Soul Saga could get PS4 and PS Vita versions through Kickstarter, indie JRPG inspired by PlayStation classics (updated)

UPDATE: As of this writing, Soul Saga’s Kickstarter campaign has accrued $119,144 in pledges. Several stretch goals have been unlocked, including the below-mentioned ports to PS4 and PS Vita. In addition, a trailer has been released showing pre-alpha gameplay footage. Enjoy, and look forward to Soul Saga on PlayStation platforms next summer.

Original: Many PlayStation enthusiasts remember the original PlayStation’s era–a time of great innovation and kick-ass JRPGs. Final Fantasy. Star Ocean. Suikoden. Grandia. Vagrant Story. The list goes on and on, but recent years have seen an undeniable drought in a genre that arguably made the PlayStation brand in the late ’90s.

Mike Gale is not pleased. The one-man army, under the monikor Disastercake, is working on Soul Saga, a self-described "love letter to J-RPGs from the PlayStation era like Final Fantasy, Breath of Fire, Suikoden, and Persona." To that end, Soul Saga will incorporate a sweeping, epic narrative, turn-based combat modeled after Final Fantasy X, an eclectic cast of characters, and imaginative environments like the sky-city Medonia and the wastelands of Oterra below.

Mike grew up playing classic RPGs and fell in love with the industry. After a stint working in Microsoft’s games department, he set off on his own to make Soul Saga–the game he’s always wanted to make. Only 12 days ago, he looked to Kickstarter to make his dream a reality.

Today, with more than 17 days to go, Soul Saga passed its funding goal of $60,000.

When I first noticed Soul Saga’s Kickstarter page a week ago, I took to Twitter to try and connect Mike with Shahid Ahmad, SCEE’s Strategic Content wizard and champion of the independent developer. At the time, the only announced platforms were PC, Mac, Linux, and (of all things) Wii U. But any game that pays homage to the golden age of PlayStation RPGs belongs on a PlayStation platform.

As word began breaking that Mike was in talks with PlayStation to make PS Vita and PS4 ports happen, I noticed Soul Saga’s funded amount jump by thousands of dollars. This morning, the news came in–PS Vita and PS4 versions will happen if Soul Saga hits its stretch goal of $80,000. Mere hours later, it broke past its $60,000 base funding goal.

In an exclusive conversation with PSU, Mike shared his thoughts on the game’s early attention and working with Sony. "I’d like to thank all of the generous fans of Soul Saga, because without them this dream couldn’t happen," he said. "Working with Sony so far has been great. . . . When they get back to me, they are full of answers. They are also helping guide me along on the paper work to help streamline the process."

"I had some long and hard talks with Sony reps and researched into their relationship with Unity. From everything I can see, and considering I am already using Unity to create Soul Saga, it all looks extremely solid," he explained in a Kickstarter update. "We are entering a new age of game development where indies can really reach platforms that were once closed to anyone without 7 digit bank accounts. And I’m excited to be among some of the first indies to enter into this new age!"

PlayStation gamers and RPG fans have reason to be excited as well. Soul Saga’s systems and design may pay homage to countless genre classics, but I’m intrigued by its unique gameplay twists. For example, instead of being tied to a universal HP/MP system, each party member will have a different resource to manage for special attacks. Mithos, an ambitious young man who wants to finish the world-saving quest his father failed, accumulates "Focus" with basic attacks, but can use that Focus to transform his regular skill set into a powerful new set. The skills he unleashes mid-battle depend on how much Focus he has accumulated, adding an element of resource management to the proceedings. Meanwhile, Elise–a talented engineer who harbors a secret love for Mithos–has to periodically spend a turn restocking her arsenal with "Gadgets" that are spent on both offensive and defensive skills. By spending 3 Gadgets out of 6, for example, she might lay caltrops around an ally to damage any monster that approaches them.

Soul Saga’s anime artwork is similarly compelling. Mike plays just about every role in Soul Saga’s development–programmer, lead designer, technical artist–but much of the game’s art is outsourced to "talented artists around the world." The result is a main cast that’s heartwarming in nostalgia that practically oozes from their designs. Lead male Mithos is Threads of Fate’s Rue, or Final Fantasy XII’s Vaan. Elise is a dead ringer for Roll (a Mega Man Legends favorite that’s near to my heart). Antagonist Garen? Ganondorf. Or an Ivalice Judge. Take your pick.

Even the narrative hearkens back to industry legends. A corruption of monsters called Inkheart plagues the surface world of Oterra. The floating city of Medonia is protected by the Tempest Reef, an impenetrable barrier of clouds, but Medonia’s islands are dying and the only cure may be hidden on Oterra. Rumors persist of a passage called Cloud’s End through the Tempest Reef, and the world’s fate may rest on the Guilds of Medonia finding a way through annihilation to the cataclysmic wastes beyond. But Mithos isn’t searching for Cloud’s End to save the world–he only wants to slay the King of the Dragons and one-up his guildmaster father, who failed to do the same 10 years ago.

The inspirations are less-than-subtle, but that’s the point–Soul Saga looks to be a send-up of RPG stories that touched your heart and systems that inspired journeys you’ll never forget.

And it doesn’t stop there. From a J-pop theme song to voice talent from Full Metal Alchemist and Skullgirls, Soul Saga looks every bit the real indie deal. But it’s not ready yet, and until the game hits its $80,000 stretch goal, PS4 and PS Vita versions aren’t guaranteed. If the stretch goal is met, a $15 pledge will net you a code to download the game for either platform when it launches in July 2014 (no word yet on Cross-Buy or Cross-Save functionality). Other pledge tiers include high-resolution wallpapers, private beta access, the soundtrack, a physical copy of the game, and more. At the extreme end of the scale (read: a $10,000 pledge), you will be credited as an Associate Producer and consulted on everything from graphics and gameplay to sound throughout the game’s development.

To address the ethical elephant in the room: PSU is not advertising Soul Saga. We are neither endorsing its development nor soliciting pledges on behalf of Disastercake. Disastercake did not approach us for coverage.

We cover PlayStation news for the most passionate PlayStation audience in the world. Soul Saga, a game in the grand tradition of PS1 RPGs, could come to PS4 and PS Vita.

If that’s not newsworthy, I don’t know what is.

Soul Saga is currently targeted for release next summer. Pre-alpha gameplay footage will be released tomorrow.

Kyle Prahl is a Managing Editor for PSU and JRPG fan who sees nods to Mega Man Legends and Final Fantasy X–two of his favorite games–in Soul Saga. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

From the Soul Saga Kickstarter page: