The best part of conventions like PAX and RTX isn’t the games that you’ve known are coming for a while and getting to play before them they release. The best part is seeing games that you didn’t know are out there and getting to experience something special. While I’m tempted to say that Pyre was the best example of this, there’s another game that I think is a better example. Partially because it’s by a studio that I had never heard of before PAX East, but also because it’s a twist on a genre that hands down is my favourite type of game to play. At this year’s PAX East I had the privilege of playing Ackk Studio’s YIIK: A Post-Modern RPG that will be released later this year published by Ysbryd Games, and I didn’t know until I was done playing that it was going to be one of my favourite titles I played at the show.
Set in an alternate reality 1999, you follow the plight of Alex Eggleston as he tries to find Sammy Pak, a woman abducted from an elevator by strange forces. The abduction itself is recorded and posted on the internet (yes, the terrible 56k modem internet), and suddenly he’s not the only one who’s trying to figure out what happened to this girl. He’s joined by a motley crew and journeys to solve the mystery of the abduction as Y2K (hence the name) approaches.
The demo I played I presume is a little bit into the game as Alex is joined by party members Rory Mancer and Vella Wilde as they head to Wind Town in search for clues. The first thing that’s apparent is how familiar everything feels. From the graphics to the gameplay, if you’ve played any game in the 90s, not just a JRPG, then the stylised low-polygon aesthetics are sure to take you right back like they did for me. In fact talking to one of the exhibitors about it while I was waiting in line, they’ve taken huge steps to treat it like they made this for a 1999 release. “Like on the original Playstation or N64,” they said with pride. Even the easter eggs are full of nostalgia for all of us 90s kids out there. But while the atmosphere and art style interested me, the combat system is what got me hooked.
Like everything else in YIIK, the battle system is one that is very familiar to experienced gamers. Akin to Paper Mario, Shadow Hearts, and other action-turned based RPG hybrids, attacks are triggered by the following command prompts to increase your power. Alex for example attacks with LPs and his power is increased by the player timing buttons presses to a spinning LP on a record player. Each character has a unique prompt akin to their weapon and hobbies. Special attacks require completing mini-games that are surprisingly difficult but have huge payoffs if you succeed. If you find that the combat moves to slow or too quick, you can use time energy accrued through taking damage to adjust accordingly for a short period. What’s clear is that while the combat system as a whole isn’t the most original concept, the addition of 90s flair and colourful characters means that it keeps the player engaged without getting tedious.
On a side note, the music is of the same era and is sure to get stuck in our heads (for me it was the victory theme) long after we stop playing.
After learning more about what happened to Sammy and eventually reaching the end of the demo, I found myself wanting to play it again. It’s certainly true that the JRPG is a genre that gets me hooked with relative ease, but the modern premise is what will keep me playing long after the combat becomes second nature.
I’m glad to have gotten a chance to play YIIK, and I eagerly await its release sometime this year.