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Celestial Dance: Shift the Tide (developed by Rooftops Revolution)
Celestial Dance is a free Harvest Moon-inspired otome life sim currently in development. It features a huge cast of well-developed characters with whom the heroine will get to grow up – and maybe even fall in love! Every character has beautiful hand-drawn portraits and voice acting mixed to sound like an audio drama. Although the main focus of the game is forming friendships and relationships, there’s lots more to do, such as going to school, working, cooking, fishing, gardening, shopping, and attending town events. The player character is customizable in terms of appearance, personality, and hobbies. Explore the town of Araysia and make unbreakable bonds in this immersive, feature-rich production.
ContraTempo is a unique rhythm RPG currently in development. It stars a girl named Lisa who once wanted to be a dancer, but after an accident paralyzed her from the waist-down, she decided to build a dancing robot named Capella. The two of them set out on a journey to free their futuristic world from its tyrannical leader. The player must successfully clear short rhythm games in order to attack their foes or defend themselves. From what I’ve played of it so far, it feels like Earthbound meets StepMania and Rhythm Heaven. It has a quirky sense of humour and tons of original assets, including music, tiles, and character portraits. Each of the bosses is based off of a different genre of music, making for an unforgettably diverse experience.
Legacy of the World (developed by PowerBurger and TheMisterLuigi)
Legacy of the World is a turn-based RPG with a demo currently available. The story begins with a retired mercenary named Kurtwood who must deliver a package to the king, but quickly becomes wrapped up in a much larger fight against a shadowy organization. This game has lovable characters and challenging, varied boss fights. It also features a useful class-changing system, original facesets, enemy ambushes, and some seriously catchy battle themes. The combat was my favourite out of any RPG Maker game I’ve tried so far – you have to use all of your skills and classes effectively in order to win.
[screenshot coming soon]
Ad Lucem is a turn-based RPG with a demo currently available, though the project is on hiatus for the time being. The main character, Eachann, is a young squire who finds his faith and loyalty tested by the treacherous journeys awaiting him. This game is packed with high fantasy worldbuilding and lots of little details that are fun to discover. It has original art and music, voice acting, and an interesting combat system with timed button presses, plus very solid mapping and dialogue. Its level of customization gives it a different feeling from many other projects and reflects a lot of effort on the dev’s behalf.
While two-person dev circle Candy☆Giants has put out a lot of great games, these two visual novels are my favourites of theirs. Both have demos currently available. Hero in the Family explores the family life of a wannabe monster hunter through a series of futuristic fantasy vignettes. Five Star Freeloaders is a goofy comedy about a NEET, a robot, and a demon-possessed wallflower who have to find jobs if they want to keep living together. Though they differ greatly in tone, both are exemplary in terms of quality, from the art to the writing to the interface.