App Army Assemble: Soulvars - "Does this pixel art JRPG stand out in a crowded genre?"

App Army Assemble: Soulvars - "Does this pixel art JRPG stand out in a crowded genre?"

Soulvars is a pixel art JRPG from indie developer GinoLab. It previously launched in Japan, where it enjoyed some success earlier this year. Now GinoLab has released the game in English for the rest of the world to enjoy. Our reviewer Catherine enjoyed her time with Soulvars, so we decided to hand the game over to our App Army to see what they thought.

Here's what they said:

Robert Maines

Soulvars is an old school 2D RPG with a card building mechanic that is let down by being overly complex.
You guide your characters around a city, having random battles using a card system that I found almost impenetrable to use. Even after several hours of playing the game, I wasn’t sure what I was doing. The random battles quickly become boring. Which is a shame cos the retro visuals and animations look lovely and the soundtrack rocks. Thumbs down from me.

Hope Sellers

I love deck building games but the gameplay was kind of boring to me sadly. I do like the story though and the graphics are cool. I may still keep playing to see if it grows on me. I think because it’s not like the usual deck builders I play.

Dries Pretorius

Confession time. I dislike JRPG games intensely, but I am crazy about deck building RPGs like SteamWorld Quest, StS, and Card Quest. So SOULVARS was an interesting experience for me, with aesthetics evoking Shin Megami Tensei and gameplay that gravitates toward Card Quest.

The JRPG flavour was not so much a problem for me as the presentation, tutorials are presented as static frames, there is no way to look at the detail of a card or power before you activate it, and I was in a murk of trial and error for twenty minutes before figuring out how to access past tutorial stills to figure out how the game works again.

Furthermore, there is no autosave, only manual saving, I have no idea why this is presented as a feature, because it bites when you realise that you have to start the same save for a third time after closing the app without saving, again. Underneath this rough surface is a game of complex mechanics that bring enough to the genre that I felt a sense of strategic pressure.

There is a sense that even greater depths lurk under the inaccessible surface. With all the spoonfeeding idle games on the AppStore, and nestled in a genre that often presents the player with the option to just kick back while Auto-Battle figures things out. This dense, enigmatic title is the palet cleanser for JRPG fans who crave something bittersweet with plenty of depth.

Swapnil Jadhav

The game mechanics are good with beautiful graphics and animations. The effects of using powerups were quite good. I find the tutorial too cluttered with a lot of text. The idea looks promising but there are problems in the execution. The retro feel is good but the game designer must work on UI and UX.

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Torbjörn Kämblad

This has not happened before with almost 1000 game reviews under my belt. I could not play the game at all. The colour scheme chosen made me cringe at first, and halfway through the tutorial kind of noxious. Using colours that are strong contrast colours is great for emergency services but not for a game.
There might be great game mechanics, and even a story to it all to be found in Soulvars. I will not be able to find out, sadly.

Jc Ga

I did not enjoy Soulvars. And I'm very disappointed, because I really liked the first idea of the gameplay, that the customization of the characters changes the possible actions and that combinations are to be unlocked.
First of all, the details of graphics and music displeased me: the smallness of the illustrations, the music that I found repetitive, the laborious circulation in the menus, and too textual with the text difficult to read on my phone even in the largest setting.

But I tried to continue the game, but unfortunately, in a second step, I was disappointed by the very repetitive Oldschool enemy encounters, the lightness of the scenario and the lack of details on the characters, in favour of some rather stereotyped dialogue poorly served by an English translation not always satisfactory.
I suppose that on a much larger screen, on a tablet, for example, the gaming experience could be greatly improved, with more readable graphics and texts, but on the phone, I was not at all convinced by this experience!

Mark Abukoff

This is a good-looking deck-building JRPG. I like that it seems to fit a lot into a portrait-mode sized screen, although the target stats (that show you resistance to various attacks etc) seemed to be very small and tightly packed into a small box that wasn’t easy to read. There is an ability to change the text size a bit in the options, which helped a bit. Controls are simple and basic and work fine. The music is appropriate for the retro game and presentation. The graphics are sharp and appealing.

Maybe my imagination but they seemed just a bit above the usual retro-pixel standard for games like this. Different game modes open up as you progress. As for the story, well, it’s pretty typical of these games. Interesting enough but to my mind there’s not much to set it aside from other games. Yes, I like the portrait mode and the section-by-section map. The graphics are nice and sharp. These factors make it stand out if the story doesn’t. If you like games like these and enjoy the mechanics, I think you’re going to be a fan of this. It really is very well put together (if some of the text is a bit too scrunched). But if you’re more story-oriented, like I am, you might find this a bit lacking.

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Stephen Gregson-Wood
Stephen Gregson-Wood
Stephen brings both a love of games and a very formal-sounding journalism qualification to the Pocket Gamer team.