Monkey steals the peach!
Last week, I guided your gaze towards a Kickstarter for Edo Superstar, a mobile fighter with a Japanese woodblock carving aesthetic. It is the brainchild of Jed Henry, who hopes to translate his Ukiyo-e Heroes style into an actual videogame.
Jed was cool enough to hook me up with a super early beta of Edo Superstar -- and I'm talking super early. As in, there's only one fight, all audio is absent, and most of the abilities have yet to be implemented. It nonetheless offers a clear direction for where the game is heading, so I thought I'd offer some preliminary praises and criticisms.
In this demo of the iPhone / iPod Touch version, you control Masaru the monkey as he squares off against an armored wolf wielding a naginata. Unlike other mobile fighters, there are no virtual buttons. Instead, you'll use a combination of taps and swipes. On Masaru's half of the screen, swipe forward or back to move in that direction, swipe up or down to jump or crouch, swipe forward or back while crouching to roll, or hold a tap to block. On the enemy's half of the screen, tap high, middle, or low to launch a strike towards that region of his body.
This setup allows you to interact with the screen however you feel most comfortable, the only restriction being that commands are determined by where the characters are standing in relation to one another. So if Masaru is standing on the left, movement is controlled on the left half of the screen while attacking is controlled on the right half. It takes a while for the scheme to set in, but anything that avoids the need for view-obstructing on-screen buttons is a big plus.
You can see for yourself how the demo plays by checking out the video below, taken from the game's Kickstarter page.
That the controls reverse depending on character positioning could be an issue. The enemy has a habit of jumping back and forth over Masaru's head, forcing you to quickly adjust to the flipped controls in order to defend. Should you try to roll under your opponent and immediately create distance, you'll likewise need to be aware of the change so as not to accidentally launch into an attack. I'm thinking this could be solved by offering players the option to lock movement and attack controls to specific sides of the screen.
Though Masaru will have a whole host of special abilities at his disposal in the final game -- including throws and weapon disarms -- only a jump kick and an uppercut are available in the demo. Neither seemed all that effective against the wolf, who has a distinct advantage thanks to his long-ranged weapon. I achieved victory against him less through strategy and more by spamming my attacks; of course, you can't expect a beta to be perfectly balanced.
What I loved most thus far is the art, which has a paper quality that makes it look like an animated woodblock print. There's so much detail even at this early stage, such as grass that slightly obscures the characters' feet and an evening sun shimmering over the water. Animations are still a little stiff, though, which makes the fighters look like marionettes. Again, work in progress.
As a proof of concept, Edo Superstars has a very sturdy foundation. The art alone is sure to catch anyone's attention, and the contextual touch controls are a major step up from virtual buttons. Role-playing elements will be incorporated later, though to what extent remains to be seen.
Edo Superstars is still on track for a fall 2014 release on Android and iOS devices, but Jed has also announced PC and Mac ports for later that year. The game will be tailored for gamepads, though a mouse and keyboard option will also be available. If you wish to donate to its development, hit up the Kickstarter page soon.