Social and mobile games are enjoying a strong presence at this year’s Tokyo Game Show, with social game giants GREE and gloops occupying some of the largest exhibit spaces in the venue.
But it’s not just Japanese companies throwing their weight around on the mobile floorspace: Korean online game developer WeMade Entertainment, known in Asia for their popular MMO series The Legend of Mir, is showing six new Japanese-language titles for iOS and Android devices to build anticipation for their full-scale entrance into the Japanese mobile game market later this year.
Bored of the repetitive tap-based social card games, I decided to spend some time with WeMade to see if the Korean developer was bringing anything new to the table.
Taking a quick walkthrough the six-station booth, I noticed that most of the titles were all simulation social games with a heavy emphasis on resource-management, similar to the system used in Farmville.
Most of the games also seemed to be aimed towards a young female audience, employing heavy use of adorable super-deformed characters and bright color schemes.
Only able to bear exposure to high levels of cute for short intervals, I allotted about 5 minutes each to the more cutesy games, running a kingdom filled with loyal animal inhabitants in PokePet Kingdom (Pet Island in English), building my own dream island in Lolipop★Island (Viking Island in English), enjoying the slow life on my European-style farm in Country Town, and managing my own café (complete with maid uniforms) in Café de Collection.
Each of these titles felt largely the same: build structures to generate resources, complete “quests” for rewards, expand and customize. The artwork was charming, with each sprite and structure featuring an impressive level of detail, and the games seem like they would be an enjoyable way to kill time if that’s your cup of tea, but it didn’t seem like there was anything that hasn’t been done before.
There were, however, two games that I ended up playing for the whole 15-minute duration of the demo: the Farmville-meets-Final Fantasy RPG/life sim Hero Square and Arc Sphere, a mobile MMORPG unveiled during a press event the day before Tokyo Game Show.
In Hero Square, players develop a kingdom on a small island in the sky, growing crops and building new structures. It sounds like another Farmville clone at first, but resources and revenue are used to train and equip the island’s inhabitants for some good-‘ol-fashioned RPG adventuring.
The RPG part of the game was very simple and straightforward. After training four island residents into a stereotypical team of warrior, mage, healer and archer, I led them off the safety of our island and into the first forest-themed dungeon. Monsters roam around on the dungeon map but bump into them and your heroes are taken to an isometric field. Battles use an ATB system and while you can change the team’s placement on the map, there wasn’t very much strategy involved.
Of course, this was just the first dungeon and WeMade representatives told me that battles become more strategic as you advance and unlock new skills and classes. Furthermore, it seems that you can lead your party of heroes to war with friends for control over neutral lands to establish colonies, which yield resources and everlasting glory for your island.
The MMORPG, Ark Sphere, takes itself much more seriously than the other titles, ditching the cutesy art style and simulation elements. The controls were fairly intuitive, with spells and skills activated by pressing buttons along the bottom of the screen and drawing slashes or circles around your character. Mastering the dodge move was a little difficult, however, and while the demo I played was on a tablet, I imagine it would be even more difficult to control on a smartphone.
The gameplay felt like a typical tap-controlled overhead adventure RPG, but WeMade claims confidence that Ark Sphere will “open a new page in mobile gaming,” so perhaps I just didn’t have enough time to really get into it.
Overall, every game in the lineup felt extremely polished and while many of the gameplay elements are the same, the thematic variety between the titles suggests WeMade is hoping to offer something for everyone. The games will be free-to-play in Japan, and while there will be plenty of options for in-game transactions, WeMade promises that it won’t impose excessive restrictions on players who don’t spend extra money.
The on-site representative I spoke with said they are planning on releasing English-versions of all six games in the near future, so be sure to keep an eye out if any of the above titles caught your interest; while not all of WeMade’s games might not knock you off your feet with originality, they’re sure to please you with quality.
Photos: RocketNews24, WeMade Entertainment
■Cafe de Collection