Marvelous Japan’s Indie Game Incubator helps bring new Japanese indies to fruition

A number of publishers have jumped on board the “indie support” trend in the last few years — Square Enix’s Collective, which, among other things, brought us the excellent PowerWash Simulator is a good example — and the latest is Marvelous Co. Ltd, Japan, parent company of Marvelous Europe and Xseed, who have kicked off their first Indie Game Incubator program.

The indie scene has grown enormously over the course of the last couple of decades, at least partly thanks to the fact that digital distribution democratises the whole publishing process, allowing pretty much anyone to bring a game to market. But it’s not always an easy process to release a game, let alone make it a success — and so initiatives like the Indie Game Incubator are becoming increasingly important for indie developers to realise their full potential.

Indie Game Incubator

One might argue that accepting the support of a publisher means that you’re not really “indie” any more, but Marvelous in particular is keen to stress that the Indie Game Incubator is not a publishing deal, nor a means of directly financing projects. Rather, creators maintain full control over their work, while Marvelous and their partners in the program act in a mentorship role, offering advice and support as well as helping to connect developers with investors and publishers. And there are some big, successful names acting as mentors, too.

What the developers do with their game once it is complete is still up to them — and they’re under no obligation to accept any of the advice Marvelous and company offer. Perhaps best of all, the program is free for developers to participate in — though only five teams are selected to work with Marvelous at a time.

As a Japanese initiative, the Indie Game Incubator doesn’t directly support localisation of projects — but the program’s promotional material does note that at the end of the process, developers will have the opportunity to pitch to publishers and investors in English, as well as getting support from Marvelous for producing English resources and communicating with international stakeholders.

The first run of the Indie Game Incubator has been proceeding for a while now, and the first five teams are ready to showcase the projects they’ve been working on. If you want to see what these intriguing projects are all about in more detail, there’s a livestream scheduled for November 26, 2021 (which will be archived for those unable to watch in real time) — but in the meantime, let’s take a quick look at what we can expect.

Antarctic Base

The first of the five teams participating in the inaugural Indie Game Incubator program is the Tokyo-based RexLabo, and their project is known as Antarctic Base. It’s a survival adventure game in which you play the role of a young child attempting to reach the South Pole for an “important appointment”, so there’s a strong sense of narrative alongside the survival and crafting action.

Rather than being a freeform, open-world survival game as is usually the case with this sort of thing, Antarctic Base instead unfolds over the course of 12 maps, each of which has a series of goals to accomplish and an overall time limit in which to complete them. The game features an appealing hard-edged polygonal style with minimal use of textures, making for a very distinctive look and feel.

There’s no proposed release date beyond “later winter 2021” as yet, but it’s likely that Antarctic Base will launch through Steam’s Early Access program initially.

Necromance-chan

This project from developer SUPER STARMINE is a top-down twin-stick shooter in which you take on the role of the “prettiest magical girl in the world” as she blasts her way through hordes of monsters in a series of polygonal environments.

The game features a strong emphasis on bullet grazing to charge up special moves, so should be of particular interest to danmaku enthusiasts — and it sounds like we can expect some banging electro-swing music to accompany the action if the trailer is anything to go by.

Never Awake

Never Awake from Neotro Inc. is another twin-stick shooter, but this time the colourful anime action of Necromance-chan is swapped for a dark, nightmarish look themed around a coma patient’s dreams. There’s a strong emphasis on narrative development in this one; as you fight your way through the game, you’ll find out more about the sleeping girl’s dark past.

Interestingly for a twin-stick shooter, Never Awake eschews the usual top-down open maps in favour of more choreographed horizontally scrolling levels. There’s some gorgeous art and well-animated enemies in this one — definitely one to watch for shoot ’em up fans.

Never Awake is planned for PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation and Xbox platforms in early 2022.

Ninja or Die

This “roguelike action game” from nao games features a gorgeous pixel art style along with some excellent animation and frighteningly high-speed action. While bearing a certain resemblance to classic titles in the genre such as Dead Cells, it’s clear that Ninja or Die has a strong emphasis on making use of the main character’s agility. To that end, the control scheme simply involves clicking to leap around, and attacking enemies is a simple matter of touching them while jumping.

You can actually try an early version of the game for yourself right on the web here if you’re on a desktop PC, and here if you’re on mobile.

Relash

The final game set to be showcased at the Indie Game Incubator is Relash from a developer known as RetroGradeGames, apparently previously known simply as Matsumoto. It’s a puzzle game built in Unreal Engine 4 where the concept is that time runs backwards, so you’ll need to cooperate with your past self in order to make it through the various challenges ahead of you.

There’s an early demo of this one available on Steam right now, though the developer notes that there’s no UI specifically for controller as yet. You can still use controller, though.


To find out more about all these games, check in on the Indie Game Incubator website for the livestream on November 26, 2021. If you miss it live, the stream will be archived so you can watch it back later, too.

Anything catch your eye?

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Pete Davison
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