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Small Saga makes a big impression with its demo

Less cheesy than you'd expect

If you have half an hour free, I implore you to try the Small Saga demo. Essentially, it's The Deptford Mice: The JRPG, complete with the snappy writing, grim violence and wondrous sense of scale I remember from Robin Jarvis' child-traumatising novels. It's developed by Jeremy Noghani, previous of brillo French Revolutionary lawyer-em-up Aviary Attorney, and he's aiming to fund the remainder of development via Kickstarter, asking for £33,000. Below, a trailer and thoughts. To avoid spoilers, try the demo here on Itch now.

I've been idly following Small Saga for a while, and Jay spotted it during one of her Screenshot Sunday round-ups. Somehow, I didn't put two and two together and realise it's from the developer of one of the most underrated visual novels around. In fact, I didn't realise this until I'd finished the demo, applauding the pitch-perfect delivery of its harrowing later scenes and expertly timed cliffhanger. If you've not played the demo yet, I'd highly recommend doing so before watching the trailer below.

Watch on YouTube

Taken at face value, it's a boilerplate JRPG, with simple turn-based combat. What sells it is the commitment to its setting. It tells the story of Verm and his brother Lance, two London-dwelling mice hoping to raid 'heaven' - the food store of the gods - for seeds to bring home. Along the way, they meet dangerous river-rats and an overstuffed vole strong enough to wield a blade of the gods (a Swiss army knife). It's equal parts cute and grim, as nature is, but not excessively violent -- and it even manages to convey horrific injury through UI numbers, and a hidden character sprite.

An RPG is a lot of work for one person, and Noghani knows this. He's estimating that it won't be finished until July 2021, and will likely clock in at around 8-10 hours of story. While there's no stretch goals listed, if he raises more than asked, he hopes to improve the music and have it professionally localised. If it does really well, he hopes to bring in some extra talent and hopefully port it to Switch. I've got my fingers crossed for this one. Aviary Attorney has proven to me that he has talent, can nail a dramatic ending, and the demo's sprites and music are no slouch either.

If all goes to plan, Small Saga will be out by July 2021. Putting £10 (roughly $12.70) down on the Kickstarter now gets you a copy of the game when it's finished. Just in case you missed it, the demo is here on Itch, around half an hour long and very good indeed.

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