What makes a game company good? Is it the quality of the games they put out? Is it how they treat their customers? Is it how frequent they can release solid entertaining video-games? I think it’s a mixture of all of these things, which is what makes Vanillaware a truly great company. Vanillaware is one of the few companies that manages to consistently put out good quality games at amazing prices.
Vanillaware’s catalog consists mostly of RPGs, action RPGs, and the occasional turn-based strategy game. While they haven’t put out as many games as Bioware, Bethesda, or Obsidian have, they’ve still managed to release a fair amount of solid and entertaining games. The first game of theirs I’ve played was Muramasa Rebirth. At that time, I was pumped about the upcoming release of Dragon’s Crown for Vita and PS3.
I was fairly impatient and wanted into indulge in this amazing game right away! Dragon’s Crown was billed as this spiritual sequel to the Dungeons & Dragons arcade games, albeit with far better graphics and more in-depth RPG elements. While impatiently waiting for the game to come out, I bought the remake of Vanillaware’s previous game: Muramasa Rebirth.
Muramasa Rebirth was a game that I would always pass by in the game store. To me, it looked like some generic Japanese game, one that was probably released to cash in on the anime craze that was still going strong at the time. Once I had the game on Vita, I realized how wrong I had been all this time! Muramasa was a beautifully crafted side-scrolling action RPG, one with a heavy emphasis on Japanese folklore.
The visuals were stunning, the world was gorgeous, the voice acting was amazing, and the combat was slick! The ability to choose from over 100 swords was astounding, especially since most of the swords had their own unique special attacks! Couple this with two separate story modes, each with their own series of alternate endings, and you have a game that’ll take you many hours to complete.
Muramasa did more than just whet my appetite, it made me even more hungry for Dragon’s Crown! A few months later, this game hits store shelves and I am pumped. Dragon’s Crown is one of the few games I’ve ever pre-ordered, and I’m glad I did! It not only came with the game, but also an art-book with some amazing hand-drawn pictures inside it.
The game’s developer, George Kamitami, put an amazing amount of work into how the game looked. It was gorgeous 2D graphics, which made both the game and the art-book look visually stunning. Heck, the cover of the art-book was even designed to resemble a Dungeons & Dragons rule-book! Everything about the presentation was stunning, more so than any other game released at the time.
Despite the rather provocative designs of certain characters within the game (such as The Sorceress), the game managed to be a really good action RPG game. Dragon’s Crown was a side-scrolling dungeon crawler, one that was put together really well. No joke, I’ve probably played Dragon’s Crown more than most of the games in my collection! I can’t even begin to tell you how many hours I’ve sunk into this amazing game, it ranks as one of my favorites.
Despite all the hours I’ve put into Dragon’s Crown, I still haven’t beaten everything in the game yet! There is also an updated re-release for this game coming out exclusively for PS4, which may lead to the game getting some more updates! Oh god, imagine if they extended the level cap above 255…
So yeah, Dragon’s Crown lived up to the hype, in my opinion. I played the game on and off over the course of a few years, patiently waiting for the next Vanillaware masterpiece to be released! Come 2016 and Vanillaware decides to remake another one of their games: Odin Sphere. Released almost a decade after the original game, Odin Sphere Leifthrasir proved to be a stunning remake of its source material!
Unlike Muramasa: Rebirth, the new Odin Sphere managed to be a remake that updated more than just visuals and sounds. New moves were added to the characters, as well as adding a modified leveling system, complete with up-gradable skills. That’s not including all the other features added, such as sub-bosses and the ability to dodge. The game had essentially been remade from the ground up into something wholly unique!
The remake also let you play the original version with updated visuals, which was a nice bonus. Vanillaware made a legitimate remake of a game, instead of just simply making the textures high-resolution. This is something that is rare in the current games market, where games are remade to look and sound slightly better, while adding nothing new to the experience.
After play through all of Odin Sphere for the very first time, the waiting game once again began for the next title. So far, I had played through three Vanillaware games, all of which were extremely well-made! I feel that I got what I paid for with all of these games, which isn’t something I can say about major game releases nowadays.
Vanillaware eventually announced their next title, which was titled “13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim”. The game is set to launch next year, and will feature gameplay centered around mecha combat. That’s right, this Vanillaware game will let you pilot a giant robot! Not much is known of this game yet, but it looks pretty badass!
While waiting for 13 Sentinels, I came across another game made by former Vanillaware employees. Despite this not technically being made by Vanillaware, it feels like the kind of game they would make! I’m talking about “Grand Kingdom”, which bares an almost identical art-style to most Vanillaware games.
The game was directed by the same guy behind “Grand Knights History”, a Japanese exclusive Vanillaware game. In Grand Kingdom, you make an army of soldiers out of your own custom created characters. You then send them out on missions, or explore the world in a boardgame-styled isometric view.
Grand Kingdom was something I recently discovered, and I’ve been playing it quite a bit lately. I’ve definitely enjoyed what little I’ve played of the game thus far! So, that’s my history with Vanillaware and its games thus far. With 13 Sentinels just around the horizon, I feel it’s time to go back and play through my entire Vanillaware library. I want to be prepared for when 13 Sentinels rocks my socks off, and the best way to do that is by going back and experience this company’s amazing games once more!