Space Channel 5 developer Tak Hirai uses his new studio to mix music and real-time strategy.
Game developer Tak Hirai is no stranger to mixing videogames and music. Once known primarily for his work on Shenmue, Hirai went on to help create such beat-heavy classics as Space Channel 5 and Meteos. Now Hirai runs his own studio, Neilo, and is preparing to release its first Vita game, that difficult-to-describe Orgarhythm.
In their efforts to give me a quick pitch of what Orgarhythm is, representatives from Xseed describe it as "Pikmin meets Patapon meets World of Warcraft." So what does that mean in practice? At first glance, Orgarhythm looks like a straight-forward real-time strategy game, albeit one with an exotic soundtrack.
You control a hero by tapping where you want him to go on the screen. The hero is surrounded by small mobs of supporting troops broken up into three elemental categories: earth, fire and water. If you look closely, you'll realize that the soldiers aren't just following the hero; they're dancing alongside him.
While you can tap out orders at any time by opening a menu and selecting which element you want to send forward, you'll be much more successful if you carefully tap out orders to the beat of the music. Tapping in time will increase your current level, which will in turn increase the number and power of the units at your disposal.
Choosing which units to use breaks down into a simple rock-paper-scissors formula. However, the game will increasingly mix up the variety of enemies you're confronted with, including switching up enemy placement on subsequent playthroughs of a level to encourage replayability. The hero will also power up and learn new skills after successful runs, giving you plenty of lasting progression to strive for.
The base release of Orgarhythm will come with 12 levels, each with one unique song for the main stretch and a second track for the boss fight at the end. Neilo and Xseed are hoping to reach out to indie musicians to provide free DLC levels in the future.
My short time with Orgarhythm left me confused, bewildered and heck, even a little delighted. It's a bizarre project but one that seems to successfully use the rhythm-game-tucked-inside-another-genre formula that made Patapon so addictive. If that sounds like something you want to get in on, look for Orgarhythm to arrive on the PlayStation Vita this summer.