PAX West 2018: Nicalis

Monday, September 3rd, 2018

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One of my favorite traditions at any PAX West is stopping by to catch up with Nicalis. They have such a great pedigree of quality indie titles, ranging from The Binding of Isaac to Cave Story to 1001 Spikes. You never know what to expect from the publisher, and that’s part of the reason I am so fond of them. This year was no exception, as I got a chance to play 4 games, one just released and 3 upcoming titles. Let’s start with the one out now, none other than Blade Strangers.

Blade Strangers | logo

Blade Strangers had my attention when it was first announced, as a sort of unique mashup, the likes that have only been seen in crazy games like Smash Bros. Having said that, there’s a style that is completely unique to Blade Strangers, and that goes double for the visual style. Studio Saizensen has done incredible work making each character bursting with personality, and did especially great work bringing over characters from other titles, such as Isaac, Shovel Knight and Gunvolt. I never expected any of those in a fighting game, yet somehow they work.

Blade Strangers | Shovel Knight

As for the combat itself, it’s easy to pick up but very hard to master. There’s a bunch of specials each character can use, simple moves to chain into combos and flashy super moves. While I did pick it up pretty quickly, I got my butt handed to me even quicker by someone with more experience with the game than myself. That said, I enjoyed the demo even though I was losing, and I feel that by spending a few hours practicing in the tutorial, I would get the hang of things pretty well.

Blade Strangers | Featured Image

Best of all, Blade Strangers is packed full of content, and has a robust story mode as well as challenges and versus to try out. If you love fighting games but don’t want to deal with a high threshold of entry, then this might just be the game for you. It’s out right now on Steam, PS4, Switch and XBox One. If you’re still not convinced though, stay tuned for our upcoming review of the game.

Nicalis Mr Tako | City

Next up is a game that really appealed to my love of classic gaming, Save me Mr Tako! Illustrated in a style that brings back fond memories of the Game Boy, Save me Mr Tako! is an adventure game with tons of heart. The world of humans is at war with octopi, and this lone octopus must save the day. First though, he saves a woman from drowning, and as a result, is granted the ability to survive on land by an octopus fairy (nope, you didn’t misread that).

Nicalis Mr Tako | Octopus Fairy

Of course you are.

As you might expect, all Mr Tako is capable of at first is jumping and spitting ink, and that’s put to good use in a couple different ways. You can use it to attack foes, but you can also use it to hit distant switches to solve puzzles. In a pinch, you can cover foes in Ink to use them as stepping stones. But that’s not all, since Mr Tako takes a page from a certain fluffy hero and can put on hats to gain new powers.

Nicalis Mr Tako | Bird Boss

My time in the demo was spent wandering around one dungeon and getting the hang of things. I felt the gameplay was very intuitive and delightful. I also spent some time controlling a lady octopus who spit slow moving bubbles instead of ink, which was by far the more challenging part of the demo. If this sounds good, you’ll be happy to hear Mr Tako explores 6 massive worlds with many boss fights and secrets to unearth. And if that wasn’t enough, you can customize the palette of the background, not unlike Downwell and Pirate Pop Plus. I was utterly charmed by Save me Mr Tako!, and can’t wait for it to release on Nintendo Switch and Steam in Fall of 2018.

Nicalis RemiLore | Hammer

The next game was a huge and pleasant surprise from me, and the type of game I’ve never seen from Nicalis before. RemiLore is a bit of a mixture of a isometric dungeon crawler with the magical school girl genre, and just a wee smidgen of fan service. It also is a rogue-lite, so you never know quite what to expect in dungeons.

Nicalis RemiLore | Mech

You play as Remi, an innocent girl thrust into a strange world along with a living book, named Lore. Your goal is to escape back home by fighting against giant mechanical monstrosities, but who knows whether that’s what the naughty Lore is truly after. Just to keep things even more interesting, there’s also an android named Choux that’s trying to capture Lore as well.

Nicalis RemiLore | Dust

The plot is a mashup that would sound perfectly at home in any anime, and the combat is equally bright and easy to pick up. Remi can find multiple silly weapons to use, such as brooms, lollipops, swords and much more, each with a different attack pattern and magical attacks. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s several challenging boss battles and lots of ways to customize your game. The candy coated graphical style and lighthearted banter is just icing on an already delicious cake. I didn’t expect this game, but I’m glad Nicalis is publishing it.

Nicalis RemiLore | Magic

Best of all, RemiLore is coming to Steam and all consoles in Winter of 2018. So if you’re looking for a great game to spend a lot of time with, this is a worthy choice.

Finally, this last game may be the most interesting. Crystal Crisis may look like Puzzle Fighter from a cursory glance, but it only shares some DNA with that classic. Not only is Crystal Crisis its own game, it’s one completely developed in house as well as published by Nicalis. That’s kind of a big deal, since many of the games they publish are developed by other folks. That got my attention, but what really matters is the gameplay. Let’s see if it held up.

Nicalis Crystal Crisis | Combat

While this is a puzzle game, it also has elements that seem taken from the fighting genre. Each of the 19 playable characters has distinct styles and special attacks, and learning them can give you the edge you need to succeed. Much like Blade Strangers, this is a chaotic mash up of characters from different games, such as Cave Story and Binding of Isaac, but also characters from Tezuka Productions. Yes, that means there’s a character who looks suspiciously like Astro Boy.

Nicalis Crystal Crisis | Versus

The art style of the game is very colorful and has tons of chibi goodness, and each character has their own story mode as well as being able to play in versus. You can make use of a Burst Gauge to charge up and unleash special attacks, which fans of many genres should be familiar with. One aspect that’s totally unique to this game is the wrap-around feature, which lets you move falling pieces onto the other side of the screen.

Nicalis Crystal Crisis | Splashy

That guy on the right looks familiar…

In my time with the demo, I was a bit slow to learn the mechanics, but once I did, it was a lot of fun. This isn’t just Tetris, this is a much more competitive and hectic game, but it also has tons of strategy. Perhaps most exciting for me is that Crystal Crisis is a Switch exclusive, a rarity these days, besides being a perfect platform for gaming on the go. If you love puzzle games and need something with some bite to it, you can check out Crystal Crisis when it releases in Fall of 2018.

I had a great time playing all of these games, and appreciate Nicalis for providing the opportunity to try them all out. Stay tuned to oprainfall in the coming months for more coverage of these colorful games.

About Josh Speer

Josh is a passionate gamer, finding time to clock in around 30-40 hours of gaming a week. He discovered Operation Rainfall while avidly following the localization of the Big 3 Wii RPGs. He enjoys SHMUPS, Platformers, RPGs, Roguelikes and the occasional Fighter. He’s also an unashamedly giant Mega Man fan, having played the series since he was eight. As Head Editor and Review Manager, he spends far too much time editing reviews and random articles. In his limited spare time he devours indies whole and anticipates the release of quirky, unpredictable and innovative games.