Zodiac Preview

Some of you may have heard of the new Japanese RPG Zodiac, It was first revealed at the Tokyo Games Show back in 2014. It is being developed by a company called Kobojo. Their headquarters are in Paris, France, but they have now opened up a new studio in Dundee, Scotland. Kobojo was formed back in 2008 and develop both Facebook games and mobile games. Kobojo is led by CEO Mario Rizzo who is a veteran game designer, producer and director, bringing considerable development experience to help make Zodiac a reality. The studio director for Dundee is Chris Stamp, with a history of working for companies like DMA Design and Realtime worlds. I was recently invited to visit their studio in Dundee and met up with the heads of the company and lead developers to find out more about Zodiac and what more we can expect from it.

The game Lead Designer for Zodiac is Bruno Patatas who is bringing his game design and writing experience to the table to help create the world of Zodiac. Zodiac has been developed in Unity, a package that Kobojo says suits all their needs to help bring their game to life. At first it will be released on iOS and the PlayStation Vita as a Free-to-Play game. We may see it on Steam at a later time as Kobojo says this will be pretty easy to do. When I first heard of Zodiac, I really did not know too much about it. Very little has been given away until now. My first thoughts were this will be just another mobile game that tries to be like Final Fantasy and will be pretty bad. I can now safely say that those worries have been put to rest. I am very excited about getting my hands on a final release of Zodiac. I have always been a fan of RPGS and I do like my Japanese RPGS as well. I grew up with games like Final Fantasy and have found memories of playing it was back in 1987 on the NES. I have looked for other games like it for years, but sadly I have almost always been left disappointed. This time round though, I think I may have a winner. Zodiac is trying to be different to all those other RPG’s out there. It has a number of features. These include hand drawn art, a strong story line, persistent multiplayer, turn based gameplay, multiplatform gameplay, AAA quality and a strong battle system.

Zodiac Preview Screen 3
So let’s try to explain a bit more about the actual game itself, I will try and let you know as much as we have been told so far about it. I got my hands on an early alpha build of the game. This gave me what I felt was enough to show of Zodiac. Zodiacs story and scenario is based on the 12 signs of the Zodiac. The scenario for Zodiac is written by Kazushige Nojima. Kobojo have decided to make the story line have adult characters, rather than the teenagers that we tend to find in games like Final Fantasy. Which I feel is a good thing, as it may bring a more adult theme to the table. The music in the game is very noticeable and is pretty breath-taking on its own. The music has been composed by the Japanese video game composer Hitoshi Sakimoto. He is a huge name in the games industry and has composed sound tracks for the game’s Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy XII among others. He is certainly a big name to have against Zodiac. Bruno Patatas explained to me that the game doesn’t have any spoken narrative as he decided it best suits this type of game and I somewhat agree with him on this. The game sounds are done by Masaaki Kaneko. Again this is someone with a good history of game credits. Kobojo have certainly grabbed some impressive people to work on their game.

As I have already mention all the art in the game is hand drawn in a 2D style; it looks absolutely beautiful. I cannot explain how sexy this game looks. The characters all have amazing detail and the levels all look bright colourful and vibrant. This is something that seemed to blow everyone away. The artists are certainly very talented. The look of the game is something I would certainly expect from a large game studio, but not what I expected from a small developer like Kobojo. As was playing on an early alpha build of the game on the IPad, there were still many assets that have not been implemented and it took some time to work out the controls. The battles in the game were impressive and I do like the choice of using turn-based gameplay. Bruno Patatas mentioned he chose to use this over real-time as it suited the mobile platform better. I strongly agree with his decision as mobile gaming is meant to be more relaxed. The battles were good and you come across them pretty often. There are a lot of different attacks to be had and it all seemed pretty enjoyable. The only thing I would say at the moment are the battles do seem to take a bit too long. Each battle could take as long as five minutes. As I have said battles are pretty regular and I feel that a time of around two minutes would suit it a bit better. Leaving the longer battle times for the Boss fights.

Zodiac Preview Screen 4
As I have mentioned Zodiac is going to be a Free-to-Play game. This often sends shivers down people’s spines as they think that it’s going to be expensive to play. This is not the case with Zodiac though. I have been assured that playing through Zodiac as a Single Player for free will take you around 10 – 12 hours. Where the monetization comes in is if you are a completionist and want to find all the hidden extras and really complete the game. This is where you will need to spend some money. This means that potentially you can have a fun game and not spend a penny. Zodiacs future will be full of DLC and Kobojo have said they are expecting a 7 year life cycle for the game. So we can expect lots of cool things to come our way. The release date for Zodiac could not be confirmed yet, but we have been told it will be this year. I am guessing it to be near the final quarter of the year.

There is a multiplayer aspect to the game where you can share gold etc, that you collect along the way with each other and you can even share characters as far as I could see. I didn’t really get to test the multiplayer side, but I will update you on this when I know more. There is a lot more I could ramble on about for Zodiac, but I feel I have mentioned all the main points so I won’t bore you. To finish of I have to mention again, I am very excited for Zodiac. I am not the biggest fan of mobile gaming a there are so many bad games out there, but from what I have learnt and played so far, I expect Zodiac to be a winner. I can’t wait!!

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation Vita code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@brashgames.co.uk.

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