BitSummit, Japan’s largest celebration of independent video games is back! Now in its 11th year, BitSummit is bigger and more diverse than ever with visitors and exhibitors hailing from all across the globe, united by their passion for the indie scene. This year’s iteration saw many international studios and publishers as well as locally-developed games from the foreign and Japanese communities. Here are some of the coolest made-in-Japan indie games that we saw at the event!
Felicity’s Door by Area 35
Rhythm games have historically been mostly of the high-octane dance beat variety, which is why Felicity’s Door really stands out with its children’s storybook aesthetic and premium soundtrack. Explore the dreams of Tom and Felicity, a pair of twins who wander through magical worlds in their sleep, alongside their teddy bear, Mi-chan. Players will go through levels themed after the twins’ dreams, tapping, holding, and sliding musical notes to the rhythm of the music. 42 songs are currently available in the game, composed by the likes of Shinji Hosoe (Ridge Racer, Taiko no Tatsujin) and Kotringo (In This Corner of The World). With its quaint Ghibli-esque art and beautiful symphonies, a luxury rhythm game is the only apt description for Felicity’s Door.
Felicity’s Door was an Excellence in Sound Design Award Nominee at BitSummit and the game will be available on Nintendo Switch.
1f y0u’re a gh0st ca11 me here! by Furoshiki Lab
Have you ever wanted to work at a call center, just for ghosts? Me neither but 1f y0u’re a gh0st ca11 me here! is a unique game with this exact premise and it’s surprisingly fun. You’ll play as Vanitas, a call center employee who is tasked with guiding ghosts from the lower world to the underworld. Your clients aren’t just any ghosts however, they’re all calling due to difficult situations and require your great assistance to help them solve their problems and reconnect them to the right number. Challenges to overcome within this game include poor technology, a lack of human resources, and the overwhelming confusion of dealing with multiple problems at once. This might feel a little too close to home for some of us with similar-sounding day jobs, but 1f y0u’re a gh0st ca11 me here! is a chaotic conversation management game with a very cool art style.
Shinonome by WODAN
A horror rogue-like from the developers of Resident Evil and Final Fantasy XIV might sound like a fever dream but this is very much a reality, and it’s called Shinonome. Set in the Japanese Edo period, you play as Yono, a girl whose goal is to escape a haunted house and exorcize the vengeful spirits living within it. Success in Shinonome relies on players observing clues left behind by the monsters and formulating strategies based on the equipment they have. From a blasting gun to silent shuriken and explosive bombs, there’s no one ‘right’ way to defeat the monsters, and each also has its own strengths and weaknesses. This new-age ‘escape room’ game will force players to face their fears through strategic decisions and quick reactions.
Ratatan by Ratata Arts
Fans of cult millennial hit Patapon will rejoice as its spiritual successor is now here, in the form of Ratatan. Helmed by Hiroyuki Kotani, creator of the Patapon series, this is a rhythm strategy game where players must take on the role of a conductor that commands the actions of an adorable “Ratatan” army. These music-loving heroes were brought to life with the power of Medama and are able to demonstrate their mysterious power through singing and playing musical instruments. The conductor will be empowered to control a wide variety of characters to attack, defend and support against enemies in a rhythmic showdown.
From speaking with the developers at BitSummit, the decision to name the game ‘Ratatan’ is because it is a more universally recognised onomatopoeia compared to ‘Patapon’ which is an onomatopoeia used mostly in Japan only.
Ratatan will be a crowd-funded project on Kickstarter with the initial goal to release it on PC. Modern consoles will also be possible via the campaign’s stretch goals.
Daikon Simulator by Devilish Games
Live your best life as a radish in Daikon Simulator, a simulation game about thriving within your social relationships. You begin as a sprout and grow physically, emotionally, and mentally as you meet other turnips and interact with them. Just like in real life, maintaining a good social circle and avoiding bad company is imperative to developing a positive life. This is pretty much The Sims if The Sims was a 2D side-scrolling garden patch. You can also start a family, adopt radish pets and grow your own little turnip children. Daikon Simulator has a hilarious premise that belies an important message about life, family, and relationships.
Daikon Simulator is currently available on the Japanese Nintendo Switch store.
CALME by Doukutsu Penguin Club
Welcome to CALME, a charming haven perched upon a steep cliff, home to the various inhabitants of this quaint town. Beneath it, however, lies a never-ending sea of clouds and mysterious creatures that live within a toxic fog. Players take on the role of Vin, a mischievous youth who’s always slacking on the job. Explore the town to meet its people and hear their stories as you traipse through the fog and unravel the mysteries within this unique setting. CALME has a captivating art style and a melodic soundtrack, reminiscent of earlier Final Fantasy titles. Not too much else is known so far as the game is still in development with a late 2024 release date. However, we’re looking forward to getting to know the town of CALME and the role Vin will play in revealing the truth beneath the fog.
十字路の守護神 (Guardian of the Crossroads) by 日本工学院専門学校蒲田校 (Nihon Kogakuin College)
Enjoy a stress-free driving experience in Guardian of the Crossroads. Players take on the role of a god-like figure, capable of directing the flow of traffic without the use of traffic lights. The catch? You can only control the cars in your lane and must thus avoid vehicles in the oncoming lanes. While not inherently a rhythm game, the rhythmic bopping of the traffic signs and scenery plus the combos you’ll chain each time a car makes it across safely, does give it a music-forward quality. And as the challenges become more complex, players will have to rely on timing and an intuitive sense of the game’s pace to ensure no accidents happen. This chill, almost cozy-like entry from the students of Nihon Kogakuin College (a vocational college based in Tokyo) is a surprising find, considering how they’ve managed to develop a relaxing low-stakes game out of what is usually a very anxious time for most people.