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JRPG Revival Project Phoenix Rises On Kickstarter

I wanted the headline subtitle to be 'Nobuo Oooooo-ematsu,' but it wouldn't fit :(

The opening to Project Phoenix‘s Kickstarter video is kind of like a summoning scene from the very sort of JRPG it’s hoping to bring back. Big, handsomely stylish, and full of Gregorian chanting. Difference is, instead of beloved names like Bahamut, Ifrit, and Shiva, it raises a staff toward the heavens and calls upon the immortal prowess of developers who worked on Final Fantasy, Diablo, Metal Gear, World of Warcraft, StarCraft, Halo, Valkyria Chronicles, and the like/unlike. It quite proudly boasts “creators from the East and West” and “visionaries young and old,” which could make for a fascinating thematic melting pot. Or a confused disaster. That said, music’s coming from none other than Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu himself, and the combat is actually more RTS than traditional JRPG. I am intrigued. More below.

Here’s the basic pitch, which does indeed sound like a Japanese role-playing game:

“Project Phoenix is a fantasy themed squad-based real-time strategy game combined with Japanese RPG design influences.  The game draws you in with its breathtaking fantasy world, deep storyline, Japanese character designs, and a memorable cast, most notably, the band of heroes under your command.  Furthermore, its intuitive real-time tactical combat is dynamic, fluid, and streamlined, allowing you to experience the strategic options without being bogged down by overwhelming archaic battle systems.”

“Throughout the adventure, players will piece together the mysteries of an angel with amnesia and travel through the land of Azuregard with an unusual band of heroes searching for answers.”

The plot, meanwhile, includes all the hallmarks of the genre’s sometimes formulaic past: elves, orcs, divine beings, amnesia, a crumbling Empire, a globe-trotting adventure to discover The Truth, etc. Here’s hoping it ends up less predictable in practice than it sounds on paper.

Combat sound impressively interesting, though. For one, random battles are entirely optional, prying the fangs from the mouth of a painfully obnoxious JRPG trope. Once you’re actually on the field, there’s fog of war, mouse-based controls, various types/heights of terrain (some of which is destructible), and even a mechanic that sounds kind of like aggro management. The developers promise plenty of ludicrously gigantic bosses, though, so combat hasn’t entirely abandoned its JRPG roots.

Problem is, there’s not really much to show for it. This all sounds very nice, but without any gameplay footage or even much in the way of art, I have no real concept for how it’ll all come together. Just a bunch of buzzword-friendly features. Project Phoenix is still very much in pre-production, so it’s tough to say where it’ll end up. As someone who went through a (brief!) console JRPG phase, I’m pulling for this with a tiny, gigantic hairsword-wielding portion of my soul, but that’s all I really feel comfortable doing at this point. On the upside, it’s already nearly doubled its $100,000 goal, so it’ll be a-okay with or without my support. How are you feeling about it?

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Nathan Grayson

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