A Kick for Kickstarters: Tiny Metal

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At this rate, it feels as if intriguing Kickstarters only pop up intermittently during the year now. I previously said the popularity of crowdfunding campaigns is currently in a lull, but the period has gone on for so long that I’m ready to call this the new normal. That’s why you haven’t seen as many “A Kick for Kickstarters” posts from me in the last few months, though I admittedly missed some low-key campaigns. This new phenomenon isn’t entirely a bad thing, though, since it makes the campaigns that do manifest all the more noticeable.

I’m featuring one of those in this post: Tiny Metal. This is a tactical turn-based game coming from a Tokyo-based developer known as Area 34, which has some intriguing concepts on board. But that’s not to say I don’t have some reservations about how it could potentially develop, and whether you should pledge.

Upon watching the pledge video on the Kickstarter page and separate combat video they uploaded, anyone familiar with Nintendo’s (late?) Advance Wars franchise will easily notice how this takes cues from it — perhaps a little too many. Players can use multiple types of units, ranging from infantry soldiers on foot, scout vehicles, tanks, and gunships, each of which can be upgraded. More units will be available in the final game, should it gets funded. The units can move along the field similar to many other strategy titles, and a special animation sequence will trigger when one attacks another. That sure sounds like AW, but you’ll see some differences between this game and those titles upon seeing it in action.

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In Tiny Metal’s story, a peace between two nations, Artemisia and Zipang, is ruptured when the king of the former is killed in a supposed attack. This escalates when Artemisia launches a counterattack against Zipang, with protagonist Nathan Gries among their ranks. Nathan has a personal stake in this battle, as his colonel Luja Lindberg was also presumably killed during that attack. He’ll also have to work with the White Fangs group during battle, which is led by a woman named Wolfram. Zipang, meanwhile, is led by a figure known as Lord Commander Tsukamoto Isoroku; from his sinister looks, it appears they’re not pretending to portray both sides as equally moral, unless this is intentionally deceptive.

Most of the staff working on this title isn’t well-known, even if you follow Japanese games. But a couple of names stand out. The biggest is Hiroki Kikuta, who’s contributed numerous gaming soundtracks over the years, including the SNES Secret of Mana titles, Koudelka, and Lab Zero Games’ upcoming Indivisible. Unfortunately, he’s only handling music supervision here, and is acting as a representative for the project. The story is being supervised by Hirotaka Inaba, who worked as a co-writer on Square Enix’s I Am Setsuna. This project won’t be funded on developer familiarity, since the biggest names don’t have much involvement, which shows why they needed to provide a good prototype.

Area 34 is asking for $50,000 to fund the project, and they’re at a little over $19,000 as of this writing with 23 days left in the campaign. It didn’t start off too badly, though it will only receive a slow drip of funding between the initial and final rushes at the beginning and end, unless other sites and popular YouTube channels give it some sudden promotion. They also have a stretch goal at $100,000, double their initial goal, to add multipurpose units and enhance the missions and environments. $50,000 sounds low for what they want to make, but it’s possible they have some outside funding given how they already have a prototype available.

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The low initial goal is only one of my concerns. The art style art style lacks cohesion, as the backgrounds, units, and special effects don’t clash too well. It’s possible they won’t be able to fix this with the goal they’ve set, so perhaps this is what they meant by their desire to enhance the effects with the $100,000 stretch goal. The game seems solid enough from the prototype, but the style is part of the reason why funding has been so slow. The other issue is the number of Japanese crowdfunding campaigns which have suffered setbacks in the last few months, enough to give potential pledgers hesitance. Between people still feeling burned about Project Phoenix, how Mighty No. 9 turned out, and Bloodstained’s lengthy delay (which is nowhere near as bad as the other examples, admittedly), news hasn’t been rosy for these types of projects lately.

I’m not saying there’s no chance of this particular game turning out well, especially if the developers do receive an ample amount of funding outside the Kickstarter. Just keep the reservations I listed above in mind before pledging, especially if you’re going into the higher tiers. Should everything turn out well, Area 34 hopes to deliver this in June 2017, though these release estimates are always tentative.

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