Chinese developer NEXT Studio walked away from IndieCade 2018 with the Innovation in Aesthetics Design award for their rhythm game Nishan Shaman, which told the story of a shaman and her journey to save the souls of children from the underworld.
But the award-winning developer also showcased other games at the festival, including more combat-oriented ones such as a fighter with an exclusively robotic roster, and hack-and-slash action with a princess.
Set on a long table laid out with a row of other games NEXT Studio was demonstrating, there was the 2D side-scroller Bladed Fury, which people took turns to play.
People took on the role of a warrior princess in a dark, moody setting that depicted ancient China. Action immediately started, with the princess cutting through an onslaught of attacking foes with her sword.
This continued into the demo’s climax, where the princess confronted her first boss fight. She triumphed—only to realize that the beast she slayed had somehow been her father transformed.
With everyone rushing to blame her for the death of their ruler, the princess took flight, trying to escape, and evading a hail of arrows along the way.
“The main story is coming from real Chinese history,” said Tony Zhang, marketing manager for NEXT Studio. “[The development team] really liked Chinese history, and looked for stories to turn into a game.”
According to the game’s website, Bladed Fury takes place during the Warring States period in China, told through a mythical lens.
“You can see the art is really unique,” Zhang said. “The art comes first.”
With frenetic combat, character design, and background art depicted in stylized 2D graphics, and a side-scroller format that played out like a beat ‘em up, Bladed Fury felt delightfully reminiscent of games by developer Vanillaware, like Dragon’s Crown , Odin Sphere, and Muramasa: The Demon Blade.
According to Zhang, Bladed Fury is scheduled for a Steam release in December, and then the team plans for other platforms, like PS4 and Xbox One. He added that there’s the possibility for a Nintendo Switch release too.
A couple stations down NEXT Studio’s demo row was the fighter Metal Revolution, where two players faced off against each other.
They chose different robots to duel, with many of them apparently representing individual fighting disciplines based on how they looked and attacked, and what they were called.
There were robotic fighters with names like Taekwondo, Kendo, and Thai. In what felt like a break in pattern for even more variety, there were other robots with names like Chameleon.
According to Yu Xia, game developer from NEXT Studio, robots became the focus because of their appeal factor.
“We think that robots combined with fighting is amazing,” Xia said.
Xia explained that the Metal Revolution team wanted to make fighting games more accessible and more popular.
“Our team are fighting game fans. But a lot of fighting games—not a lot of average people like them,” Xia said. “Few people accept these games.”
Xia added that they have worked on controls to help with accessibility.
“You can only use two buttons for any attacks you want,” Xia said. “And the controls are easier.”
According to the game’s Discord, Metal Revolution will still provide for higher level competitive play by maintaining balance and depth.
With the way the demo played, the fights were vigorous, fast, and always eye-catching, especially because of the interesting and vibrant robot designs.
Metal Revolution felt like a spiritual successor to Rising Thunder—another indie fighter featuring robotic characters and with a goal for more accessible controls. Other than that, hopefully it won’t share the same fate as Rising Thunder, which was cut short without an official release. (But the original developers did share the final playable build of the game online.)
According to Xia, Metal Revolution is scheduled for an approximate 2019 release, and is planned for Steam, PS4, and the iPhone.
From Nishan Shaman to the likes of Bladed Fury and Metal Revolution, NEXT Studio demonstrates variety in their games. And the Chinese developer has had an eventful October beyond IndieCade, also showcasing their different games at the Poznan Game Arena in Poland and Game Connection in Paris.
And at Game Connection, they won again. NEXT Studio’s Iris.Fall and Death Coming earned awards for “Best Quality of Art” and “Best Mobile” respectively.