Welcome to Retroactive – a new series where we look back at some of the classic, forgotten or under appreciated mobile titles over the years. Keep an eye out for some familiar and not so familiar gems and, of course, if you have any suggestions of any titles we should review, why not shoot us a message on our forums.
Always wanted to develop your own game, but not been clever enough? Yeah, same. But apparently you’ve been able to since 1997, it’s just that nobody really knew until 2010! What am I going on about? Well in 1997 Japanese game developer Kairosoft, launched it’s first title Game Dev Story on PC. Many fans of this game will have only discovered it on an iOS or Android device in 2010, myself included!
For those who are unfamiliar with Game Dev Story, you take charge of a game development company to unleash your video games out to the general public. As the head-honcho of your newly founded company, you learn the ropes of the industry; ranging from choosing the genre and theme of your next release, to delegating staff responsibilities and advertising duties.
Sounds complex doesn’t it? But it’s actually enjoyably easy, despite the many factors that make for a popular game. back when I purchased Game Dev Story in it’s 2010 release week, I remember the trials and tribulations of releasing golf/adventure and animal/simulation games; gaining notoriety for having no clue about winning game combinations.
The total number of genre and theme blends are pretty massive in Game Dev Story, allowing for widespread replay-ability throughout the game. There’s also a healthy number of ways to get the best out of your staff. First off, you can just spend loads of cash and get the best team members ASAP. But let’s be honest, that’s not going to happen early on!
Staff training and levelling up are also an option to help you create highly polished success stories. Fans of RPG games will love this, especially as all the staff have utterly suspicious names like ‘Gilly Bates’ and ‘Newb Ownerton’ (Not sure that one’s even remotely real).
Game Dev Story gives the player the chance to develop games for their favourite consoles too. Well, dubiously named reboots of classic consoles! I’m sure if I was to say that ‘Senga’ and ‘Ninvento’ are two such names, you can probably guess what other delightfully covert game consoles feature for your design pleasure.
Once you get a good handle on all the different factors, it can be easy to dominate the charts with your subsequent releases – subtracting some of the fun from the game and creating a slower pace until the inevitable star-studded end. There is some strategy involved though, moving into sparkly new offices can scupper you financially, so careful planning is essential.
Let’s stop here for a second and talk about a few little things that kind of bugged me in my Game Dev Story hey-day. Sometimes the menus feel a little unintuitive due to a lack of swipe controls, and you only get two save slots (much like many late 90’s mobile games). I guess this is excused by the integration of a high-score system that lets you look back at your biggest achievements though.
Another gripe, though only small, is the fact that the game doesn’t seem to utilise the full dimensions of the screen. Having black spaces round the edges makes it look like the developers were a tiny bit lazy in their port from PC to mobile.
I always thought that Game Dev Story tried hard to recreate a Pokémon-esque art style, but seeing as the first generation of Pokémon didn’t grace us with it’s presence until 1998, it seems it actually looked like this first! You learn something new every day…
Alongside the well-loved graphical style, Game Dev Story boasts an upbeat and cheery soundtrack that is evocative of Game Boy music from the late 90’s. The fact that many of the audio/visual features in the game remind me of my childhood gaming experiences, is probably why I love Game Dev Story so much!
One of the things I really love about this title is the way that your game can shoot to fame or plummet to failure depending on vast number of factors! The market really does feel quite unpredictable, giving a rich and varying experience every time you play.
So where are Kairosoft now? Having been described as “a genre in their own right”, Kairosoft have gone on to develop 19 further titles. These range from shopping mall management to Grand-Prix racing and even a game that sees you overseeing a beauty spa. One of the unique things about Kairosoft games is their unmistakable visual style, a trademark of an RPG that will keep you enthralled no matter its content.
Game Dev Story is one of those games that’s got a special replay-ability factor that I can’t quite put my finger on. No matter what you’re doing in the real world, you always find that you want to make “just one more game”, no just one more, oh go on then another! Definitely one of my all time favourite iOS games.