Blue Omen Operation blends Mario RPG & retro anime

Blue Omen Operation

Sometimes, an aesthetic is all its takes for a game to capture my heart. In this case, a mixture of Go Nagai-inspired retro anime stylings (pointy line-art, intense eyes and big hair ahoy) paired with a colour palette and pixel-art style reminiscent of PC-98 visual novels was all it took for me to sit up and pay attention to Blue Omen Operation, an indie JRPG currently doing pretty well on Kickstarter.

The generously-sized playable demo helped too. It’s rather good. You should try it.

Clearly inspired by the Mario RPG series (especially the Paper Mario games), Blue Omen Operation seems as firmly focused on delivering weird jokes as it is telling a story. In the demo, protagonists Jiro (punk guy with a shapeshifting hand) and his buddy Yagiko (some variety of gothy devil-witch) are on the hunt for magical treasures in an abandoned, haunted hotel. A potentially grim and spooky scenario, were the duo not strangely adorable and the mystical evils more interested in scamming people out of their money.

Blue Omen Operation seems more interested in using the supernatural setting to deliver a steady stream of offbeat humor, both inside and out of combat. Outside, it’s familiar stuff – wander round, search for goodies, chatter with NPCs. You know the drill. In combat, it’s even more clearly inspired by the Mario RPGs, with your two-member party requiring a little bit of reflexes to control fully. While turn-based during decision making, incoming attacks can be dodged with a directional tap just as the enemy is about to swing (helpfully indicated with a flash), and your own attacks can be boosted by hitting the action button at key moments during the animation.

You’ll have to master this system if you want to survive. Neither of the protagonists can take more than a few hits, but a successful dodge will negate all incoming damage. Daring players can even counterattack instead of dodge. Higher risk, but it lets you get in a free shot during the enemy turn. Larger attacks have minigames – tests of reflexes, button mashing and similar – attached to them, making combat a bit more involved than JRPG standard, although not quite up to Undertale’s level of bullet-dodgery. Yet. The developers insist that a skilled player can avoid every single attack, if they’re quick enough on the draw.

The kickstarter for the game went live a few days ago and took it well past the initial funding goal in short order. There are a mountain of potential stretch goals laid out for it still, with $15 considered a preorder. Teensy tiny indie (one coder, one artist, one musician) outfit Bananasoft reckon that it’ll not be released until well into 2019, so any launch is still a long ways off. These things take time, after all. Still, the demo is fun and well worth a play.

6 Comments

  1. Nixitur says:

    Oh wow, this art style is gorgeous! And the combat system looks great, too. I’m a big fan of the Mario & Luigi games.

    If you have the skill, it’s possible to play the entirety of Blue Omen without taking even a single hit!

    Yeah, I’m super on board with this. A playable demo is an extremely strong start for a Kickstarter. Gotta check that out later.

  2. Seafoam says:

    I have followed the artist (Inkerton) on tumblr for a long while so this is actually the first game I’ve backed on kickstarter!

    The talent these guys have is astounding! No wonder the game got backed on the first day.
    I’m really hyped for the full project and it shows a lot of promise. It might not be the most craziest game, but something pleasant is always welcome.

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      Yeah, I think they lowballed it on the initial ask. I reckon they could have shot for $45k minimum (let’s face it, that’s chump change split between three people for a year+ of work) and it probably would have hit it nearly as fast.

      But I’m glad it’s at least baseline-funded already. It’s charming and the art style is like a big doofy retro-anime comfort blanket.

      • Seafoam says:

        I appreciate their modesty, it’s a great virtue. They also are going to keep their pre-existing jobs alongside game development so kudos to them.

        But the Kickstarter is not over yet, I’d still press people to get a chance of being a part of something nice and help them reach their numerous stretch goals!

        • Nixitur says:

          There’s a huge difference between modesty and massively underestimating costs. It’s difficult to know in advance which side this game is gonna land on, but 15k is really extremely little money.
          They have shot way past that already, though, and I wish them the best of luck. There being no backer tiers left above $50 is definitely gonna hurt them, though, especially since the $50 tier is not that exciting.

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