Usagi Yojimbo comic book series gets an iOS adaptation

Usagi Yojimbo, the comic book series set in a Japanese Edo period run by anthropomorphic animals, is getting an iOS adaptation courtesy of Happy Giant Media.

The series, centered around a rabbit samurai wandering Japan as a bodyguard-for-hire, is being given a classic beat-em-up side-scroller makeover in the style of the old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games. Happy Giant CEO Michael Levine told Polygon that his biggest inspiration for Usagi Yojimbo was The Behemoth's Castle Crashers.

"We're working really closely with creator Stan Sakai," said Levine. "It's got a really epic story."

Levine said the game will feature over 80 different enemy types and 15 unique bosses, a jam-packed set of numbers for an iOS game. Usagi will pick up companions along the way, fighting both solo or with a partner. It will also feature interactive comic book-style cutscenes, as Happy Giant wanted to preserve the original graphic novel feel for the game.

"I've been a comic fan since I was a little kid," Levine said, adding it was his idea to create the game adaptation for Usagi. He approached Dark Horse Comics with his idea, and the publisher responded enthusiastically.

"My buddy turned me on to Usagi a few years ago and I was just blown away by the story. I love stories steeped in Japanese culture," Levine said.

"I tell people about this game who have never heard about it, they say, 'Oh a samurai rabbit, that's so cute!' It's actually not cute at all, it's the perfect idea for a game," Levine added. "As a storyteller, Sakai has been so consistently original with his stories. We've worked really close with him, and he approves everything, so it's faithful to the source material."

Combat is simple but fast-paced and engaging. Players hold their left finger on the touchscreen to move Usagi in either direction, and with their right tap circles on the bottom right to chain melee attacks. Each level requires slogging through anthropomorphic baddies to get to a final boss with ratcheted-up difficulty.

Cooperative play on an iPad is a bit difficult, so Happy Giant is working on online multiplayer options. Levine hopes to port the game to Steam in the future, with supported cross-platform play. The game will be cheap, "probably a dollar or free," says Levine, but there will be in-app purchases for special power-ups and costumes, and possibly evil combat companions.

"There won't be any more weapons, Usagi doesn't need 50 different guns," Levine said. "Usagi is all about the sword."

Happy Giant is aiming to release Usagi Yojimbo for iPhone and iPad around Christmas.

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