Skulls of the Shogun Review
East meets west and old school meets new in 17 Bit’s Skulls of the Shogun, a strategy game that channels the spirit of a bygone era in more ways than one. Can this rookie warrior dish out the damage, or has this battle already been lost?
Much like the strategy games of old on the Sega Genesis, Skulls of the Shogun has you controlling a set amount of units in the afterlife. Those familiar with Final Fantasy Tactics, Tactics Ogre, or any other title with “Tactics” in the title will know the drill here: control units, defend units, and lead your troops to victory. It’s a familiar formula, one that SRPGs will pick up before the first battle is even over. Those less adept at the ways of the turn-based warrior need not worry either; a helpful tutorial system breaks down every last mechanic into digestible chunks for easy learning.
However, unlike the aforementioned titles, skirmishes in Skulls of the Shogun do not play out in a grid-based system. Rather, a circular-based system helps to determine movement placement. This shift works as it should, though the screen can become downright cluttered with the absence of a rigid grid system to go off of. This is not much of a problem on the XBLA and PC versions, but mobile users best look twice before they attack.
Another interesting new feature in Skulls of the Shogun is the implementation of the skulls themselves. Besting warriors in battle allows you to eat their skulls for power. The more you eat, the more you power up. It’s a novel mechanic, but it adds a nice layer of strategy that essentially offers a temporary leveling system for your party. Other features like rice paddies and shrines that increase the strength of your army are also welcome additions, but are merely renamed features found in countless other SRPGs.
Battles in Skulls of the Shogun are not too complex to need a PhD, but they have enough depth to satisfy any weekend warrior. Little touches like the health meter on the warrior’s flags and the KnockBack feature that factor in the environment show that the developers put a lot of care into creating the world and mechanics.
The Flash-style artwork in Skulls of the Shogun is decent enough, but at times it could feel kind of cheap. Sure, the bright colors stand out, but at times the whole game feels like something straight out of Newgrounds or Kongregate. Then again, the game looks virtually the same on the 360 and PC as it does on mobile platforms, so it may very well have been designed for portables all along.
Skulls of the Shogun is a throwback, albeit a very nice one. It doesn’t revolutionize the SRPG genre, but at the same time it does not tarnish the genre either. Put simply, it’s a walk down memory lane for a console with more than 16-bits.
Skulls of the Shogun is a more accessible throwback to the SRPGs of yore