With art reminiscent of a children’s picture book or bandes dessineés (Franco-Belgian comics), Soup Raiders follows an anthropomorphic animal cast that sails a sea of soup. Armed with an imaginative premise, this quirky tactical RPG is the brainchild of Switzerland-based Team KwaKwa. According to Elias Farhan, game designer and co-founder of Team KwaKwa, the game is in pre-production for a Nintendo Switch release.
Soup Raiders was part of the SwissGames pavilion at this year’s GDC in San Francisco, where it had a demo available to the public. It stood alongside other Swiss titles like Morphies Law and Letters – a written adventure.
Tracking a Journey
Soup Raiders isn’t the first game in this unique world. Farhan discussed the previous titles that ended up paving the path for today’s pre-production on the tactical RPG.
Black Whiskers, a hack-n-slash title, was the first game that would lead to the world of Soup Raiders. According to Farhan’s portfolio, it was made for GBJam 4 in 2015.
The next title was Soup Raiders: Jailbreak. According to the game’s itch.io page, it was “a standalone Game Boy homebrew rom, set in the Soup Raiders universe.” Farhan said it’s able to work on any Game Boy emulator.
At GDC, Farhan had a copy of Jailbreak on hand, and let me try it out. The game starts with Black Whiskers and White Fur trapped in a cell, and follows their escape.
Jailbreak was a short burst of fun, able to be finished in a very timely manner, making it perfect for a busy conference. The feel of the game and its pixel minimalism was also a fond nostalgia trip for me, and I enjoyed the anthropomorphic animal characters.
It wasn’t surprising when Farhan told me that Jailbreak won the “Game Boy Feel” category of GBJam 5.
Farhan explained that developing Jailbreak was difficult, constrained by various limitations. He added that it took 10 days to make.
But the Game Jam win wasn’t the only thing that made the effort pay off. Farhan said that Jailbreak truly established the world of Soup Raiders.
Sailing on Soup Together
All these previous games are eclipsed by the current pre-production on Soup Raiders, a larger project devoted to creating a tactical RPG for commercial release.
Part of the larger scope of the project appears to stem from the focus on teamwork and an ensemble cast, which consists of Krokoss, White Fur, and Black Whiskers.
“Krokoss is more chill. He’s the oldest on the team,” Farhan said. “Sort of the wisest, but not the most intelligent.” (According to the Game Jolt page for Black Whiskers, Krokoss also appears in the first Soup Raiders-related game.)
In contrast, Farhan said that White Fur (also known as Elizabeth Harrington) is more educated due to her bourgeoisie background and wealth, but she can go overboard with it. According to Farhan, her high class also plays a role in her backstory, and why she has infiltrated the world of pirates.
Black Whiskers goes by another name too, one that seems to fit his diminutive stature more—it’s “Peanut” according to Farhan. Other times, he’s just “Captain.” Farhan describes Black Whiskers as pretty naive and impulsive depending on the situation.
Farhan shared that the title change from Black Whiskers to Soup Raiders reflects the new game’s team aspect more. “It’s about the team, not just the main character,” he said.
A Hand-Drawn Feel
For the look of Soup Raiders, Farhan collaborates with artist Alexis Simonetta. They had previously created Jailbreak together, handling different tasks. Farhan had worked on programming, while Simonetta drew the pixel art and composed the music for the Game Boy rom.
Farhan said that while the Soup Raiders demo at GDC was digitally hand-drawn, Simonetta wants to traditionally draw the game as much as possible, taking inspiration from the look of Disney’s animated feature, The Aristocats.
“I would love to do as much as possible hand-drawn,” Simonetta said.
While Simonetta is handling the art for Soup Raiders like he had done for Jailbreak, he’s not composing the music this time. According to Farhan, famed Donkey Kong Country composer David Wise is developing the score for Soup Raiders.
Humor and Memorable Gameplay
According to Farhan, Soup Raiders is also inspired by Into the Breach and Fire Emblem. “More of general moods that we are taking from these games,” he said.
Farhan added that the team is not sticking to one system since they want memorable battles. He said that the game may be shorter, but it’ll be memorable.
“Important for every fight to have something funny,” Farhan said. For example, in the GDC demo, there is an enemy that will abruptly and comically blow up after taking just one hit.
The demo also showcased its humor when it broke the fourth wall. For instance, the characters are impatient to sail to San Francisco for GDC. There’s another moment where an anthropomorphic insect tells Black Whiskers that they may not be the only bug they’ll encounter in the demo. Characters even point out the white bars for initiative over their heads during combat, acknowledging the iconography of the game’s user interface.
Will the final release of Soup Raiders maintain that meta humor?
“It depends,” Farhan said. “We are not limiting ourselves in terms of the fourth wall.”
But Farhan added that they don’t expect to do it a lot. However, he shared that with the focus on development for the Nintendo Switch, they might do some jokes about motion control.