As the gaming community eagerly anticipates the release of Vanillaware’s latest adventure, Unicorn Overlord, it’s the perfect time to delve into the rich tapestry of games they have crafted over the years. Vanillaware, known for its distinct art style and innovative gameplay, has produced a number of titles that have captivated gamers worldwide.
Here, we’ll explore five must-play games from Vanillaware’s catalog, each offering a unique experience that showcases their artistic vision and technical skills. These games not only provide hours of entertainment but also offer a glimpse into the evolution of Vanillaware’s game design, setting the stage for the highly anticipated Unicorn Overlord.
5. Dragon’s Crown | PS3/4, Vita | July 25, 2013
Vanillaware consistently demonstrates a preference for prioritizing gameplay in its titles. Dragon’s Crown stands as a prime illustration of this philosophy. This engaging beat ’em up game showcases a roster of six unique characters, each representing a distinct class. These characters are on a quest to obtain the fabled Dragon’s Crown, each driven by their own personal motives. The game sets a foundational backdrop that primarily serves to frame the context of the game’s universe and its diverse cast without delving deeply into complex narratives.
Dragon’s Crown is designed as a straightforward title, boasting an accessible and engaging gameplay loop that becomes increasingly satisfying as players invest more time. The game compensates for its straightforward nature by offering a wide range of characters to play with, each adding their own flavor to the gameplay experience. This variety is one of the game’s strong suits, ensuring that the gameplay does not feel monotonous. Additionally, the inclusion of a multiplayer feature significantly enhances the game’s replay value, inviting players to team up with friends or other gamers to explore the game’s rich, fantastical world. This aspect not only adds an extra layer of enjoyment but also encourages repeated playthroughs, making “Dragon’s Crown” a game that is easy to pick up but hard to put down.
4. 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim | PS4, Switch | November 28, 2019
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is a game that arguably needs no introduction, but for those who haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing it, here’s a glimpse into its world. The game has players step into the roles of 13 diverse characters, each integral to the unfolding of an intricate narrative. As players navigate through the game’s beautifully crafted 2D environments, they engage in interactions and trigger events that lead to exhilarating encounters. Here, players don mecha suits and dive into strategic battles against formidable Kaiju, using the game’s dynamic real-time battle system.
The narrative of 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is its cornerstone, demanding player engagement in dialogues where choices carry significant weight. Accessing keywords to unearth additional layers of the story is crucial. Players also have the flexibility to switch between characters during the adventure segments as they piece together information. If missteps are made, the game cleverly allows the day to rewind, offering a chance to make the right decisions.
The brilliance of 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim lies in its storytelling approach, which masterfully balances open-endedness with a linear structure. The narrative’s strength is amplified by the player’s ability to shape the story based on their choices, crafting a personalized experience through the game’s unfolding events.
3. GrimGrimoire OnceMore | PS4/5, Switch | July 28, 2022
GrimGrimoire OnceMore, a remaster of the original PlayStation 2 title, tells the enchanting tale of Lillet Blan, a young aspirant at the Silver Star Tower Academy, dreaming of becoming a formidable magician. As she delves into the art of summoning familiars, Lillet confronts hidden dangers within the academy’s walls. The game introduces a captivating time travel plot, where Lillet finds herself in repeating loops, each demanding a strategic approach to prevent the resurrection of a menacing figure. Unique to her situation, only Lillet retains memories from each loop, necessitating constant adaptability to ever-changing circumstances.
The game’s narrative is a testament to Vanillaware’s storytelling prowess, featuring stellar pacing, ingenious use of time travel, and a memorable cast. The gameplay, while intricate and demanding, offers a deeply rewarding experience. Unlike 13 Sentinels, GrimGrimoire OnceMore plunges deeper into its mechanics, challenging players to meticulously manage unit types and placements. Enhancements in the new release, such as a skill tree, fast-forward mode, and increased difficulty, push the gameplay to new heights, adding layers of complexity and enjoyment.
2. Odin Sphere Leifthrasir | PS3/4, Vita | January 14, 2016
Odin Sphere Leifthrasir, an enhanced version of the PlayStation 2 classic Odin Sphere, is an action JRPG that weaves together the tales of multiple protagonists. The combat system places emphasis on on-the-fly item creation and magic use. The individual stories of the characters converge to form a compelling narrative with a remarkable conclusion.
The game introduces a unique farming mechanic integrated into exploration, yielding a resource known as Phozons. These are obtained from consuming food that enhances characters’ abilities, creating a rewarding progression system. The Alchemy mechanic allows for creative combinations of items for various effects, adding to the depth of gameplay. Each character’s distinctiveness contributes to never-dulling experimentation and engagement.
Odin Sphere skillfully handles its multifaceted cast, ensuring each story feels unique and contributes significantly to the worldbuilding. The learning curve is present but less daunting than in GrimGrimoire, rewarding persistent players with a memorable JRPG experience.
1. Muramasa Rebirth | Vita | March 28, 2013
Muramasa Rebirth is an enhanced port of Muramasa: The Demon Blade, originally for the Wii, introduces several changes, both major and subtle. This action hack n’ slash game, with light RPG elements, centers around sword forging and cooking, each with distinct benefits. The game features two main characters, Momohime and Kisuke, each with their own unique storylines set against shared environments.
The narrative of Muramasa Rebirth is engaging, with a nuanced portrayal of characters and a rich exploration of Japanese folklore. While the storyline can be complex, the art direction significantly enhances the overall experience.
The core of the game lies in its sword-forging system, requiring resources gained from eating and defeating enemies, creating an enthralling gameplay loop. The re-release also includes four DLC episodes with new characters, adding to the game’s depth and challenge.
Currently exclusive to the PlayStation Vita, many hope for Muramasa Rebirth to become available on modern platforms soon, expanding its reach to a wider audience.
So, as we count down the days to the release of Unicorn Overlord, revisiting these five quintessential Vanillaware games provides a deeper appreciation for the developer’s journey and evolution. From the lush visual artistry of Odin Sphere to the intricate narrative of 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim, each game offers a distinct slice of Vanillaware’s creative genius.
Unicorn Overlord is coming to PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series, and Nintendo Switch on March 8, 2024.
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