Comiket, or the Comic Market, is a twice yearly gathering of Japan’s independent creators. It is essentially the hub of the Doujinshi and Doujin Soft scene.
The Doujin Soft scene is comparable to the western indie game scene, however, with a slightly different attitude. The Doujin creators are more isolated than typical indie developers, with a focus on game development being a hobby rather than a potential career of means of income. This is not to say that the western indie scene is solely focused on profit, but Japan’s Doujin scene emphasizes the hobbyist identity more so than the West. As the recent documentary, Branching Paths, points out, most Japanese developers are just getting used to the idea that independent game creation can pay the bills. The resistance to being part of a Triple A production team is the desire to make games exactly they way they want to without having to worry about the market potential of a concept. Game creation done for the love and as a means of artistic expression. This is why a lot of Doujin games are derivative of other, past titles and evoke a retro aesthetic.
The concept of isolation is apparent in the name itself; Dou means same and Jin means people. Games are mostly circulated amongst fans and other creators, preferably in face to face interactions at the Comic Market, or other Doujin shops in Japan. A scant few releases are translated for western audiences, even though companies like Active Gaming Media and Sekai Project are starting to make such games more widely available. The best place to actually purchase most of these games is at Comiket. Before the convention proper, a trailer is released featuring all the games available to buy. Doujin developer, Edelweiss, uploads the trailer to his youtube channel every Comiket.
Below is the trailer as well as a short list of some of the trailers that caught my interest; there were a lot of interesting looking games, so I only cover a few here. Some of these games will probably on their way to Steam in the near future thanks to AGM and Sekai Project.
First on my list is a game developed by Edelweiss itself. From the trailer we can it’s a side scrolling platformer, with some farming themed mini-games mixed in. What stuck out most, to me, was the complex combos. Enemies can be juggled with several blows, and then plucked right out of the air for even more continuous attacks.
Edelweiss’s most well known effort, Astebreed, is available for Playstation 4, so hopefully we’ll see Sakuna in the West sometime soon.
Astro Maiden Arostle
Toraiki’s Astro Maiden Arostle is a turn based RPG with a really cool art style. The sprites looks big and detailed and the battle area is grid based. It looks like an SRPG on a smaller, more intimate scale. In between battles, we see some cool hand drawn cutscenes. In typical Doujin game fashion, it looks like all the main characters are females.
Toraiki’s other game 99 Spirits received a Steam release, so it’ll be awesome if Astro Maiden Arostle gets a fully translated release as well.
Rasetsu is an action RPG developed by exeCUTE. It looks to be fast paced, fun and, most importantly, cute. The trailer features a variety of moves that can be used by the main character. The gameplay seems to take place in cave and forest environments. The entire game utilizes a Feudal Japanese theme. I also noticed that some of enemies shoot bullet hell type projectiles, which makes the action even more fast paced and frantic. This looks like a good game that will find a lot of fans among classic action RPG enthusiasts.
Picorinne Soft’s old school shooter game, Battle Crust, was released on Steam in February of 2016. Battle Crust channeled the top down arcade shooters of the 1980s and 90s. Infinos attempts to do so as well, but as a side scrolling shooter. It pays tribute to Konami’s Gradius series, which the other Infinos games have done as well. All of Picorinne Soft’s games have been fun and incredibly polished and Infinos Gaiden looks to be no different.
On a side note, Infinos, Infinos 0 and Infinos extra stage are completely free to play. You can download the games from the developer’s web site.
魔法少女は匣になった (Roughly Translated to “Magical Girl Became Napishtim”)
This is an interesting bullet hell shooter from Doujin Circle, Paranoid notes. Instead of a spaceship or a girl, you take direct control of geometric shapes. In the background, realistic scenery breezes by. Even though the cover and website features the magical girl in question, the actual game features a collection of 3D rendered shapes and the main character and the enemies.
There were a lot of trailers in this Winter’s Comiket trailer, but these were a few that stood out to me. I highly suggest watching the entire Comiket 91 collection.