Genre: Adventure, JRPG
System: Steam (also on Console and Mobile)
Publisher | Developer: SHUEISHA GAMES | ginolabo, SUCCESS Corp.
Controller Support: Yes
Price: UK £16.75 | US $16.99 | € 16.99
Release Date: 18th June 2023
Review code used, with many thanks to SUCCESS Corp
SOULVARS is a pixel art JRPG with a main selling point being deck building turn based combat. However, SOULVARS is not what I would call a traditional deck builder game like titles such as Hearthstone. So in all honesty, the genre of the game may make it sound intense and maybe a little confusing. I can assure you that the execution of this turns out very smooth and simple to understand.
Story and Gameplay
The game starts you out in the action as Yakumo, a freelance Soulbearer. A soulbearer is a next generation human born with powerful souls in which they can utilise those souls within combat. As a freelance Soulbearer, he takes orders from the private military contractor DDO (Dominator Disposal Organisation). Immediately with the narrative and as I started progressing within the game, I saw parallels with Platinum Games’ Astral Chain.
To reference the deck building mechanics from the introduction: each character has ‘soulbits’ which are the ‘cards’ featured on the action wheel within combat which shows the player what moves the character has. The soulbit cards are determined by what weapons and armor are equipped to each character. This is the only element of the game that relates the title being a ‘deckbuilder’. Any XP gained goes to the equipped Souldriver which in turn can raise your stats and learn new abilities. In general,
I found the combat easy to understand, despite initially thinking that the deck building mechanics would put me off, but with those elements of the game actually influenced by more JRPG elements like weapons currently equipped. It made it easier to utilise my abilities to overcome the battles within the game.
Yakumo is taking orders from the contractor military DDO. You can take on bonus requests from NPCs for further world building and immersion. Additionally, the game allows you to pick the difficultly of the game which is a nice addition as some players may be unsure to SOULVARS just due to how the game is being potrayed as a deckbuilder.
Art and Sound
Where I think SOULVARS exceeds expectations is the pixel art and presentation, like older styled arcade games. The user interface is simple and well presented with equally enough clarity for players to understand what is happening. Within the menus the tutorials for the game can be revised whenever out of combat. This helps with understanding the soulbit mechanic and player move combos,. This helped me a lot when coming to understand the mechanics of the game as it alludes to deeper mechanics than just soulbits and type effectiveness. Battle animations are especially flashy which builds with the catchniess of the soundtrack themes.
There are not many songs within the SOULVARS game, but each song that plays within certain circumstances fits that scenario well. As an example, I loved the battle themes, so I didn’t flee many battles. I found myself enjoying each song that was played within the game as they were catchy and fitted the flashniess of battle or just the urban setting of Japan.
I believe there is an ability for replayability just due to the soulbit mechanic and trying builds with other main characters which are all elementally themed. The game isn’t a traditional deck building game as it is being branded, so the soulbit mechanic shouldn’t put you off SOULVARS. You can pick it up here, plus there is a demo if you want to try before you buy. If you love JRPG’s, games within a Japanese setting or being a agent for hire, SOULVARS does not disappoint.
Final Verdict: I Like it a Lot.