Hanako - Soul of the Samurai is feudal Japan done right
Hanako is not just another game about feudal Japan. Don’t expect anything like Samurai Warriors or Sengoku Basura. This game is a project that has had extensive knowledge, attention to detail, and love poured into it over the last 7 years. This is more like an interactive work of art. If you enjoy Japanese culture, accurate depictions of martial arts, authentic Japanese weaponry, some degree of historical accuracy, and a captivating premise, Hanako is the game you’ve been waiting for.
How cool would it be to make a video game with your best friends?
That’s what Matt Canei, Connor McCarthy, and Ajani Thomas are doing. Friends since 2008, they have been working to produce their game, Hanako - Soul of the Samurai, under the company name +Mpact Games. The latest rendition of their game just won first place in the Investor Conference this weekend at Siege Con in Atlanta.
Hanako was Steam Greenlit in an astonishing 9 days with 7.5 thousand votes -- one of very few games that have been Greenlit in less than 2 weeks. If that was not enough, in March they were invited to Epic’s HQ (makers of Unreal Engine 4, which +Mpact Games used to build Hanako) to stream the game.
Hanako is a game inspired by reality -- but not just martial accuracy. Hanako’s success so far is a measure of how hard the creators have worked to honor their roots. It is a project inspired by love and personal adversity.
The Co-Founders: Connor, Matt and Ajani
Matt and Connor met during college at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Atlanta, and first began their work on the project then, often in Connor’s uncle's basement. Ajani later joined the team while he was working on his graduate degree at Georgia Tech. They bonded quickly over Japanese culture and martial arts, and poured their knowledge into their work.
Welcome to feudal Japan
Over the years, the idea for Hanako has changed, but the inspiration for it has remained the same. At the surface, this is a game about two clans, the Hanako and the Yamai, fighting for dominance in Sengoku-era Japan. The Hanako clan serves as the new shogunate for the emperor, but when the emperor dies, it leaves a power vacuum that the Yamai try to seize. The Yamai have a vision for Japan, one which they hope to achieve by whatever means necessary, even if it means killing the emperor’s sons.
This is not for button-mashers
Hanako is a 16-on-16, team-based deathmatch-style multiplayer online PC game (no hack n’ slash here).
“This is definitely a skill-based game,” says Matt. “If you button-mash, you will lose.”
There’s a great deal of attention to weapon and movement accuracy -- Ivan Ortega, a martial artist specializing in Kenjutsu, provides the weapon choreography for two of the four character classes: Sword and polearm. The four classes represent four traditional Japanese weapon arts.
The Kenshi, or “sword saint” wields the katana (the traditional curved Japanese sword reserved for samurai). The Ite is the archer. The ninja is reserved as a specialist class, like a rogue or assassin. Your character can also choose to wield the naginata, a polearm-style weapon comprised of a wooden shaft fitted with a katana blade. For each weapon class, there is a 3-pronged skill tree that the player can choose to develop. And you will definitely need skills -- like the Japanese martial arts, these classes take time and practice to master.
The Ite taking aim, while a naginata-wielding warrior destroys a Kenshi.
Just a taste of what's to come.
In addition to weapon classes, there are four distinct game modes: Battle (team vs team), Capture the Informant (their take on Capture the flag), Village Siege, and Assassination (player-controlled VIP).
There’s a focus on directionally-driven combat, meaning that the type of attack your character performs depends on the direction in which they’re moving.
Honoring your roots
However, Hanako is not just a game -- it’s a memorial. The original catalyst for the project was the death of Matt’s mother in 2008. He began building the game to honor her, and the themes present in Hanoko pay homage to her memory. It’s not simply a game about two warring clans -- it’s a personal narrative of purity and hope combatting a misguided force. The Yamai clan “represents a cancerous element to the host,” said Matt (yamai translates to “disease” or “illness” in Japanese). “It thinks it’s doing good, but it’s actually destroying its future.”
As Matt, Connor, Ajani and their team have built Hanako, it has come to mean something special to each of them.
“It’s about overcoming personal adversity, in its essence,” said Connor.
The Co-Founders of +Mpact Games have worked on Hanako whenever time permitted over the years, slowly building their dream. Now they are a team of 10, spread across the United States and even overseas. All three of the co-founders have full time jobs, so they work on Hanako during their spare time.
Looking towards release
+Mpact Games hopes to release an alpha version of Hanako - Soul of the Samurai in early 2016. If they receive funding, Hanako will likely be released in Q1 of 2017. If no funding is received, “it’ll take longer, but we’ll get it done,” said Matt. +Mpact is already planning free DLC, including 2 additional classes after release, and 2 female classes during the October following release in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Hanako - Soul of the Samurai will retail for $20 and be available for digital download on Steam.