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Zodiac: Orcanon Odyssey

Kobojo's Collaborative Effort May Be The JRPG We All Want On Mobile
by Matt Miller on Sep 18, 2015 at 04:44 AM
Platform iOS
Publisher Kobojo
Developer CyDesignation/Kobojo
Release Fall 2015
Rating Rating Pending

Few titles at this year’s Tokyo Game Show managed to truly grab one’s attention. Several excellent games showed only minor new features, and a couple of announcements look intriguing. But on my personal wish list, no game came close to Zodiac: Orcanon Odyssey, a long-awaited Japanese-style RPG created by a French development studio called Kobojo.  While we’ve known about Zodiac for some time, this was my first time getting extensive hands-on, and I came away extremely excited to see how the final version shakes out, especially since the team is hoping to release on iOS in October, only a few weeks from now.

While a few excellent mobile JRPGs are exceptions to the rule, a large majority that I have played draw you in with beautiful art and promises of a compelling story, only to dash your hopes with the introduction of exploitative micro-transactions and tired storytelling. Not so with Zodiac, which is releasing as a premium-priced title, and then leaving you to play its lengthy story to completion without any additional pay walls. 

Kobojo tells me they’re still finalizing price, but to expect somewhere in the range of $10 or less for the initial release. That’s a lot for a mobile game, but the breathtaking art, unique game design, and a story that I’m told is a 10-hour critical path with much more exploration if desired, all aim to make the money worthwhile. I say initial release, because Kobojo has plans to release Zodiac in separate seasons, each with its own distinct story arc, but with characters and story continuity that carry over between installments. Subsequent entries will also cost money, but you can expect a similar size and scope to these later seasons. Eventually, Kobojo hopes to pull the discrete iOS releases together into a larger package that can be released on Vita, as well as potential other unannounced platforms. 

From a gameplay perspective, Zodiac draws heavily on familiar JRPG turn-based mechanics, but includes a smart touch-based interface and an extensive skills system. Players control the lead character, Cael, along with two NPC companions. If you have friends also playing the game, one of the NPCs can be the lead character from their game, providing you a chance to use the skills and abilities that your friend has built up over time. 

Cael develops powers across multiple classes, and you can change between these classes on the fly in the midst of battle. The initial game release includes four classes to level up, including the fighter, mage, alchemist, and sage. Each class has around 100 skills to master, including everything from elemental attacks (the game uses the familiar four element earth, water, air, fire dynamic) to taunts and debuffs, like in an MMO. Over the course of subsequent game installments, the class list will grow to around a dozen options. 

In between the turn-based fights, you’ll fly along through a side-scrolling world aboard your trusty griffin steed, who incidentally can also be summoned to fight in battle from time to time. The side-scrolling sections of the game evoke Vanillaware’s visually arresting style in games like Odin Sphere and Muramasa. 

Kobojo tells me that they’re aiming to emulate Japanese RPG storytelling style, but add a more adult perspective that should appeal more to western audiences, like Final Fantasy filtered through Game of Thrones. In my short demo time, it was impossible to gauge the truth of that statement, but I’m intrigued by the idea. 

Kobojo also took advantage of TGS to reveal that the art production for the game is being led by CyDesignation, Inc., the team headed up by acclaimed artist Hideo Minaba, famous for his art direction work on numerous Final Fantasy titles. Minaba joins the involvement of Final Fantasy writer Kazushige Nojima, along with Final Fantasy Tactics composer Hitoshi Sakimoto. 

The talent quotient connected to Zodiac is tremendous, but it remains to be seen if Kobojo is the team that can pull it all together to not just be visually and aurally arresting (pretty much guaranteed) but also a fun and engaging gameplay loop. My brief demo, which included some great battles and well written dialogue, has left me very hopeful. We won’t have long to wait to see if it all comes together. 

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Zodiac: Orcanon Odysseycover

Zodiac: Orcanon Odyssey

Release Date:
Fall 2015