It's been a hot minute since I last crossed paths with JRPG series Wild Arms and Shadow Hearts, but today the key creators behind both of these late 90s and early 00s RPGs have announced they're making two brand-new JRPGs that are inspired by their previous works - and they're launching a 'double Kickstarter' campaign to help fund them. The games are called Penny Blood and Armed Fantasia (no points for guessing who's making what), and based on what I've seen so far, I'm intrigued.
Armed Fantasia is, as you might have surmised, being made by former Wild Arms devs under the banner of their new studio Wild Bunch Productions. The creator of the series, Akifumi Kaneko, is on board handling lead game design and scenario writing, and composer Michiko Naruke is back along with fellow musicians Noriyasa Agematsu and his group Elements Garden. Like Wild Arms, Armed Fantasia has a 'westernpunk' theme, and follows a group of adventurers known as Pathfinders on their journey through the wilderness. They each have their own ARM (or aether reaction maximiser) weapon to hand, and they'll be dispatching strange 'anomalies' that are ravaging the land.
Wild Bunch promise a "gigantic" world map stuffed with things to do (although here's hoping it's not one that follows the Ubisoft school of open world design), but it sounds like there will still be good old-fashioned dungeons to explore as well. It certainly looks lovely based on the screenshots, and its turn-based battle system looks particularly flashy. It's not yet clear how each character's ARM weapons will differ from one another, but fights will utilise what the devs are referring to as a 'cross order tactics' system, allowing characters to disrupt enemy turn orders to their advantage.
Penny Blood, meanwhile, is a gothic horror RPG set in the 1920s that's being headed up by the creator of the Shadow Hearts series' new studio Yukikaze. Shadow Hearts director Matsuzo Machida is on lead game design and scenario writing duties for this one, and artist Miyako Kato has also returned to design the characters. Original composer Yoshitaka Hirota is back, too.
Here, you'll play as private investigator Matthew Farrell as he travels the world hunting strange monsters. He himself has some supernatural abilities, and you'll be putting them to good use in Penny Blood's 'psycho sigil' battle system, which the developers say "combines traditional turn-based JRPG strategy with twitch-trigger reaction times". Probably something akin to the Mario & Luigi series of RPGs, then (or Yakuza: Like A Dragon), I'd imagine, with some timed button presses in the mix.
More interesting to me is its Sanity Points system, which apparently makes party members unpredictable if they lose too many of them by spending time in the company in demons, but also gives them a boost in strength. Again, it's not entirely clear how you'll gain more of these points over time, or how much strategy will be involved in deploying them, but I'm definitely up for a sanity system that isn't just 'everything gets exponentially worse because everyone's gone mad' sort of thing (I'm looking at you, Amnesia / Eternal Darkness).
You can find out more about both games over on their Double Kickstarter page, which goes live on August 29th at 9am PT / 5pm BST. Collectively, the studios are asking for a combined goal of $750,000 to fund both game projects, but in a fun twist, backing one game will also help to contribute toward the shared 'combo meter' of the other, meaning you'll be helping to unlock goals and other content across both games to get them over the finish line.
Based on what I've seen (which is solely based on a handful of screenshots so far) I'm cautiously optimistic about these and will certainly be keeping an eye on them. I've been burned before by other big name JRPG creators of yore taking to Kickstarter to fund big passion projects that publishers presumably won't deign to take a risk on these days (with former Suikoden devs' tedious Eiyuden Chronicle Rising being the prime example here), but like I said, cautious optimism is where I'm at with these ones at the moment.