Four years after it was released on the Nintendo Switch in Japan, Chōjū Giga Wars has been a surprise drop on the Nintendo Switch in the west, complete with a full localisation. I know it’s going to be far too easy to overlook this, given everything else that is being released, but you absolutely should not miss out on it.
Here’s what I wrote back when I played the Japanese original: So Chōjū Giga Wars is based on what is generally credited to be the first manga; Chōjū-jinbutsu-giga, a 12th or 13th century scroll painting that was owned by Kōzan-ji temple in Kyoto (you can now see it in either the National Museum of Kyoto or National Museum of Tokyo), and likely created by an artist monk, Toba Sōjō. Loosely translated, it means Scrolls of Frolicking Animals, and the painting depicts just that; anthropomorphised rabbits and monkeys and frogs getting up to all kinds of mischief. It has a very distinctive art work to look at, featuring the monochrome ink brush techniques that has been a major part of the Japanese aesthetic over all this time, and has been a major source of inspiration for untold numbers of artists.
Chōjū Giga Wars’ Japanese title actually uses different kanji (超獣ギガ大戦) to the painting to create a different meaning, which I would roughly translate to Super Animal Powered Big War. As the name suggests, this game is not exactly a serious homage to that classic painting, taking the monochrome aesthetic of the animals as seen in the painting, and then pitching them into a casual strategy game. But wait! There’s even more traditional culture and storytelling irreverently packed into this game! The first thing you’ll notice is just how loaded it all is with rabbits. They’re the first unit you control (and therefore the weakest, but you’ll be using them an awful lot, because they’re also the cheapest and therefore most useful), but those aren’t the only bunnies you’ll see; when you glance at the icon that represents your forces working hard to generate money, you’ll also see a rabbit silhouette taking a hammer to a bucket, which represents the process that was traditionally used to create rice cakes (which are the currency that you use in battle to create units).
Mechanically, it plays out much like games such as the excellent Battle Cats – which is available in English on mobile devices and the 3DS if you’re keen to see it in action for yourself. Resources are generated automatically – that’s the rice cakes I mention earlier – and when you can afford a unit (each one costs different amounts, and has different strengths and weaknesses), you simply pay for it and it will automatically make its way over to the enemy base and attack it. If they run into an enemy coming from the other direction, the two will fight, and once one of them has been defeated, the other will resume their march forwards. Whichever base gets destroyed first loses, so winning in Chōjū Giga Wars really just involves building more powerful units more quickly than your opponent.Basically, this game is a parody/homage to something of great cultural and historical value… and it’s a lot of fun besides. I never thought this would get a western release (especially four years after it was released in Japan), but I’m certainly glad it’s there.