By Madeline Ricchiuto
French game design company Kobojo has teamed up with some key Final Fantasy developers to give us the first JRPG designed by a non-Japanese company. That game is called Zodiac: Orcanon Odyssey. While most of the creative team has remained a secret, Final Fantasy 7 and Final Fantasy 10 writer Kazushige Nojima and Final Fantasy Tactics composer Hitoshi Sakimoto have been confirmed. Kobojo CEO Mario Rizzo was content to drop hints that many of the other minds behind Zodiac are FF alums, but was mum on the details as to whom. The goal with Zodiac is to make it a successful JRPG in the Japanese market, which is a pretty lofty goal for a French developer.
For those who played FFXII, Zodiac takes its character inspiration from the job titles in that Final Fantasy installment and the FF comparisons are practically inescapable. Its a JRPG with a similarly intricate art style, the logo looks like it was ripped off a Final Fantasy cover, and the gameplay is based around turn-based party combat.
Zodiac is a 2D hand-drawn game powered by and developed in Unity, though the 18 artists working on the game had to reconstruct many of Unity's tools in order to animate the hand-drawn cutscenes and make the 2D gaming experience flow properly. "Unity loves us," Rizzo gushed.
Story wise, you play as an adventurer (you can choose your own class) from the world of Orcanon who is accompanied by a string of unlock-able NPCs or friends in an attempt to set things in your world right again after a clash between gods has awoken some ancient evils. Its a pretty standard RPG plot.
Zodiac is a cross platform game, it'll release on mobile (iOS and android), PS4, and PS Vita so is optimized for small screens and people who haven't played RPGs before. That kind of mindset seems a bit "Baby's First RPG" to me, but I tend to be cynical by reflex.
The cool thing about this title, however, is that it allows you to join up with friends to play in real time like an MMO, even though most of the game is a standard single player RPG. Well, as standard as any game can be where you primarily get around by flying on the back of a griffon. Who can assist you in combat and who you craft gear for.
Full disclosure: I really like the griffon. He hangs out during the combat sequences behind your party waiting to power up, but looks so incredibly blasé about it. He really speaks to me as a character.
The biggest challenge Zodiac will face is getting out of Final Fantasy's shadow. So much of Zodiac looks and feels like it could be the latest mobile installment of the FF franchise that the game may suffer for it. The character designs and 2D animation for the opening sequence and cut scenes are where you get a break from the FF callbacks. The character designs are rather unique though the animation feels a bit more like something you'd see in a Studio Ghibli film. What I really want is for Zodiac to come into its own a bit more because it is so promising at first glance.
Zodiac is due to launch later this year, and it will be Free-to-Play.