a combination of two genres that I absolutely adore. The most recent trailer, created for the funding campaign, gave me literal chills during my first viewing; grab a blanket and behold the haunting beauty of Minotaur here:
Minotaur is set in an apartment complex turned deadly labyrinth; to continue the mash-up trend, this building reminds me of a cross between H.H. Holmes’ so-called “Murder Castle” and the building holding the girls in M. Night Shyamalan film Split. The tenants are unable to leave the building, instead having to dedicate their minds to figuring out why this trap was set and by whom — not to mention find a way out! A labyrinth and a Minotaur, I see where we’re going here… but moving on. There are five playable characters, each unlocked one after the other and each following a different resident of Royce Apartments (Nod, Mentor, Thea, Unter, Richie). There are four additional characters to enhance the story, including one mysterious raven-haired stranger wearing a creepy white mask at all times. When it comes to gameplay, puzzles, collectables, bosses, and perhaps most importantly, decisions that lead to multiple endings.
The indie studio behind the scenes at Universe of Seven (the world in which the story is set) promise to have drawn inspiration from series such as Zero Escape and old-school point-and-click quests features in classic games by LucasArts and Sierra. Minotaur features 2.5D graphics with hand-drawn characters and over 100 animated photorealistic backgrounds. If this game is up your alley, check out the Kickstarter page here. The game is currently seeking support on Steam Greenlight as well. Minotaur is expected to be released for PC/Mac towards the end of 2017.
Tales of Asteria: Bandai Namco’s latest mobile offering has some fresh faces
By Ginny W., Contributor
The beloved Tales JRPG series welcomed a free-to-play mobile game to its extended stable not so long ago, also known as Tales of Asteria. It hasn’t been localised yet, which explains why it’s flown a little under the radar in the West. However, with over two million players there’s definitely more than token interest in this offering from Bandai Namco and at least for lucky Japanese fans, there’s a whole new patch hitting Asteria that will inject some much-needed leading ladies.
It looks like these players are onto something: Asteria is being marketed as a fully-fledged mobile RPG with an original story that brings together the beloved heroes of the franchise. While it’s a familiar formula, and smells a little like Mobius Final Fantasy with its obsession with crystals as plot devices, it’s a harmless bit of Gacha farming that clearly has mass appeal. As mentioned, their latest update, Eden of Reminiscence, ships out soon for iOS and Android and will see Sorey rub shoulders (or butt heads) with the likes of Velvet Crowe and Colette Brunel. The ornery Velvet will surely make for some interesting party dynamics, and it’ll be exciting to see how her flashy combat moves transition from the calculated button-mashing of Tales of Berseria to a more pared-down execution.
Bandai Namco has released their first PV for this new chapter, complete with a theme song and a flashy opening animation, and it gives us our first look at all the characters banding together to save the world from an untimely crystallisation. While it’s a little light on the gameplay mechanics and the narrative motivations for our ladies helping out Sorey’s merry band of misfits in the first place, it’s hard to begrudge what looks like beautiful, light-hearted fun. If it ever gets localised, we may well have a winner for the genre in the Western market.
New Otomate brand titles for PS4 and PS Vita
By Britta S., Contributor
Romance (otome) titles are often referred to and marketed as “for girls;” mind you, the guys at DDNet would have something to say about that. Romantic visual novels are on the rise in popularity in the West, and that’s a good thing — for girls as well as boys. I happen to know quite a few male gamers who really enjoy the Otomate title Code: Realize — our reviewer Clark gave it 4.5 stars in his review. Other Otomate titles include Norn9 and Hakuoki. So far, we know of two titles planned for release this year in Japan under the Otomate imprint, a subsidiary of Idea Factory.
First up, Idea Factory announced Hakuoki Shinkai: Fuukaden for the PlayStation 4 with a launch date of July 13. The game is a compilation of two Hakuoki titles. The first is Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds (Hakuoki Shinkai: Kaze no Shou), which is coming to the West on May 16. The second is Hakuoki Shinkai: Hana no Shou, which launched for PS Vita in Japan in 2016 but hasn’t had a localisation announcement so far. Both titles are remakes of the original Hakuoki: Shinsengumi Kitan, one featuring the game’s Kyoto storyline, while the other features the game’s Edo storyline. Here is the opening movie for Hakuoki Shinkai: Fuukaden:
The other title has been teased by Idea Factory for quite some time and is based on the enormously popular Mr. Osomatsu (Osomatsu-san) ‘revival’ anime, which itself is based on Fujio Akatsuka's original long-running (since 1962) Osomatsu-kun manga. The game is described as a “dynamic unemployed adventure”, reimagining the 10-year-old Matsuno boys as adults. The mischievous sextuplets (the oldest is Osomatsu) still have misadventures, especially in love matters, since they’re all in love with the same girl! Mr. Osomatsu will have a themed (white) PS Vita to launch alongside the PS Vita game in Japan on June 29.