Black Bird's story unfolds in the space of a few second. A girl drops dead on the street, where she's ignored by passersby, except for one man who pokes her corpse with a cane. Then the background fades as the girl becomes an egg, out of which hatches an avenging raven.
The game that follows bears a superficial resemblance to Defender in the freedom it offers you on a 2D screen. You move back forth and shoot (energy? bullets? blood?) from the raven's mouth at creatures on the ground - presumably the ones that wronged you. In case you're uncertain about your role, there's a hand-drawn sign at the demo station with a picture of one of the creatures and the exhortation to "Kill them all!"
Among the indies on BitSummit's floor, Black Bird immediately stands out for its visual flair and artistic style. The soundtrack is almost operatic in its styling, a singer chanting in an over-the-top fashion that only serves to enhance the look and feel of the game. It's not what you would call complex, but its presentation really puts it over the top.
It marks Onion Games developer Yoshiro Kimura's first foray into PC development since going independent. Kimura, who is best-known for his work on Little King's Story, hopes to eventually bring Black Bird to console as well, but says he needs to finish the game first.
Though he hasn't really worked with shooters before, Black Bird is pretty much par for the course for Yoshiro Kimura, who is best-known for his work on Little King Story. Bouncing around energetically in his trademark messenger cap, he's a familiar sight around BitSummit. Every year he brings a new and interesting game to the show, and every year it's the game that seems to get people talking the most. Last year's game was Brave Yamada, of which I said at the time, "Hopefully both [Brave Yamada and Million Onion Hotel] will eventually make their way to the American App Store, as their bonkers sense of humor and distinct pixel art would make for a breath of fresh air amid a sea of faceless free-to-play strategy games."
Brave Yamada launched on mobile in Japan last year, but there's been no word of an American release. When I asked Kimura about it, he told me, "I wanted to make Yamada for Japan because it was about Japanese indie development. It was really important for me to sell to Japanese gamers first, then I wanted to try and translate it. As a system, if someone wants to translate [Brave Yamada], then we're ready. But we're waiting."
Well let me just say that if someone does decide to pick up Yamada and Black Bird for localization, I'll be the first in the virtual line to pick them up.
Kimura's games shines because they are not only really polished and attractive, but have a really distinct voice. As with the best indie games, their style and strong sense of identity allow them to transcend their otherwise relatively simple graphics. And beyond that, Yamada in particular is really creative in the way that it matches mobile-friendly puzzle gaming with solid RPG elements.
Kimura is an outspoken advocate for Japanese indie development; and to his credit, he's leading by example. Here's hoping westerners will soon get to see why for themselves.