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The Vanillaware Appreciation Thread

ScOULaris

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It's rare that I start a thread without a clear premise and accompanying long-winded OP, but this time around I'm just gonna get to the heart of the matter.

There should be a thread dedicated to gushing over Vanillaware's unique brand of 2D games.

I get the sense that Vanillaware is appreciated by a sizable demographic here on GAF, but with the wait times between releases stretching upwards of five years at a time discussion of their output often fades away until new marketing material surfaces for their upcoming project.

While Vanillaware's games have been oft-criticized for reusing environments, enemies, and bosses too liberally, there is no doubt that each game is a labor of love from a very small, unique, and talented team. Thanks to Kamitani's unique art style, everyone knows a Vanillaware game when they see one. While pixel art has come back into style in recent years via the indie scene, hand-painted 2D games like Odin Sphere, Muramasa, and Dragon's Crown are exceedingly rare.

People tend to associate 2D games that forgo pixel art with that chintzy "Flash" style of tweened animation. It's common for mobile and browser games to use vector art 2D assets with simple puppetry-esque skeletal animation these days, and the end result looks distinctly cheap. Vanillaware games, while they do make use of some Flash-inspired techniques, represent a much higher level of craft with their 2D presentation. The quality of the hand-drawn artwork is in a league of its own, and the games' use of abundant parallax layers, flashy effects work, huge bosses, and key-framed character animation put them at the peak of the current small crop of 2D games from a graphical standpoint. There are a select few games that feature such a high level of craft in their 2D presentation (e.g. Skullgirls, Ori and the Blind Forest, Rayman Legends, Cuphead).

While I'm focusing mainly on Vanillaware's art achievements in this opening post, I hope we also delve into how their games have steadily improved in terms of gameplay depth and fluidity with each successive release. Just play Odin Sphere Leifthrasir in Classic Mode and then compare it to the likes of Dragon's Crown and Leifthrasir's main mode to see how far Vanillaware has come in terms of designing fun combat mechanics that feel great to control.

Also, a shout out to Atlus for always bringing their A game with Vanillaware releases outside of Japan. Their localizations are always top-notch, and the inclusion of art books with standard releases is excessively generous.

Looks like I ended up with a long-winded OP after all. ;)
 

Greatest Ever

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Apr 27, 2015
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Vanillaware taught me that no matter how much I lift, there's always some barbarian Viking chick who will always be 10x my size.
 

cireza

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Jun 1, 2014
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My favorite remains Princess Crown on the Sega Saturn. I know that there was an English translation in the works, I should check the status...
 

Lime

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Apr 27, 2008
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I still can't believe that Atlus hasn't put Dragons Crown back up on EU PSN.
 

HStallion

Now what's the next step in your master plan?
Nov 23, 2015
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Muramasa Rebirth on the Vita is an incredible game even if it gets a bit repetitive. It also has some of the best DLC I have ever seen. It could have been a game by itself.
 

Acquiescence

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I am currently playing Odin Sphere on the PS4 and it is all kinds of ace. An unsung classic. Much better than Muramasa and Dragon's Crown, and I liked those games too.
 

ScOULaris

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Muramasa Rebirth on the Vita is an incredible game even if it gets a bit repetitive. It also has some of the best DLC I have ever seen. It could have been a game by itself.
Am I the only one who thought that all of the DLC missions were insanely difficult? I've played through the main game with both characters on Chaos difficulty without an issue, but I get destroyed on Chaos difficulty in the DLC chapters. I mean like right out of the gate I struggle to even beat the first boss fight.

If I switch it over to Legend difficulty it becomes a cakewalk just like in the main game, which is frankly a bit too mind-numbing to be enjoyable for me. Why is Legend so much harder in the DLC missions than in the main game?
 

Maxinas

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Mar 2, 2016
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Not even a small hint of 13 sentinels announced during their anniversary. Disappoint.
 

Icolin

Of course. Dr. Pavel refused our offer in favor of yours, we had to find out what he told you about us.
Nov 21, 2016
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Their best game is still probably Odin Sphere, although Muramasa and Dragon's Crown are both excellent games as well. Really looking forward to their next game.
 

Begaria

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They are fantastic. Can't wait to see more 13 Sentinels or more of whatever they're doing.
 

luulubuu

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Aug 26, 2016
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I spent good money in all the Dragon's Crown figures by Megahouse I still need that Monohime

Glad to have most of the collector editions, so worth it!

Nice thread!



A bit of trivia about Dragon's Crown and Muramasa:

Dragon's Dogma particular art direction is directly inspired by the 80s Dungeons and Dragon arcade. I have to go now but when I come back I will throw you some comparasions

Have the most obvious one, the player selection menu

Dungeons and Dragons:


Dragon's Crown


Also the Vanillaware features the most good looking foodies in the gaming world

 
Apr 18, 2012
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I've only finished Muramasa Rebirth so far but I own both Odinsphere and Dragon's Crown on Vita and I plan and beating them both as soon as I can spare the time. Vanillaware is a very precious developper indeed and Muramasa was my favorite game that I played last year even though I was quite late to that party. Gorgeous artwork, fun gameplay, interesting progression system, great characters and story... I couldn't have asked for anything more.

I'm glad that Vanillaware has found an audience and I will buy anything they put out in the future on day one.
 
Dec 5, 2016
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I have to give them serious props for reworking Odin Sphere as much as they did for Leifthrasir. It's a niche game either way, and I'm sure fans would have dropped plenty of cash for a mere remastering. They actually went the full nine yards and completely revamped the combat system, though, which turned the game from something I really didn't like in its original form to one of the best games of 2016. It was especially refreshing since I played it right after Ratchet and Clank, which might be the single most pointless, unneeded 'remake' in gaming history. Seriously, what's the point of remaking and rebooting a series if it plays exactly like it always has?
 

ScOULaris

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i played odin sphere on ps2 and loved it, but felt it was like thrice as long as it should have been
I agree that Odin Sphere is overly long and reuses environments and bosses too much, but have you played Leifthrasir? It makes so many improvements and adds so much content to the core game that the pacing feels much more natural. The beefed up combat and inclusion of skill and abilities trees really makes progression feel a lot better than it ever did in the PS2 release.

Leifthrasir is arguably one of the most thorough remakes in gaming. It's up there with REmake for the GameCube in terms of how much it improved on the original.
 

mindatlarge

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Muramasa is one of my favorite games of all time, really any game they have made, I've owned and loved. Wish these guys put out more games.
 

TheChaos0

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I agree that Odin Sphere is overly long and reuses environments and bosses too much, but have you played Leifthrasir? It makes so many improvements and adds so much content to the core game that the pacing feels much more natural. The beefed up combat and inclusion of skill and abilities trees really makes progression feel a lot better than it ever did in the PS2 release.

Leifthrasir is arguably one of the most thorough remakes in gaming. It's up there with REmake for the GameCube in terms of how much it improved on the original.
I should try Leifthrasir if it improves on OS so much. I love OS but not sure I would want to ever replay the PS2 version few chapters aside.
 

Klart

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Jan 16, 2014
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Love Vanillaware. Their 2D graphics are the best of the bunch. I bought Dragon's Crown on both Vita & PS3 on release. I have the other two releases on Vita.

I understood Dragon's Crown sold quite well, so I'm hoping for a sequel on current gen. A reissue would be nice as well.

Or just another 4 player brawler would be great.
 
Apr 14, 2016
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I do need to knock at least Odin Sphere or Dragons Crown out of the backlog. I very much dig the art style as well.

I would add to your list of games that have done it well by mentioning Child of Light. Beautiful game.
 

wapplew

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I'm still playing poor man's Vanillaware mobile game, 13th Sentinel chop chop.
 

ChanMan

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Put over 100 hours into Dragons Crown and haven't completed every character's story. mode. Suprisingly my most used character was the Sorceress.
 

gdt

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Any chance of a Muramasa port to PS4? I just finsished Odin Sphere and I looooved it. Play through was 67 hours.

I'd rather play it on a big screen than on my vita.
 

HStallion

Now what's the next step in your master plan?
Nov 23, 2015
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I agree that Odin Sphere is overly long and reuses environments and bosses too much, but have you played Leifthrasir? It makes so many improvements and adds so much content to the core game that the pacing feels much more natural. The beefed up combat and inclusion of skill and abilities trees really makes progression feel a lot better than it ever did in the PS2 release.

Leifthrasir is arguably one of the most thorough remakes in gaming. It's up there with REmake for the GameCube in terms of how much it improved on the original.
Leifthrasir is on my long list of backlog games. I can't wait to get into it but its probably going to be months, if not longer considering the huge amount of awesome games coming out or that have recently come out. Fuck my wallet.
 

gdt

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Is Dragons Crown like Odin Sphere? I don't really like beat em ups but I loved Odin Sphere's combat and magic and rpg systems. At least in the Leifthrasir version.
 

dragonyeuw

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I have Dragons Crown on PS3, didn't get too far into it. I'd actually rather have it on the Vita, but I never see it on sale. I like Muramasa but it's a little repetitive. The artwork and character designs are worth experiencing moreso than the gameplay ( for me anyway).
 

ScOULaris

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I should try Leifthrasir if it improves on OS so much. I love OS but not sure I would want to ever replay the PS2 version few chapters aside.
I highly recommend it. If you liked the original release of Odin Sphere, you'll love Leifthrasir. It's basically a completely new game but with the original story intact.
 

Paltheos

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It's pretty odd - I absolutely love Muramasa. It's one of the Wii's and Vita's best titles hands down, but I haven't gotten around to Vanillaware's other titles much. I think Dragon's Dogma kinda turned me off being less frenetic than Muramsa's high-octane action. One day I'll play Odin Sphere
maybe
.
 

DrROBschiz

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Yay!

I also love Vanillaware games and have yet to play one I didnt enjoy


Shame we never got Grand Knights History but I play it anyways
 

ScOULaris

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It's pretty odd - I absolutely love Muramasa. It's one of the Wii's and Vita's best titles hands down, but I haven't gotten around to Vanillaware's other titles much. I think Dragon's Dogma kinda turned me off being less frenetic than Muramsa's high-octane action. One day I'll play Odin Sphere
maybe
.
Well, Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is much more similar to Muramasa than Dragon's Crown, for what it's worth. It's like they took Muramasa's combat and added a metric shit ton of additional depth to it with each character having a plethora of abilities at their disposal that can be assigned to custom input commands (including Street Fighter-esque fireball motions).

Here's a video of someone styling on a mid-boss (with no other enemies around) with an overpowered Gwendolyn.
 

luulubuu

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Is Dragons Crown like Odin Sphere? I don't really like beat em ups but I loved Odin Sphere's combat and magic and rpg systems. At least in the Leifthrasir version.
It's not, it's cooperative beat em up with rpg elements
 

Augemitbutter

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they slayed me with Dragon's Crown. very fun gameplay and best art in gaming.

i will /autofollow wherever they go.
 

PaulBizkit

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I played their main games but never finished them. Muramasa is the one I enjoyed the most, though.

Oddly enough, the games I played the most are the ones on PSP! Grand Knights History and Princess Crown are amazing and they should be played by every fan of Vanillaware. Specially GKH on an actual PSP, the colours and contrast are just beautiful.

EDIT: cool story about Odin Sphere, the game that saved Kamitani

The delayed release of Odin Sphere led to issues with the company: they needed to start other projects to keep their company going, leading to the development of GrimGrimoire. The development of GrimGrimoire drained the company's funds, forcing Kamitani to take out a flexible loan of 20 million yen to keep the company afloat and fund development for their next projects, in addition to finding these projects new publishers as Atlus refused to take any more of Vanillaware's products until they had seen how Odin Sphere performed commercially. Nippon Ichi Software would handle GrimGrimoire, while Marvelous Entertainment accepted their next project, Muramasa: The Demon Blade for the Wii. The commercial success of Odin Sphere both enabled the development of Muramasa: The Demon Blade and cleared Kamitani's debt. In tandem with their other titles, Odin Sphere helped establish Vanillaware as a respected developer.
 

SMK

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Absolutely love Vanillaware! I still chip away at tower floors in Dragon's Crown. Hopefully we get more info on Sentinels soon.
 

TheChaos0

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I highly recommend it. If you liked the original release of Odin Sphere, you'll love Leifthrasir. It's basically a completely new game but with the original story intact.
The story, the art and the music was definitely the best parts. The gameplay was OK for the most part of it but repetition of levels but more importantly the bosses was the worst.
 
May 11, 2008
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Just wanted to chime in, Vanillaware's style and aesthetics speak to me more than pretty much any other developer. Whilst clearly Japanese in look, the incredible painterly visuals elevate their games way beyond the typical anime tropes.

Whilst I love so many different games, truly in my opinion - Vanillaware make the most beautiful ones.

They are also clearly bettering themselves in the gameplay stakes with each passing game too.

Bless you Vanillaware - here's to another fifteen years.

Love the artwork, hate gameplay (especially in Odin Sphere)
Not played the new version of Odin Sphere, I guess?
 

maouvin

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Dragon's Crown is one of my all-time favorites, even being completely burnt out from it. Great fit for Vita, and the drop-in system to play with friends was great - many times a friend jumped in to save the day.
Muramasa is a beast too, of course. The DLCs were amazing (but playing all 4 one after the other will be tiring).

Still have to grab the Leifthrasir, but the Vita version never goes on sale :v

And how was Grim Grimoire? Played very little of it.
 

Fisty

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Great thread! Getting the platinum in Dragon's Crown and Odin Sphere were some of the best times I had these past few years, still need to get around to Muramasa at some point. Vanillaware has made my Vita it's home, and it's glorious.

Seriously though, they need to turn Odin Sphere into an anime series, such a good story