Yet another well-loved, long-time franchise is slated to ride the current trend of mobile game adaptation. Worse, it would seem that it never originally intended to.
Aquaplus revealed a few days ago its announcement on the newest addition of the Utawarerumono game series. Officially named Utawarerumono: Lost Flag, it will be introduced as a mobile game and will soon be available to Android and iOS this year.
Long-time and well-known game franchises going mobile is a delicate issue among its equally long-time fans. On paper, there is nothing to lose. You have a new game, plus a medium where you could popularize the franchise or series into future fans of the series.
However, classic games going mobile would not be as widely panned as they are today if not for the significant issue in this kind of trend is milking the series or franchise for maximum revenue. As succinctly described by another article discussing this issue, the charm is traded for profit.
Many elements from the original series that are already loved by its fans become suddenly traded for in-game service purchases, time-gated locked content, or worse, imbalanced and game-breaking loot boxes. The idea is now universally hated by a lot of gamers, that not even the likes of Blizzard exempt from being called out for riding the mobile game bandwagon using its older, well-established titles.
Which brings us to Utawarerumono: Lost Flag.
The biggest irony to the game’s reveal is that the entire “revival” project of the series had the slogan: “Taking games back from smartphones” (ゲームをスマホからとりもどす), which was the primary marketing campaign held by Aquaplus when they were promoting Mask of Deception in 2015. As of Lost Flag‘s reveal, it would seem that the slogan has finally lost its meaning, both to the company itself and to the series that previously tried to uphold it.
Japanese comments on the official teaser trailer also strongly referenced this announcement with disparity — or opinions that generally shows the negative views that are typical to what gamers of today usually think when classic titles turned to mobile adaptation.
As for the series itself, Utawarerumono has — for a few decades — enjoyed its status as one of the most pivotal transitional series towards the popularization of Japanese anime, manga, and games through the internet. It started as a visual novel in 2002, and has since then; the series received a lot of sequels, adaptations, and spin-offs across different relevant entertainment media.
Despite not having any actual game releases outside Japan, Utawarerumono has a considerably large international fan base — a small group that extends their admiration through providing the complete fan translation of the game.
While other alternative media releases for the game continue to roll out well after the first game release, no new titles followed the latter. This however, changed in 2015, when Aquaplus released Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception. As an official sequel, it expanded the story of the first, and introduced a whole new cast of characters, as well as chronologically continuing where the original 2002 game left off.
The release of a brand new title under the franchise presumably took off very well. Because another sequel, Utawarerumono: The Mask of Truth was released immediately next year in 2016, which follows directly where Mask of Deception left off.
In 2018, the original Utawarerumono was remade for the PS4 and PS Vita, using the same visual style and graphics as the two previously released sequels. In that same year, Utawarerumono: Zan was released, which is essentially a musou-style series spin-off.
At this point, Utawarerumono has become pretty much a modern franchise, combining its old fan base with the new, younger generation of the recent years. With the announcement of Lost Flag, the series finally steps into the mobile market, seemingly much to the chagrin of its longtime fan base.
Would Aquaplus at least make the experience of playing Utawarerumono: Lost Flag a wholesome experience, despite apparently breaking their claim not to take the series in such business direction?
We’ll just have to wait sometime this year to find out.