A Kick for Kickstarters: Anew Unholy Night

To say 2016 wasn’t a good year for video game crowdfunding campaigns would be a massive understatement, as if the year didn’t already have a dubious enough reputation. Data collected by Polygon from all crowdfunding sites (Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, Fig, and Gambitious) showed how overall funding was down by nearly 60 percent over 2015. While that can partly be pinned on how high-profile projects like Wasteland 3, Psychonauts 2, and System Shock were rarer in 2016 than in previous years, plenty among the gaming audience are still hesitant to pledge to campaigns thanks to others that didn’t turn out well. That especially goes for Mighty No. 9, which released in June last year. If you’re in that camp, keep in mind that most crowdfunding projects turn out well.

Not as many crowdfunding campaigns pop up these days, which explains why you haven’t seen anywhere near as many “A Kick for Kickstarters” posts, and those like it, in recent memory. But there are some smaller projects worth some attention.

Upon reading the concept for a title like Anew: The Distant Light, you might say “oh no, not another Metroidvania.” It’s a game in a platforming subgenre that’s been extremely popular with many indie developers, quite a few of which have crowdfunded their projects — including one by members of the development team responsible for the “vania” part. (That’s Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, by the way.) But it’s tough to pass by this one when it looks so pretty in motion, something developer Resonator is assuredly proud of with the number of screens and animated GIFs on the Kickstarter page. Its world is set light years away from Earth, so the developers were able to get creative with its locations, which should help make its concept feel fresher than it sounds.

The main character is a child who wakes up on a distant moon with limited resources, and has to fulfill an important mission that will be elaborated upon in the main game. The Kickstarter page provides some good previews of the locations the protagonist will explore, but take a look at the trailer to see how it will still have some serious platforming challenges despite its Metroidvania nature.

The developers are asking for $30,000 to complete Anew, and they’ve received $13,423 as of this writing with 28 days remaining. Its funding pace has slowed to a crawl, but the large funding boost crowdfunding campaigns typically receive in their final days should at least push it to its initial goal. No stretch goals are listed on the page, a hopeful sign that they’ve budgeted this properly enough that $30,000 is all they’ll need to finish the project. It will get funded, but hopefully they don’t run into any unfortunate development issues for both their sake and those who are pledging, even if they don’t make the planned July 2018 delivery timeframe.

While Anew’s concept was typical for a crowdfunding game, that doesn’t apply to Unholy Night: The Darkness Hunter from the Hong Kong-based Blazepro. This is a new 2D one-on-one fighting game for Super Nintendo (or Super Famicom in Japan) from a small development team whose staffers who worked on games in the Samurai Shodown and King of Fighters franchises. But this game doesn’t resemble either of those in its gameplay style, nor is it reminiscent of any of the most popular SNK fighters.

Its gameplay style is actually closer to other niche “anime” fighters like Arcana Heart and Under Night In-Birth, in how its systems are very combo and juggle-heavy. The name, logo, and some characters, however, strongly invoke Capcom’s dormant Darkstalkers franchise. In fact, its logo is a little too close, but that should be easy to change if Capcom has an issue with it. The game will only have six characters, and given the lack of stretch goals, they have no known plans to add more. It’s a small team of developers who want to work within their means, and given how difficult it is to balance fighting games so each character is on nearly equal footing, it’s understandable. Not to mention the spritework that’s required to animate all of them.

Unholy Night will only be released on an SNES cartridge, which is ostensibly risky given how typically difficult it is for gaming crowdfunding campaigns without PC versions to get funded. But it will be easy for this team to hit their initial goal of $52,500 due to the unsurprisingly high pledging costs, money they need to simply create the cartridges. Pledging $10 will only get you a third-party SNES controller that’s hopefully of good quality, but getting a SNES physical copy will require pledging $35; and it only takes an additional $5 to get the game with the controller. There’s also an option to get a gold SNES cartridge for $70. Each cartridge will come in a box with an instruction manual. The campaign is at $15,420 as of this writing with 25 days remaining, so it should make its goal. While they plan on adding screenshots to the page over time, they should also add more videos in addition to the 47-second preview.

If it’s funded, Blazepro plans on delivering the game between April and May of 2017, two to three months from now. It wouldn’t be a surprise if it slips, but it would be great if they reach their target.

It’s a tough time for crowdfunding right now, but there’s still room for some smaller projects to thrive alongside occasional larger projects like the still-ongoing Pillars of Eternity II. There will still be some failures, but here’s hoping most of these recent projects will be successful, and that skeptics will realize how successful they are.

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