There’s new Kickstarter online and, I must admit, I’ve been keeping a secret from you all. I’ve known about Mr. Tired Media’s Undead Darlings, from former NIS America staff Ryan Phillips and Nick Doerr, for about two weeks now. My apologies – I know secrets aren’t good for relationships, but I’m sure you understand. I mean, when it comes to zombies in love, sometimes you have to wait until the right moment to be sure feelings will be returned.
Undead Darlings is a hybrid visual novel and dungeon crawler. A rather big one too, since it was at about 65,000 words when I talked to Doerr and Phillips, but could spike as high as 100,000 words. Players follow Reginald Happenstance after the apocalypse. Or, as Phillips put it, the “funpocalypse.” The world ended, zombies are everywhere, and poor Reginald is trying to get by.
Fortunately, Reginald isn’t alone. He’s joined by a cast of six heroines. They’re all zombies, though as Doerr put it, “Physically, they’re zombies, but their hearts are human.” This is a dating sim, so even though the guys describe Reginald as a “POS,” he still has a chance of getting an ending with one of these girls. (Maybe even all, since a harem ending is planned.) Or, even with Buck Whampum, a male, human zombie hunter.
Though, an interesting element is that these girls aren’t just getting closer to Reginald as someone plays. Phillips and Doerr wanted players to see them develop friendships and ties with each other. There will be segments where people get to see the characters interact and enjoy life (the afterlife) outside of Reginald’s sphere of influence.
What also seems promising is the notion that Undead Darlings won’t make a players be people they’re not to win. A common trend in dating sims is to answer questions the way the character you’re chasing would want. You can’t be yourself, because you could lose out on an ending that way. While there will be some pandering in Undead Darlings, it will be a dating sim where there are no negative points doled out for responses. You’ll get 0, 1 or 2 points for every response. If you’ve accumulated enough points for a character by the end of the game, there’s an option to “choose” her for an ending.
Before I get into what the dungeon crawling in Undead Darlings looked like in my sneak peek at E3 2015, I want to talk about something else very important. Mr. Tired Media brought on Hitsukuya as the artist for the game and something rather special has been done for the character portraits. In many visual novels, and video games in general, character portraits will be flipped in conversations. Since the heroines of Undead Darlings all have varying level of decomposition and atrophy, that wouldn’t work. Inverted art of each character was created, with each one having seven different expressions, one unique to each character. As an example, Cici has a chunk taken out of her left shoulder, and her character art will always reflect that.
This reflects in all elements of play in Undead Darlings, though you won’t notice it when journeying through the seven different dungeon areas. Once Reginald and his group ventures in, it’s a first person adventure. I was able to see the mall and school areas, and there will be multiple levels. It will also be a very loot heavy experience, since there aren’t any real shops to visit after the world ends.
Battles will place players in a familiar turn-based system found in most JRPGs. The girls do the fighting for Reginald, and have an array of general and special skills to use. There are 30 enemies to fight, with two palette swaps of each. These include smoking crows, 80’s dudes with mohawks and fanny packs and a rather tenatious, undead grandma. Weapons all have durability, which should add an additional level of strategy, and there will be items to acquire and use in fights.
Undead Darlings will also have some features to make it easier for people to replay the game. Choices made will be greyed out, meaning you’ll always know which responses you’ve chosen during important events. You’ll also be able to save near the end, as to allow for the viewing of multiple endings after one playthrough. The prospect of a New Game+ was discussed as well, to make the title more accommodating.
Now, as for the Kickstarter. It’s begun today, June 29, 2015. Undead Darlings would definitely make it to PCs if $50,000 is raised, but Mr. Tired Media also hopes for a fully voice acted version and PS4 and Vita ports if $100,000 and $225,000 stretch goals are reached. (There will of course be cross-buy with the Sony releases.) The Vita port would be PlayStation TV compatible, but would be more costly as the company would need to pay someone to down-rez the game.