I never got around to playing Bastion, but I did watch friends play it. The game seemed odd, the isometric camera angle weirded me out, and it lacked a hook to pull me into its world. This isn’t the case with Supergiant Games’ turn-based strategy game Transistor. When it was revealed at the Sony press conference on Monday evening, I immediately felt compelled to play it.
I met up with Greg Kasavin, Transistor’s writer and designer, at Sony’s booth. I was honest: I told him that I never played Bastion, or really had the interest to, but wanted to play Transistor. I asked him what it was about, how it was different, what I should expect. Kasavin laughed and said, “You know what? How about you go in cold. I think it’ll be better for you that way instead of me trying to explain everything.”
And boy, was he right.
Few people wake up on a Saturday morning and exclaim, “I need ANOTHER strategy JRPG in my life.” I’m one of those people. I grew up on Final Fantasy Tactics, and between 1998 and 2003 I scoured local videogame stores and brick-and-mortar Blockbuster stores for the next great strategy JRPG, or SJRPG (if you’re into acronyms of that magnitude). Although many SJRPGs entered the PS1 and early PS2 libraries, it wasn’t until 2003 where I was first able to sink my teeth into a new type of strategy.
It’s rare to see an indie game that takes chances by pushing a genre in a new direction, but Skulls of the Shogun attempts to do just that and succeeds — in some aspects. Skulls of the Shoguns is a turn-based strategy game with fighting game elements and pacing, which gives it a unique blend of brains and combat. Units have different properties, but lacks the sometimes overly complicated stats found in other games within the genre. Skulls of the Shogun is incredibly easy to pick up, but suffers from bugs and technical issues which make it a mediocre entry in a revived genre.
There aren’t many games like Trap Gunner, a quirky title that mixed puzzle, strategy, and action elements. Its initial release came late in the PlayStation’s life cycle, so many gamers missed this wonderful gem. Atlus combined vastly different genres and created an insanely addictive multi-player experience.
The restaurant business is one of the toughest industries in America; it’s said that 50% of restaurants fail in the first year. It’s customers are hard to satisfy, critics are harsh, and good help is hard to come by. Thankfully, Order Up! is nothing like this. The quirky and fun restaurant sim is more like Diner Dash and Cooking Mama than an episode of Hell’s Kitchen. Order Up! is one of the best pick up and play titles I’ve experienced on a handheld in quite some time.
Back in 2001, Nintendo gave gamers one of its cutest and most childish-looking games, Pikmin. The hardcore crowd dismissed it, but quickly retracted said dismissal. Pikmin is one of the most challenging and rewarding games you’ll ever play. It requires intensive micro- and macro-management to navigate through a dangerous world full of obstacles and ferocious enemies. Mixing and matching your army of Pikmin has been a series staple and is extremely important.
Lets get this out of the way right now: I’m not a fan of strategy games. I’m also not a fan of RPGs outside of Chrono Trigger, Y’s, and Lunar: The Silver Star Saga. One, naturally, would think that combining the two game genres into one would produce something so atrocious that I would want to touch it. That’s sound. That’s logical. It’s also quite wrong.
I haven’t played a decent strategy RPG in eons. Recently I’ve gone back to Final Fantasy Tactics and its Game Boy Advance spin-off to get my fix, but man, where did that genre go? It used to be so prevalent in the 16 and 32-bit eras. It’s kept on life support these days on handhelds, but it seems no one out there cares about it that much anymore.
Oh, wait! Jake Kazdal and his team at Haunted Castle Studios still care about strategy RPGs! They care about them so much they’re going to evolve the genre with their new game, Skulls of the Shogun, a hybrid fighting-strategy-chess strategy game. I’ve wanted to get my hands on it for awhile but it keeps eluding my grasp. It looks like the shot in the arm the wayward genre needs, doesn’t it? So I decided to exchange a brief e-mail Q&A session with the game’s design lead and art director, Jake Kazdal, until I get the chance to bust some shogun skulls of my own.
There’s a new word-formation game in town that takes up my downtime: Quarrel Deluxe. Denki and UTV Ignition’s turn-based word-formation iPad game incorporates light troop management and army positioning that one would typical find in strategy games. It’s been frequently mentioned as the sweet, sweet love child of Scrabble and Risk—a comparison that is not inaccurate.
A mixture of the screwball strategy classic 2D Worms, and golf, not many could say they saw this coming.