Skulls of the Shogun red

Our recent visit to 17-BIT, Seattle-based makers of upcoming Xbox Live strategy title Skulls of the Shogun included a studio tour and interview with founder Jake Kazdal. As much as I enjoyed those parts of the visit, I was still dying to get my hands on the game itself once again. We had a few minutes with the Windows Phone game at E3, but that wasn’t much time to get a grasp on the story mode. Luckily, this time I got to play through the entire first campaign level as well as set up a Skulls Anywhere online game. See our latest hands-on video after the break!

Skulls of the Shogun features a lengthy single-player campaign centered around Japanese warlord General Akamoto. After his betrayal and murder, Akamoto finds himself resurrected in the afterlife and very angry. The first mission lays out the stakes (including the promise of an unseen villain) while explaining the various gameplay systems. Skulls is a fast-paced game that anyone can learn, and yet it offers plenty of depth for strategy fans.

We already knew that Skulls would be a highly approachable game. Playing it in a ‘versus’ setting at E3 convinced us of that, as well as its multiplayer potential. The beautiful artwork is no shocker either – Skulls is clearly one of the most attractive hand-drawn games in some time. I hadn’t actually noticed the excellent soundtrack before, but it’s not too surprising given the high caliber of pixel art on display. I just hope the soundtrack becomes available to purchase from somewhere besides iTunes when it’s finally released.

17-BIT Studio

The gaming area at 17-BIT. Note the development console to the right of a standard Xbox 360.

The element that I really tried to show off in this video is the quality of the writing in the single-player campaign. Here you don’t wince and speed through text in order to get back to the action. No, you’ll pay close attention and see what clever quip 17-BIT has worked into the dialogue. Every little mundane conversation and tutorial text is full of wit and inspiration. Skulls isn’t a role-playing game, but its writing certainly evokes beloved RPGs like Super NES classic Earthbound. The net result is you’ll care about Akamoto’s journey throughout the campaign instead of just the Achievements you'll unlock along the way.

Skulls of the Shogun is due out later this year for Windows Phone, Xbox Live Arcade, and Windows 8. Don’t forget to check out this article for our interview with Jake Kazdal and more studio pictures!