Preview: The Wind and Wilting Blossom

 

Choose a hero and embark up a mission to save the Japan as it is covered by darkness.

Upon my initial encounter with The Wind and Wilting Blossom on my Steam Discovery Queue, I dismissed it as a deckbuilding game with a Japanese aesthetic. Valve’s wizardry with Steam Labs placed the game back into my purview. Who am I to blame the Almighty Algorithm whose sole purpose is is to learn my gameplay habits (so that I will spend money to buy more games)?

So far, my favorite missions are rescue missions. Adds a wrinkle to the standard “kill everything that moves” mindset.

To my delight, the Algorithm knows my tastes: strategy, historical metafiction, and Japanophilia! The Wind and Wilting Blossom is set in a fictionalized version of the Heian period, right before the beginning of the second millennium in Japan. Developers Picklefeet Games describe their game as an “FTL-style roguelike with tactical, turn-based combat, and RPG party management.” This is principally accurate; moving around a map that is representative of the Japanese archipelago functions very much like the sectors and waypoints of FTL: Faster than Light. Combat, however, reminds me of Into the Breach; players control up to five units in turn-based combat, where every turn and every move matters, allowing for a margin of error as thin as a razor’s edge.

Based on this artwork, The Wind and Wilting Blossom’s story involves Princess Takiyasha summoning a giant skeleton (the 20th century would coin this yōkai “gashadokuro”) to defeat Mitsukuni and a soldier.

I suspect that the starting general is based upon (depending upon translation) “Takiyasha the Witch and the Skeleton Spectre,” or “Mitsukuni Defying the Skeleton Spectre Invoked by Princess Takiyasha,”  a painting by Utagawa Kuniyoshi. I hope that Picklefeet Games provides some developmental DLC to contextualize the materials that inspired The Wind and Wilting Blossom, because the stories revolving around the three out of the possible eight generals I have unlocked so far—Mitsukuni, Murasaki Shikibu, and Taira no Kiyomoriintrigue me, as do the mystical creatures such as the Dorotabō, the Sōgenbi, Funareyi, and the common oni.

This game will sometimes ask players to overcome what appears to be overwhelming odds. I do survive this, and go on to experience a great run.

The Wind and Wilting Blossom includes an impressive soundtrack with percussion reminiscent of Ben Prunty’s work with FTL: Faster Than Light; Daniel Lopatka has done his homework. I had no idea about the ukiyo-e, kara-e, or shikomi-e genres of art, nor will I pretend like I know the difference. At any rate, the game’s artwork fascinates me, though I wish there were a few more frames of animation than one for taking damage and one (or perhaps two) for attacking.

Another seemingly impossible map (soldier to floating head, Mitsukuni to NW skeleton; turn 2, soldier to east skeleton, Mitsukuni to first western skeleton; turn 3, Mitsukuni kills last skeleton).

Though the game teems with features, it is currently in Early Access, so interested parties should anticipate running into a few bugs.  I have found a number of them, including several grammatical errors in the narrative text. But what makes playing indie games like The Wind and Wilting Blossom is that Picklefeet Games is very active on their Discord, and they are grateful when someone finds a bug for them to squash. Combined with what so far has been weekly updates, The Wind and Wilting Blossom is likely to scratch that strategic itch.

Will Taira no Kiyomori bring forth the Rise of the Samurai? Stay tuned!

Preview copy generously provided by Picklefeet Games

Maurice Pogue

Since picking up an NES controller in 1985 at the age of 2, Maurice and video games have been inseparable. While most children aspired to be lawyers, doctors, or engineers (at the behest of their parents), he aspired to write for publications such as EGM, PC Gamer, PC Accelerator, and Edge. After achieving ABD status in English at MSU, Maurice left academia and dedicated his writing to his lifelong passion. He is currently the Video Game Editor at Geeks Under Grace.

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