Tokyo Dark Articles RSS Feed | Tokyo Dark RSS Feed on en Launch Media Network Square Enix Collective Reveals Gamescom 2017 Lineup Thu, 17 Aug 2017 13:37:46 -0400 Josh Broadwell

The Square Enix Collective has announced its Gamescom 2017 lineup in a recent press release. Their showcase will include five indie games that are "full of contrasts" for a broad gaming experience. 

Below is a full list of all the games that will be featured on behalf of the Collective at this year's event.

Battalion 1944

Leading the lineup is Bulkhead Interactive's Battalion 1944, a multiplayer first person shooter game. The developers are seeking to recapture older styles of FPS gameplay, where skill and stats determined victory, as opposed to powerups and other add-ons. Square Enix London's  Director of Community and Indie Development, Phil Elliot, mentioned that this game has garnered quite a bit of attention and shows how popular both retro mechanics and World War II still are for gamers.

Forgotten Anne

Also featured is Throughout Games' anime adventure Forgotten Anne. Billed as a cinematic adventure with "light puzzle platforming elements", Forgotten Anne sees you take on the titular role of Anne as she tries to stamp out rebellion in the Forgotten Lands -- a place where forgotten things from socks to letters are refashioned into magical creatures called Forgotlings.

Oh My Godheads

On a lighter note is Titutitech's Oh My Godheads, a multiplayer game born out of love for classic franchises like Worms and Street Fighter. This title offers a variation of capture-the-flag where the flag happens to be a talking stone head.

Tokyo Dark

On the JRPG side of things, there's Cherrymochi's Tokyo Dark -- a title that combines psychological and anime horror. It also builds on the point-and-click visual novel style by adding various branching story paths that are uncovered based on your decisions as the main character, as you try to find your lost mentor in the darkness beneath Tokyo. 

Deadbeat Heroes

Finally comes Upstream Arcade's Deadbeat Heroes, another multiplayer title that's a 3D brawler. The goal in Deadbeat Heroes is to stop the new wave of 1970s super criminals from having their way with London -- only you play as civilians with no crime-fighting experience. You must borrow your powers from others, while "not getting shot, sliced, lasered, exploded, vaporized, eaten…"


All of these games are part of the Square Enix Collective -- a curated platform for indie games where developers pitch their ideas, get approved for funding, and publish through Square Enix. All the titles above, and many others, will be taking the stage at Gamescom later this month.

What do you think of the Square Enix Collective's lineup for Gamescom 2017? Let us know down in the comments!

Tokyo Dark: Exclusive Interview With Jon Williams of Cherrymochi Sat, 18 Mar 2017 21:23:13 -0400 Rob Kershaw

The Square Enix Collective has backed a number of interesting games since its inception in 2014, showcasing a thriving indie community while providing the marketing resources of a powerhouse publisher, which small studios usually only dream of.

One such title that's found its footing through the Collective is Tokyo Dark, a noir adventure game that simultaneously straddles the visual novel, RPG, and horror genres, and ties a unique aesthetic into a gripping narrative. It has a caliber of production that belies the size of the studio developing it.

Culture Shock

Recently, we spoke to Cherrymochi's creative director, Jon Williams, who has been absorbing the culture and atmosphere of Japan for some time.

"I moved out to Japan from the UK in 2009; initially I only intended to stay for a year, but life happened and I'm still here now. For the past 3 years I've been running Cherrymochi, a small game dev studio I co-founded in Kanagawa, south of Tokyo."

Williams runs the studio with his wife and eight years of cultural immersion has certainly helped imbue Tokyo Dark with its own character. As an Englishman in a new land, we asked if the culture shift has proven significant?

"There are good and bad points to every country in the world and subtle cultural differences everywhere. Japan, when the ground stays still, is a very pleasant place to live."

Williams has done plenty of research on the city, its sewers, and its overall vibe. Japan is a country that has its ups and downs -- often literally, given the frequency of earthquakes that have wreaked havoc upon the nation. Yet, inspiration often springs from dark times, and it was one particular event which led to the idea for the game.

The themes and ideas in Tokyo Dark originated during our experiences of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, particularly the blackouts that affected our area during the nuclear disaster. Tokyo without its neon, giant TV screens and lights is a very different place. Tokyo was quite literally dark. We started brainstorming ideas for an urban horror set in Tokyo besieged by earthquakes, while sat in blackouts in Tokyo, besieged by earthquakes -- well, they do say write what you know!

Darkness Falls

Urban horror is an apt description of a game that has been inspired by many facets of popular culture, including House of Leaves -- a horror novel where it is implied that the titular house actually eats people. As to whether supernatural events are more literal or metaphorical in Tokyo Dark though, we're told to "wait and see."

However, the Eurogamer Expo showing in 2016 revealed a sinister undercurrent to the game, as Detective Itō goes off in search of her missing partner and encounters him in the sewers with a maniacal woman holding a knife to his throat. 

Dark themes such as sanity, neurosis, and suicide are featured in the game, and some of the mechanics revolve around the mental health of Itō herself -- an intriguing premise, but one which, in conjunction with other aspects of the horror genre, might not be to everyone's taste. Williams isn't concerned.

The SPIN system (SANITY, PROFESSIONALISM, INVESTIGATION, NEUROSIS) takes influence from pen-and-paper role-playing games. Tokyo Dark is an anime-inspired work of noir fiction; we hope that players will find our approach to these issues satisfying.

EGX and other playthroughs have certainly helped shape the game's development. Originally, some of the toughest puzzles were designed to require actions "outside of the game" to solve. Thanks to feedback, this has since changed.

It might seem obvious, but an important lesson we learnt from playtesting is that any action that requires you to minimize the game window and head to Google quickly leads to a loss of immersion and damages the experience rather than improves it. We've focused on keeping these additional elements within the experience of the game itself.

An End In Sight

As development continues, one of the more interesting features is the New Game+ option. Unlike other games, NG+ in Tokyo Dark allows you to work your way around the different choices that influence the 10 different endings in the game (11 including the additional NG+ ending). Essentially, you will be able to see everything there is to see on your second playthrough.

Does Williams see this as a necessary compromise for an oversaturated games market, where players are simply time-limited in what they can complete?

Tokyo Dark is a passion project. It exists because it's the game we want to play. When I think of my experience playing adventure games and visual novels I love, I might play through the game twice to see some different branching and endings, but I simply don't have time to complete the same game 10 or 11 times. We think it's unreasonable to demand this from our players.

Indeed, with so many games on the market -- many with multiple endings, such as the staggering 26 in Nier: Automata -- time is often the most precious resource gamers have, especially if you consider that plenty of them clock up to dozens if not hundreds of hours. But is there a risk that Cherrymochi risks diluting the experience by revealing all of Tokyo Dark's remaining narrative secrets second time around? Williams thinks not.

NG+ makes it easier to unlock all endings during a second playthrough. I don't think this dilutes the experience but adds to it. There is a lot of content in Tokyo Dark that is impossible to see in one playthrough; by giving players easier access to this the second time around, I think many more players will experience all that Tokyo Dark has to offer.

Players will hopefully agree, and Cherrymochi has been proactive on its Kickstarter campaign in keeping backers informed. Like many titles from small studios, the release of Tokyo Dark has slipped from its original date. While backers on crowdfunding sites can often put pressure on developers to deliver products before they are ready, Williams has had the opposite experience.

Our Kickstarter backers are incredibly supportive. Throughout production, we post detailed fixed scheduled monthly updates covering both good and bad news. We try to be completely transparent about development. I think our backers appreciate our approach.

Indeed, it seems as though Cherrymochi has avoided the pitfalls that many studios stumble into -- simply by being upfront. Even veteran developers like inXile came in for criticism by withholding the fact that stretch goals had been cut. Williams takes a far more upfront approach to bad news.

As soon as we realized we could not hit our Q4 original Kickstarter release date, we let the community know as early as possible. The overwhelming response was:

      'Thanks for letting us know, no problem, take your time.'

We consider communication absolutely vital and try to make ourselves as accessible as we can with our Kickstarter updates, weekly backer forum updates every Saturday and Twitter and Facebook posts.

Collective Power

Cherrymochi has had significant help in the form of the Square Enix Collective, which has allowed Williams to focus on the game and leave the majority of the marketing to them. His enthusiasm for the indie initiative is apparent -- but are there any restrictions in dealing with them, and how much influence do they truly have on the vision for the game?

Square Enix Collective have been great. They are completely hands off when it comes to development, no restrictions, no influence or input that we haven't requested. They've offered flexibility, help, and support. The Collective are a small team within Square Enix who are passionate about indie games and have understood our approach with Tokyo Dark from day one.

It sounds like a great deal for both parties, and for a first project with such a small team, it's no doubt helped Tokyo Dark  hit the ground running. But as with any game project, there have been issues to overcome -- yet Williams is buoyant about the experience.

We've made mistakes, we've had challenging technical issues, we've spent time on features that we later removed from the game, we've had times of intense stress and pressure. In every one of those situations, we've learnt something that made us a better team and made Tokyo Dark a better game. So I wouldn't change a thing.

It's incredibly exciting to be approaching the end of this journey and launching Tokyo Dark later this year.

We're just as excited to play it, and if the vision of Jon Williams and Cherrymochi pans out the way we're hoping, there's the potential for Tokyo Dark to set a new bar for the way visual novels are designed.

Tokyo Dark will be playable at EGX Rezzed London in the Square Enix Collective area between March 30 - April 1.

2017 Game Releases That Are Perfect For Storytellers Tue, 10 Jan 2017 09:09:49 -0500 Rob Kershaw

There are some incredible games coming out this year running the gamut of genres and focuses. But for me, storytelling will always take priority. The way developers and writers continue to offer up new, inventive, and exciting ways to tell a tale never fails to impress -- and for the coming year there seems to be an abundance of creativity that story fans can eat up.

While it would be easy to pick out some bigger releases to highlight the upcoming influx of epic, sweeping narratives -- such as Mass Effect: Andromeda, Torment: Tides of Numenara, or Ni No Kuni 2 --  I'd instead like to focus on some of the slightly less well-known titles that I'm looking forward to playing. Each of them approaches storytelling in a different way, but whether through aesthetic, exploration or the choices you make, they are all looking to deliver their message in a unique fashion. 

Tokyo Dark

Release Date: TBA 2017


Fans of noir and anime could be in for a treat with Tokyo Dark, a side-scrolling point-and-click set in downtown Tokyo. You play as Detective Itō, searching for her missing partner and uncovering a macabre mystery that threatens her own mind. 

A unique system tracks your choices -- monitoring your sanity, professionalism, investigation, and neurosis, then opening or closing options dependent on your state of mind at any point. With eleven possible endings, the potential replay value of this crime thriller is impressive.

Tokyo Dark followed up a sterling Kickstarter campaign with a strong showing at last year's EGX that left me eager for more. The decision to delay its original October 2016 release may have been wise -- it's already looking polished, but a few more months ironing out those final bugs certainly won't hurt. 


Release Date: TBA 2017

Fans know very little about the next game from the creators of Gone Home. The similarities are there, but the setting is completely different. You arrive on an abandoned space station in 2088, and have to figure out exactly what happened. Where is everyone?

Unlike Fullbright's first indie darling, which had an absence of other characters, in Tacoma you'll actually be able to observe some of the station's crew whose earlier movements and actions are replicated through polygon avatars. By discovering and manipulating items, listening to the crew's conversations and exploring your environment, you'll try to make sense of the situation. Like Gone Home, there'll be no weapons and no fighting; story is front and center.

Having just watched Passengers (I enjoyed it, even if the critics were divided), I'm incredibly excited about the prospect of mooching about a similarly outfitted high-tech space station, and nosing into the crew's personal lives. The overarching mystery is an added bonus, and the world-building elements are placed primarily in your hands. The more you search, the more you'll be able to piece together the backstory. Not every item will be essential to the plot, but it all adds to a fully rounded narrative experience. Hopefully Fullbright's sophomore title will build on the foundations which made Gone Home a delight to play.

What Remains of Edith Finch

Release Date: TBA 2017

Another mystery, this time split into short stories which each focus on the death of a member of the Finch family. As Edith, the last remaining family member, you play through her eyes as she relives the final moments of each of the Finches. 

Developer Giant Sparrow isn't afraid of taking a progressive approach to storytelling, as their first title The Unfinished Swan demonstrated. Their follow-up may not have the same stylized aesthetic, but the events that occurred in the house look to be delivered in a wonderfully dreamlike manner, imbued with a cinematic quality.

It's difficult to say how the story will play out, or how much agency the player will have. However, it's been suggested that the stories will morph from the mundane to the surreal, and offer different control systems as you play through them to their inevitably morbid conclusion. Can hope and wonder spring from death? Hopefully, as we discover alongside Edith what happened, the final outcome won't be as gloomy as we might fear...   

The Sexy Brutale

Release Date: TBA 2017

As a kid, I loved Infocom's text adventures. They were witty, intelligent, and meticulously crafted pieces -- each with a unique voice that told a captivating story. One of my favorites from their catalog was Murder, which cast you in the role of a detective at a dinner party as you moved from room to room, and interacted with guests before the titular event took place. Subsequent playthroughs saw you go to different rooms, follow different people, and try to work out who committed the crime, how they did it, and for what reason.

With The Sexy Brutale, Tequila Works and Cavalier Game Studios appear to have crafted a visual version of that text adventure, set at a masquerade ball. There are a couple of twists though: multiple people are being murdered, and a Groundhog Day MacGuffin means you can rewind the day and try and save them all. Each person you save will grant you powers that will allow you to save more people. 

Working out how to stop their demise will be tricky -- you play a frail priest, so you'll need to rely on your wits rather than physicality. If a hunting rifle (a potential murder weapon) is too heavy for you to pick up and hide, why not swap out the live round with a blank one? It's unclear at this stage whether there will be multiple approaches to stopping each guest from snuffing it, but I'm very keen to see how the time-travel element can be utilized in driving the narrative forward.


Release Date: Q1 2017 TBC

Gorogoa is the most unique entry in this list, since it contains no dialogue or language at all. The story is told purely through visuals, hand-drawn and meticulously detailed, and tells the tale of a boy searching for a monster who may or may not have divine powers. 

The game is a succession of four different tiles, each depicting an image. By moving the tiles around, you can form linked pictures which interlock and then activate. The narrative is presented through the animated sequences which are triggered whenever you correctly discover how these images are linked. It sounds complicated, but a quick look at the trailer below reveals a unique and beautifully designed mechanism for storytelling, with the artwork invoking shades of Studio Ghibli. 

It's part jigsaw puzzle and  part room escape, but the gameplay is incredibly mellow. And with the reliable Austin Wintory handling music duties, it may be one of the most relaxing gaming experiences you'll have all year. Designer Jason Roberts has been working on Gorogoa for over half a decade, but we may finally be closing in on a release this spring. 

All in all, it looks like a great year for story-driven games.

Personally, the most exciting thing about 2017 from a storytelling perspective is that these games are merely a small selection of what the industry has to look forward to. The big RPGs on the horizon (Valkyria Chronicles and Dragon Quest XI to name a few) will no doubt hit the headlines, but I've historically found the smaller titles such as Brothers and Year Walk to be far more affecting. So to have such a wide selection of potentially stellar games to choose from is wonderful. Regardless of where your priorities lie though, there's no doubt that it's going to be a good year for narrative gaming.

Which story-driven games are you most looking forward to playing in 2017? Let me know in the comments below!