JRPGs, Japanese role-playing games, have a dear place in my heart. Games like Final Fantasy and Pokemon sucked me in from an early age and have never let go. To this day, JRPG series like Fire Emblem or Persona have a large player base pouring hundreds of hours into each new installment of the series.
However, a new genre or medium of gaming that is slowly taking up more and more of the market is virtual reality. Luckily for me, the Kickstarter-funded Sword Reverie is a marriage between VR and JRPGs, giving us the best of both worlds.
Illustrating the demand for such a game, the project managed to raise nearly 200% of its funding goal within 72 hours!
Naturally, I couldn't resist messaging the creators and checking it out for myself.
Sword reverie is an action JRPG in virtual reality, set to come out on PCVR and possibly the Oculus Quest and PSVR.
The game uses hand-drawn graphics to create an anime art style and bring life to the amazing world Isekai Entertainment has created.
Frank Zhang, Founder of Isekai Entertainment, describes Sword Reverie as, "A single player JRPG inspired VR action game [where] players use body motions to launch unique abilities and fight off hordes of enemies by taking advantage of different elements."
The game is still very much in its early stages, but the demo the company sent me to try showed some very promising signs.
The game is set in a fantasy world filled with medieval combat, elemental magic, and enemy monsters/creatures known as elementals.
"In Sword Reverie," Zhang says. "The player will take on the role of an anime-like protagonist to stop the incoming invasion of elementals and help Stella uncover the truth behind her parent’s tragic death."
While there wasn't much more of the story shown off in the demo, the game is definitely off to a great start. I hope to see a deeper narrative develop, as one of my main issues with VR games is the lack of a story that truly helps players become immersed.
Here is an excerpt from the Sword Reverie website to give you a feel of what they have so far in terms of story and setting:
After thousands of years of peace, tensions between Humans and Elementals continue to escalate. Catastrophic war with the Elemental lords is imminent. When the previous Guardian died by the hands of the Elementals, Magnus vowed to carry on the role of the Guardian and put a stop to the threat of the Elementals once and for all. The Guardian Magnus summons you, a “Hero”, from a faraway land to save his people.
Joining you on your adventure is Stella, the daughter of the last Guardian. Her father, the last Guardian, was murdered by one of the Elemental Lords under mysterious circumstances and her mother perished alongside him. Adopted and raised by Magnus, Stella has spent her life training with a bow and arrow to avenge her parents’ deaths and to make sure no other child needs to suffer her fate.
As the Hero, will you rise up to the challenge and free the world from the tyranny of the Elementals?
The game features fully voiced characters, and (relative to other VR games) has large open maps to explore.
Within the game, players wield two swords which they use to parry enemy attacks and launch strikes of their own.
The enemies in the game each belong to a certain element: fire, water, grass/earth, and lightning. Players can switch the elemental property of their swords at any time to match enemy weaknesses.
In addition to traditional melee combat, the player learns special abilities such as ranged blast attacks and 360 bursts. These abilities allow the player to target enemies at a distance or deal with multiple enemies surrounding the player from all sides.
When asked about the inspirations for the gameplay mechanics, Zhang said, "We wanted to build a combat system that takes advantage of VR, but also has over the top abilities like in JRPG games."
"We referenced a lot of VR action games such as Gorn, Blade and Sorcery, and Until You Fall for their melee combat. For the different elements and abilities, we referenced games such as Final Fantasy 7 and Ni No Kuni 2. "
In my opinion, after playing dozens of games and pouring countless hours into VR, too many games focus too much on realism and not enough on creating a fun experience.
Do I really care that a sword in real life is heavy and thus can't be swung as quickly as I swing an Oculus Quest controller? Do I really care that in real life I'd be fatigued if I ran 400 meters? Of course not. And when I have a heavy headset on my face, I don't want to stand still to wait for my character to catch his breath.
What I care about is having a fun experience.
If we wanted pure reality in terms of sword combat, we'd join a Kendo class.
Sword Reverie doesn't get bogged up on creating a realistic experience. It focusses on creating exciting and empowering gameplay.
The game knows what it is and plays to its strengths. It's an isekai story where the protagonist has magical powers.
For fans of isekai anime like Sword Art Online, Sword Reverie gives you the fantasy of being the character transported to another world and the only one who can save it.
Sword Reverie Playtime
Sword Reverie will have 2 hours+ gameplay for Early Access and ~10 hours when the game is complete.
When asked why they decided to take the plunge and bring the JRPG genre to life in VR, Zhang had much to say.
"We at Isekai Entertainment are all huge weebs," says Zhang. "And we love JRPG games and other anime-style games such as Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest."
"Most of the current anime-style VR games either lack gameplay elements or are in the music game genre. It's only natural that we wanted to bring our favorite genre of games to VR."
"VR is the perfect medium for exploring fantasy worlds, and I’m sure many anime fans can’t wait for the day they can be like Kirito from Sword Art Online and use VR to live out their fantasy."
"One of the things we love about JRPGs are the large explorable maps. However, creating large explorable maps is a lot of work," says Zhang.
"To add to the challenge, VR games need to run smoothly with minimal frame rate drops. This is very challenging when you have a large map filled with lush vegetation and complex buildings to render. We needed to find ways to solve all these technical challenges and build a lot of map content with a very small indie team."
With the early success of games like Arcaxer and the potential Sword Reverie has shown, I sure hope so.
Nothing would excite me more than seeing a full-fledged Final Fantasy title in VR. With Half-Life Alyx, triple-A studio Valve set the bar for redesigning a triple-A franchise for VR. I hope that larger JRPG studios can bring themselves to do the same.
Zhang also had a similar opinion. "JRPGs are one of the top genres on Steam, and with the huge global success of anime-style games such as Genshin Impact, it is only natural that other developers will look into ways to bring this genre to VR," says Zhang.
"I think as the VR market matures and more anime fans buy a VR headset, it will attract more Chinese and Japanese developers to launch VR games in their franchises."
The game will launch in Early Access for PC VR (SteamVR and Oculus Rift) later this year (Late 2021) with the full launch expected in 2022.
The team is still looking into bringing the game to Quest and PSVR, and has not confirmed a release date for either platform.
In the meantime, you can check out Sword Reverie and stay up to date with the game's progress on the official website: https://swordreverie.com/
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