PAX East 2017: YIIK: A Postmodern RPG Preview

Originally published on Trevor Trove on March 14, 2017

When I first saw YIIK: A Postmodern RPG at the 2015 PlayStation Experience, I immediately recognized (in part because I don’t think Ackk Studios is trying to hide it) the Earthbound inspiration to the game. YIIK is a lovingly crafted Japanese RPG that fully embraces Americana, just as Earthbound did all those years ago. In fact, YIIK adds an extra element of nostalgia for that era, setting the game in all the glory of the late 90s. Overt references to the Tanner family home from Full House and boy bands are littered throughout the game.

In my hands-on time with the game, I wandered around the town as protagonist Alex and chatted with many of his town’s NPCs who commented on stuff like what topics they would discuss in the actual game instead of this demo. Touches like that always tickle me as evidence I’m playing something they crafted (even in some small way) specifically for a convention or demo that people who ultimately play the full game will never experience. Eventually I made my way to Alex’s home (a direct homage to the aforementioned Full House residence) and enjoyed the nostalgia-riddled decor (a Gameboy, PlayStation, and Super Nintendo in Alex’s room for example).

It was around this point I got mildly distracted listening to the developer talk to someone else behind me about developing the soundtrack of the game and I missed the “go here next”-type instruction that came with a shopping list I picked up. This led me to wandering aimlessly for a bit while I tried to proceed through the demo. After wandering around town for what probably felt like forever to anyone who might have been waiting to play behind me, I finally stumbled upon an extraordinarily-whiskered cat who took my shopping list and wandered off into the forest.

Following after the cat led to my first encounters with combat in the game. The combat drips with nostalgia as well. The battles are framed much like combat ripped out of Final Fantasy VII (with a hipster coat of paint) and attacking incorporates event-based action like out of the Super Mario RPG/Paper Mario games. For example, Alex attacks with a vinyl record. How many times he attacks an enemy is determined by a record spinning with yellow and red zones on a turntable. Every button press on the yellow zones account for one attack and successfully tapping the button on the red zone earns another rotation through the yellow zones. For the early-game foes I was facing, my six-attack turns were certainly overkill but it’s a mechanic that will likely come in handy in later boss battles or against tougher enemies.

The demo proceeded into an abandoned factory where I was introduced to another element of the game in the form of tools: items that can be used to help solve puzzles. In this case, the tool was a large friendly talking panda bear that I could place on switches and call back at will. Eventually, I found the cat and her owner, a mysterious girl with little awareness of the outside world. She joined the party briefly as we escaped the factory before she was pulled away from Alex by unknown attackers. And then the demo ended.

After eyeing this game on and off for the last couple years, it was fun to finally actually sit down with it. It definitely set my expectations accordingly now. This is a very story-driven game with a lot of turn-based combat and grinding. It will require a bit more focus and strategy than more action-oriented fare so I’ll have to set aside some time for it when it launches later this year. I can’t wait.

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