Whenever I cover Kickstarter projects that are designed to pay homage to the classics, I tend to get a sense of Déjà vu, and I wouldn’t feel surprised if many of my readers felt the same. I tend to use the classics as a common theme because there is no shortage of them on Kickstarter. However, every now and then I’ll find some examples that push the limits that held back the classics, such as Elysian Shadows and Aegis Defenders, or adhere to the design while going beyond using pixel art like Bacon Man. Whether you’re looking for a game that reminds you of days long past or a project that subverts your expectations, this issue of the Kickstarter Weekly is for you.
Project by: Elysian Shadows Team
Current Funds: $49,640
End: August 19, 2014
Elysian Shadows caught my eye when it advertised “nex-gen” and “classic RPG” in the same headline. When I read the headline, part of me felt skeptical but the rest of me felt intrigued, as I wanted to see how the team could back up their claim. Is that an accurate statement on the Elysian Shadows Team’s part? I don’t know, but I can say that it looks like one of the best deceptively 2D pixelated RPGs on Kickstarter at the moment, with the rest of its competition being The Deer God and Aegis Defenders—the latter of which you’ll find at the bottom of this article.
Elysian Shadows actually began as just that: a 2D homage to the classics such as Chrono Trigger—not unlike last week’s Braven Arts. But creators are going to create, and the Elysian Shadows Team started expanding on their simple idea. The obvious implementation is the blending of 3D environments with 2D pixel art, which actually works pretty well; it doesn’t look awkward as in latter 2D Castlevania titles; rather, it never loses the 2D pixelated aesthetic even when it does stretch out into the third dimension. The Elysian Shadows team goes above and beyond that, as they’ve also implemented some uncommon features in an RPG such as a physics engine, particle effects and dynamic lighting. Finally, the team is putting its amazing looking graphics to good use by making a world that’s interconnected, making exploration effortless.
While Elysian Shadows will most likely be remembered, and funded, for its amazing presentation, it also boasts some interesting gameplay mechanics. As mentioned above, Elysian Shadows has an interconnected world that’s inspired from The Legend of Zelda series; meaning, players will need to cut grass, dispose of obstacles, and do whatever it takes to discover the secrets of the land; however, in some cases, the player may find that simple platforming—reminiscent of Link’s Awakening—might be enough to reach the places that Link could only dream of going. When you’re not exploring, players engage in action-based combat that’s been described as a cross between Secret of Mana and God of War—of all games. This means that battles take place on the same screen, and the player is free to use the environment to his or her advantage, which helps explains why the Elysian Shadows Team felt the need to implement a physics engine. For those of you who could care less about action, you should know that you can level up your characters outside of battle via a job system similar to Final Fantasy V. Essentially it looks like a 2D RPG, but it plays like something else entirely.
I’m impressed with Elysian Shadows not only because it employs an excellent blend of 2D and 3D pixel art, but it looks seamless; I can actually imagine some older RPGs like Chrono Trigger dreaming of becoming something similar to Elysian Shadows but couldn’t due to technical limitations. I hope that not only will Elysian Shadows reach the $150,000 funding goal but also the $250,000 stretch goal so that as many RPG fans as possible can play this, even if they still haven’t moved on from their Dreamcast; no really, the game is actually going to be released on that system for some reason.
Project by: Skymap Games
Current Funds: $12,741
End: August 15, 2014
While I love 2D platformers with classic graphics, I can understand if some may think that Kickstarter is saturated with them. They’re usually right; however, in the case of Bacon Man, the game ditches pixelated graphics for 3D character models in an otherwise 2D sidescroller. Whether or not you have a taste for bacon is a different story; however, for what it’s worth, Bacon Man looks like a staple part of your gaming diet, although you shouldn’t necessarily take nutritional advice from its creators at Skymap Games.
Bacon Man chronicles the adventures of the eponymous hero, who awakens in a prison where he spends his days wondering how to allocate his beginning stat points. His prison sentence is the result of the murder of a king, of which the blame lands solely on him in attempt for conspirators to misdirect the townsfolk of the real threat that lies hidden in political shadows. Whether or not you’ll take this story seriously is up to you, but it is interesting to see an RPG/platformer hybrid starring the meat that the Internet might be too obsessed with. Bacon Man goes beyond the sidescrollers of yore that are equal parts platformers and shooters, and expands upon them with hand to hand combat, RPG mechanics and physics-based puzzles. All of the levels are deliciously themed after certain as pomegranates, vegan diets and anything else that is evil yet healthy for you.
Combat revolves around close quarters and shooting, and players can use their platforming abilities and each level’s environment to string together combos; for instance, you can blast them from afar with your toaster gun, freeze them and use their frozen corpses as platforms, or just bash their faces in with your meaty, crispy fists. The game seems like it will be made from the thicker cuts of bacon than what it initially seems to be.
Adhering to the old adage about never judging a book (or Kickstarter project in this case) by its cover, I was surprised at how well-put together Bacon Man’s Kickstarter page is. The game stands out alone for not relying on 2D pixel art in order to create an engaging sidescroller, but everything about the page seems well thought out. The writing is on theme, the trailer is funny, and the team’s credibility is present—they even actually break down the costs unlike most Kickstarters. But more importantly, I sure could go for some bacon now.
Project by: GUTS Department
Current Funds: $61,994
End: September 3, 2014
Like Elysian Shadows, Aegis Defenders puts a new spin on a popular design aesthetic; except it only gives the vague impression that it looks like a 16-Bit RPG. Aegis Defenders actually looks like a completely unique looking game, creating some of the best 2D art I’ve seen on Kickstarter. It elicits the same feeling when I saw my friends play Another World, except unlike that game, Aegis Defenders looks like it will stand the test of time.
Humans live in a civilization where they no longer remember a time when magic was used similarly to technology. At the same time, a ruthless demigod named Shem has attacked a small village using magic that behaves similarly to technology. In an attempt to protect your village, you and a fellow ruinhunter set off on a journey to uncover an ancient weapon known as the Aegis, which could help you turn the tide of battle. The weapon gives its user unlimited power if he or she uses it, but Bart and Clu, grandfather and granddaughter respectively, must first combine their powers to find it.
Aegis Defenders is described as a tactical platformer with co-op. Each character has a unique skill, and co-op players can use them to figure out how they can contribute to each challenge. For instance, Bart is an engineer by trade, so he can craft turrets and other useful mechanical assets to help stave off enemies. Clu is hunter by trade, so she can pick enemies off from afar, although she has an ability in which she can fire projectors similarly to a turret. Both of the character’s skills come in handy due to the power of the empire’s soldiers; they are simply too touch to engage in close-quarters combat, so Bart’s traps and Clu’s long-range weapons serve as an advantage for them in most combative situations.
Aegis Defenders is tricky to describe. I couldn’t describe it as retro, because the sheer detail in the characters, backgrounds, animations and bosses are beyond anything I’ve ever seen on Kickstarter. The game originally began as a series of graphic novels, which combined with the amazing detail put into the game. I won’t take anything away from Elysian Shadows and its claim to be a nex-gen classic RPG, but I also think that Aegis Defenders could easily contend for the same title.
Have you seen any interesting projects on Kickstarter that you think deserve mention? Are you a developer who is currently running a Kickstarter campaign? Let us know in the comments section, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.