'Picotto Knights' is like a free-to-play 'Castle Crashers'

Slice and dice with a few friends on this Vita hacker and slasher.

There are plenty of games that have been released on the Japanese PlayStation Store that will never make it to western markets. I'm hoping Picotto Knights is not one of those games.

Released in Japan on September 20, Picotto Knights is a Vita-exclusive beat-em-up RPG. The gameplay recalls games like Castle Crashers, with bands of heroes marching from left to right through a series of sidescrolling levels. The big difference between Knights and Crashers, though, is the price tag. Picotto Knights is free to download and play.

In Japan, free-to-play games have practically become the norm, and Picotto Knights utilizes all of the standard free-to-play tactics. While the game can be played for free, upgrading your inventory will cost you. The game has two forms of currency: Gems and coins. Coins are earned just by going on standard missions, killing monsters, that sort of thing. Gems, it seems, will require real-world cash. It's difficult to say whether there's any way for gems to be earned through in-game play, but if there is, it's undoubtedly much slower than just handing over a bunch of yen for a pile of them.

What you can buy with gems and coins is surprisingly varied. There is a ton of character customization in Picotto Knights. Primary weapons range from swords and shields to polearms and crossbows. There are also sub-items like rings that offer your character stat boosts. The level of visual customization is probably the most striking, as characters can look incredibly unique from one another.

While it's far from an earth-shattering game, Picotto Knights is the sort of quick, easily-digestible hack and slash that works great on the Vita. Right now there really aren't any titles like it in the west, and it'd be interesting to see whether the free-to-play model could work worldwide. No official announcements have been made about a release of the game outside of Japan, but there was a trademark filing for the name in the US, so we can certainly dream.

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