The creators of Wild Arms and Shadow Hearts are back with two new JRPGs

It’s been a hot minute since I last came across the Wild Arms and Shadow Hearts JRPG series, but today the main creators behind these two RPGs from the late 90s and early 00s have announced that they’re making two all-new JRPGs inspired by their previous work – and they’re launching a “double Kickstarter” campaign to help fund them. The games are called Penny Blood and Armed Fantasia (no points for guessing who does what), and from what I’ve seen so far, I’m intrigued.

Armed Fantasia is, as you might have guessed, made by former Wild Arms developers under the banner of their new studio Wild Bunch Productions. Series creator Akifumi Kaneko is handling the main game design and writing the scripts, and composer Michiko Naruke is back with fellow musicians Noriyasa Agematsu and his band Elements Garden. Like Wild Arms, Armed Fantasia has a “westernpunk” theme and follows a group of adventurers known as the Pathfinders on their journey through the wilderness. They each have their own ARM (or Aether Reaction Maximization) weapon at their fingertips, and they will send out strange “anomalities” that ravage the land.

Armed Fantasia’s combat system will allow you to disrupt enemy turn orders to spawn additional red and orange numbers on enemy skulls.

A red-haired boy walks through a desert landscape in Armed Fantasia

Three anime characters prepare for battle in Armed Fantasia

Wild Bunch promises a “massive” world map filled with things to do (although we hope it’s not one that follows the Ubisoft school of open world design), but it looks like there will always be good old fashioned dungeons to explore as well. It certainly looks lovely from the screenshots, and its turn-based combat system is particularly flashy. It’s not yet known how each character’s ARM weapons will differ from each other, but battles will use what the developers call a “cross-order tactics” system, allowing characters to disrupt enemy turn orders at their advantage.

Penny Blood, meanwhile, is a gothic horror RPG set in the 1920s and helmed by Shadow Hearts series new studio creator Yukikaze. Shadow Hearts director Matsuzo Machida is responsible for designing the game and writing scripts for it, and artist Miyako Kato has also returned to design the characters. Original composer Yoshitaka Hirota is also back.

Here, you play as private detective Matthew Farrell as he travels the world in search of strange monsters. He’s got some supernatural abilities himself, and you’ll put them to good use in Penny Blood’s “psycho sigil” combat system, which the developers say “combines traditional turn-based JRPG strategy with reaction times. triggering by contraction”. Probably something akin to the Mario & Luigi series of RPGs, then (or Yakuza: Like A Dragon), I imagine, with a few timed button presses in the mix.

A blond man cowers in front of a monster in Penny Blood

A profile portrait of a blond man in Penny Blood

A blond man battles a strange monster in a dark crypt in Penny Blood.

Anguish and gore seem to be the order of the day with Penny Blood.

More interesting to me is its sanity point system, which seemingly makes party members unpredictable if they lose too much while spending company time in demons, but also gives them a strength boost. Again, it’s not entirely clear how you’ll earn more of these points over time, or what strategy will be involved in deploying them, but I’m definitely in for a mental health system that isn’t only “everything gets worse exponentially because everyone’s gone mad (I’m looking at you, Amnesia/Eternal Darkness).

You can find out more about both games on their Double Kickstarter page, which goes live August 29 at 9am PT / 5pm BST. Collectively, the studios are asking for a combined goal of $750,000 to fund both game projects, but in a fun twist, supporting one game will also help contribute to the other’s shared “combo meter,” meaning you’ll be helping unlock goals and other content in both games to get them across the finish line.

Based on what I’ve seen (which is only based on a handful of screenshots so far), I’m cautiously optimistic about this and will definitely be keeping an eye out for them. I’ve already been burned by other great JRPG creators of yore who have turned to Kickstarter to fund big hobby projects that publishers probably won’t deign to risk these days (with the tedious Eiyuden Chronicle Rising former Suikoden devs being the main example here), but as I said, cautious optimism is where I’m at with these at the moment.

Martin E. Berry