Skulls of the Shogun coming to Windows Phone, XBLA, and Windows 8 on January 30th

We’re still unsure about the next couple of weeks, but the drought of Xbox game releases for Windows Phone will definitely cease by the end of the month. Microsoft has made a rare advance release date announcement for a mobile game – and it’s a good one. At long last, Skulls of the Shogun from 17-Bit and Microsoft Studios will debut on January 30th for Windows Phone 7 and 8, Xbox Live Arcade, and Windows 8 and RT!

Watch out, Civilization

Skulls of the Shogun is a fast-paced, turn-based strategy game set in a feudal Japanese underworld. In the single-player campaign, players take on the role of a general who was betrayed in his former life. Awakening in the afterlife, he quickly builds an undead army and sets out on a mission of vengeance. The story’s writing is both interesting and hilarious thanks to excellent writing, some of which you can witness in our hands-on video below.

Strategy veterans and people who’ve never played a strategy game before will have no trouble learning Skulls’ gameplay. When a character’s turn comes up, his movement radius appears as a circle around him. Move him anywhere within that area and attack any nearby enemies. Eating the skulls of downed warriors buffs a unit. Each side has a General character with greater offensive power than the rest. But if your General dies, you lose, so part of the strategy is keeping him sufficiently protected.

Crossing platforms on cloud

One of the Skulls of the Shogun’s most exciting aspects for Microsoft enthusiasts is its cross-platform support. No, you can’t buy a single copy of the game and play it on all three platforms – we’re a few years off from Microsoft hopping onto that train. But users who purchase Skulls on more than one platform (and even some who don’t) will benefit from several awesome features.

First up, users can start a game on one version of Skulls and then resume on another version thanks to cloud saving. We’ve been clamoring for that feature in Windows Phone games for years, so it’s always great to see a game that uses it. The “Pause, Play, Resume” feature seems ideally suited for players who want to play on the big screen at home and then take the game with them on a phone or tablet when they leave the house.

Just as cool, Skulls supports cross-platform multiplayer for up to four players! That means Windows Phone, Xbox 360, and Windows 8/RT users will all be able to play against each other for the first time in any game. Skulls’ online multiplayer is asynchronous and competitive in nature. Each player will move his or her warriors and then wait for the next player to do the same as they battle for supremacy. Think AlphaJax but way more exciting and without the cheating! Also, all versions support local multiplayer.

Finally, players dedicated enough to buy each version will enjoy three times the Achievements. Yes, they are stackable.

Mark that calendar

Skulls of the Shogun for Windows Phone

Windows Phone version. For more shots, check out 17-Bit's website.

Great gameplay, beautiful art and music, sharp writing, and the best cross-platform features of any game on a Microsoft platform should make Skulls of the Shogun a game to remember. All three versions launch on Wednesday, January 30th. The XBLA and Windows 8/RT versions will cost $15 and the Windows Phone game $6.99/£5.49. A bit expensive for a phone game, but remember that it provides the full console/PC experience on the go.

Thanks to everyone who tipped us!

Paul Acevedo

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!