Game: Rakuen Deluxe Edition
Genre: Adventure, RPG, Visual Novel, Puzzle
System: Nintendo Switch
Developer | Publisher: Laura Shigihara | Morozora Studios
Age Rating: US E 10+ | EU E 7+
Price: US $32.99 | UK £22.00 | EU € 22,60
Release Date: March 23rd, 2023
Review code used, with many thanks to Laura Shigihara.
Rakuen is an indie game that was released in 2018 by developer Laura Shighara. The deluxe edition is only for the Nintendo Switch and comes with some new content. There is the game Rakuen, a brand-new game called Mr Saitou, and a short film collection.
The Story of Rakuen
Our story begins with a Boy who wakes up in a hospital room wearing an origami hat. We don’t know why the Boy is hospitalized, only that he knows he will be in the hospital forever. One day, the Boy’s precious book, known as the Book of Rakuen, goes missing from his hospital room, and he goes off searching for his book around the hospital ward. He meets fellow patients and some of their loved ones and learns about their backstories. He uncovers hidden passageways and finally finds his book. The book of Rakuen is very important to the Boy because it is his mom’s treasure, and she reads it to him every night.
The book of Rakuen also contains the key to the fantasy world of Morizora Forest. Morizora Forest is home to the Guardian of the forest, who can grant one wish to those who ask. The Boy and his mom set off on an adventure to Morizora Forest to find the Guardian and help the alter-egos of his neighbours in the hospital overcome challenges.
Mr Saitou is a short, heartwarming adventure about an average white-collar accountant who collapses from overwork and social isolation on the street. The protagonist, Mr Saitou, wakes up in the hospital and meets a boy called Brandon, who spirits him away to a fantasy world where he and everyone else have become creatures known as Llamaworms.
Short Film Collection
The short film collection comes with three videos. All three films are for the Farmer in the Sky series. The first is the trailer for the short film, and there is part 1 and part 2. These films are based on the characters in Rakuen, and the art is done in 3D graphics. They put the characters of Rakuen in an endearing light and show new sides to them.
Gameplay of Rakuen and Mr Saitou
The gameplay for the two games in the deluxe edition is similar to each other. Both are puzzle adventure RPGs where the main character gets transported to another world, and they meet alter-egos of the people they know. They are both single-player games, and there’s a short button tutorial at the start of each game. The puzzles can be a bit challenging at times, but if you try different things to solve the puzzles, then eventually, you will come to the solution.
If you get stuck, you can find a walkthrough guide. Unfortunately, since Mr Saitou is a new game, there isn’t much information about it. It takes some time to go through the game yourself. I found the puzzles a welcome challenge, and the character interactions are quite humorous. Sometimes, talking to the characters can be sad too.
Graphics, Design, and Soundtrack
The character portraits are gorgeously hand drawn and show their facial expressions. Backgrounds are in a 2D format. I like how the hospital colours juxtapose with the colours in the fantasy worlds. The hospital environment is dreary, while the fantasy world is bright and cheerful.
Even though the character designs may look cute for both Rakuen and Mr Saitou, the themes can be pretty dark and serious. However, it balances out with the light-hearted tone of the conversations between the characters.
The soundtrack is original and composed by Laura Shigihara. The music ranges from melancholic to happy and cheerful and fits the games wonderfully.
Rakuen is a very sweet, heartwarming game that will transport you to another world where you take control of your destiny. While Mr Saitou has a similar plot, it is a different game altogether, where you go on an adventure to reclaim your life. Both games were a joy to play, and I really enjoyed the story-driven gameplay. I recommend the deluxe edition to anyone who likes a good narrative RPG and solving puzzles. I give the deluxe edition a two thumbs up for the unique storylines and heart-tugging dialogue.
Final Verdict: Two Thumbs Up