Change is new Best friend

During Steam Next Fest, a week-long event with demos and previews for upcoming games, a game cried out to me from the crowd: the cyberpunk role-playing game YEAR: Change. The trailer alone felt specially designed to lure me in with its rhythmic soundtrack, the neon-soft cityscape and its poor female lead chopping mechs up with a laser sword. I was beaten.

Designed by ThinkingStars, YEAR: Change is an action-adventure game where you play as Ann Flores, a “highly trained combat-trained lone wolf” while facing mega-corporations in search of her missing brother. If her description reminds you Ghost in the shell‘s Motoko Kusanagi, well, you’re not off-base. Just outside the bat, ANNOs aesthetically reminiscent of the iconic cyberpunk stories that came before Ghost in the Shell, The Matrix, and Blade Runner. In the demo, Anno even wakes up from the bed and opens her blinds like GITS ‘ Major Kusanagi, wearing a similar skin-tight combat suit and has a script scene where she looks at the city skyline, like a pixel art version of Rick Deckard looking over Blade Runneris dystopian Los Angeles. YEAR’s obvious inspiration, however, does not dip into parody; instead, they provide a familiar foundation from which the game springs out to tell its own story.

Screenshot: Kotaku / Production IG, Fair Use

Screenshot: Kotaku / Production IG, Fair Use

An iconic moment from the 1995 film

Screenshot: Kotaku / ThinkingStars, Fair Use

Screenshot: Kotaku / ThinkingStars, Fair Use

Like Kusanagi, Anno wakes up from a dream to see the false night sky in Skopp City.

The demo follows Ann as she visits Alan Doyle, her cybernetics doctor, to discover who hacked her virtual assistant. Of course, the good doctor will run some tests through combat simulations, and Ann commits. In what I can only describe as a cyberpunk magic girl transformation, Ann puts on her battle suit and dives into the simulation as Neo in The matrix. A + for style points.

After completing combat training and cutting teeth on a kaiju fight, you discover that Ann suffers from “Entanglelitis”, a cybernetic “Mechanika” virus that has gone viral in the game world. Ann’s Entanglelitis flares up when fights get too intense, causing her vision to distort. Ann then decides to see her brother, whom she has not heard from in ages. She discovers that he is enveloped in the city’s criminal underworld, and finds himself targeted by the same many cybernetic fools who chase him.

The game’s fight is just as “smoking sexy style” as the trailer makes it look. Although it took some time to figure out the timing of the dodges, I did a useful job of pulling off sick laser sword combinations on a bunch of enemies, which was satisfying as hell. There is also a hacking mechanic that lets you not only unlock new history sequences, but also scan an enemy’s stats before hacking and breaking through them.

All of this takes place in a world so packed with exciting details that you can easily miss many on your first playthrough. I usually get satisfied with a demo by playing it once, but I was forced to play this several times to chase new details, dialogue options, and weapon upgrades.

Screenshot: Kotaku / ThinkingStars, Fair Use

Screenshot: Kotaku / ThinkingStars, Fair Use

Cake is probably not the best food choice, Mysterious Sewer Guy.

Screenshot: Kotaku / ThinkingStars, Fair Use

Screenshot: Kotaku / ThinkingStars, Fair Use

YEAR: Change

Screenshot: Kotaku / ThinkingStars, Fair Use

Screenshot: Kotaku / ThinkingStars, Fair Use

Has Alan Doyle tried disconnecting his supercomputer and reconnecting it? Preferably without Ann still inside it.

Screenshot: Kotaku / ThinkingStars, Fair Use

Screenshot: Kotaku / ThinkingStars, Fair Use

The player’s will not cross the game alone. Ayane, Ann’s diligent sidekick helps her throughout the game and provides much-needed sweetness.

Screenshot: Kotaku / ThinkingStars, Fair Use

Screenshot: Kotaku / ThinkingStars, Fair Use

Players can use Ann’s hacking ability to unlock items in the game and assess enemy stats.

“My efforts revealed further lore, more characters to interact with, and weapon upgrades I had missed, even though the demo locks you out of getting enough credits to buy them, and tragically enough to feed the mysterious person in the sewers worried about theirs.” bubbling farts “.

The amazing pixel art seamlessly mixes 2D and 3D elements in a way that reminds me 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim, my game of the year in 2020. The demo suggests it YEAR: Change could be a breathtakingly beautiful RPG with a strong female lead and a combat system where I can express myself. Hopefully the whole game will live up to that promise.

YEAR: Change expected to be released sometime before the end of 2021.

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