For anime fans, Shueisha is an instantly recognizable name. The publisher of Shonen Jump among other magazines, Shueisha has helped bring the world iconic works like One Piece, Dragon Ball, Naruto, and too many more to list. Shueisha has also helped those works creators secure everything from anime series to overwhelming amounts of merchandise. Now, Shueisha wants to use that clout to uplift indie games into the hands of players. At PAX East this year, InBetweenDrafts demoed two of the games at the center of this effort and speak with Shueisha Games about the origins of this initiative.
While Shueisha has a lot of huge IP under its belt, the publisher doesn’t plan on leveraging too much of that right now. While one title, Captain Velvet Meteor: The Jump+ Dimensions borrows from more recent series like Spy X Family and Kaiju No. 8, Shueisha Games is not focusing on its own IP right now. That could come in the future, we were told that recently they had heard early pitches from Western studios, but right now they’re looking to publish the indie titles they have lined up for the next year.
Shueisha was inspired by independent developers
This tracks with the publishing arm’s formation. In Japan, Shueisha runs an ongoing independent submission group to help find the next big talent in multiple mediums. When it came to games, Shueisha would hold “barbecues,” get together to allow developers to trade notes and show off their work. From these, Shueisha previously would use their connections to open doors for these works. However, they eventually came to the conclusion that they could publish these games themselves and give more of them a chance. Hence, Shueisha Games.
All the titles Shueisha Games showcased at PAX East 2023 came out of these barbecues and are slated for release between now and 2024. We previewed Arcana of Paradise – The Tower (featuring art from The Promised Neverland creator Kaiu Shirai) and SOULVARS, currently available with a lengthy demo on Xbox. Take a look at our thoughts below!
Arcana of Paradise – The Tower
Arcana of Paradise – The Tower is a striking combination of genres both new and old, melding the current fad of roguelike deck-builders with traditional JRPG elements. Players chose 2 characters from a roster of 20, all featuring unique cards and abilities, to help escape a seemingly endless tower populated with all kinds of bizarre enemies, traps, and treasures. Animated in a 3d environment featuring 2d sprites (similar to the recent Octopath games), the art is stunning and should scratch the itch of any fans of classic rpg sprites, with the monsters in particular practically jumping out the screen.
The combat, however, is the real draw to the game; players still choose cards to fight, block and cast spells similar to games like Slay the Spire and Inscryption, but where those games work on a turn by turn basis here you are kept on your toes by having to fight in real time with an active battle system similar to classic Final Fantasy titles. This adds a remarkable amount of pressure to a genre known for accommodating overplanning, as your decision making and reaction speed pay off in the form of imaginative combo chains and the satisfaction of timing a perfect block to pull off a devastating counterattack. The result is a gameplay loop that keeps you on your toes to the point where even the timing of refilling your hand becomes something you have to keep conscious of, and the variety of monsters, character classes and level layouts ensure that fans of the genre will get lost for hours trying to save their kids and get to the bottom of the tower. [Contributor Quinn Parulis]
SOULVARS, released last year for iOS and Android and soon to be available on Xbox, Switch and Steam, is another genre-blender of a game, albeit one that doesn’t stray too far outside familiarity. Set in a futuristic world where souls can become digitized and humanity faces an invasion from a force known as Dominators, you play as a freelance Soulbearer contracted by the military to take on a variety of assignments that put you in direct conflict with these otherworldly invaders. The artstyle is rendered in gorgeous pixel art with clear attention given to the character models and backgrounds, creating a futuristic world basked in the glowing neon buzz of future technology. The team (as much of it as we get to see during the demo) feels populated with characters that seem distinct and charming, and the different skill classes each bring to combat look likely to multiply potential combos exponentially in a game already filled to the brim with them.
While more of a traditional turn based rpg than Arcana of Paradise – The Tower, the way SOULVARS goes about implementing the deck-builder elements feels deeply thought out, featuring an almost dizzying array of mechanics to keep track of. While this may be in part due to the jump from phones to consoles, the screen tries its best at keeping from feeling cluttered or overflowing with information by regulating many of its systems to symbols and icons whose explanations were much less intuitive than desirable. Combat operates on an interesting scale, as attacking an enemy with something it is weak against, whether that be a kick or a fire attack, gives you an extra action point to use on your next turn to play even more Souls – the game’s name for its cards.
SOULVARS’s deepest intricacies come from these combos, as the list of potential interactions between attack types is staggering and becomes even more so when you take the interplay between party members into account. The attacks that come from these are animated with the kind of over the top intensity you’d expect from a publisher with such deep roots in anime, and even better are your character’s transformation into a super-powered form each with their own special attacks that are dazzling to behold. Despite the obtuse learning curve and limited hand-holding (as far as what could be gathered from playing a demo), once you get into the groove of finding an enemies weakness and chaining together increasingly complex attacks SOULVARS’ true possibilities become apparent and are tantalizing enough to have any fan of modern JRPGs hooked. [Contributor Quinn Parulis]
You can wishlist all of Shueisha Games’s upcoming titles on Steam now.