Laura Shigihara is a woman of many talents: most notably she composed the Plants vs Zombies soundtrack. She also worked on the official Square-Enix Chrono Trigger 25th Anniversary Album. Now she’s showcasing her design skills with the adventure Rakuen which will be coming to Steam in early 2017.
The story seems to take drama and slice of life cues from To the Moon (another game she worked on for the audio); You play as a boy who is perpetually confined to a hospital. To take a break from your humdrum setting, you escape into your favorite book. Soon you find yourself in front of the guardian of this fantasy land. The boy is presented with the opportunity to receive one wish by helping those patients surrounding him in the hospital. You’ll travel between the real world and fantasy world and meet a number of interesting personalities. Will you be able to face new challenges and help those that need it most?
Rakuen also features:
● Heartwarming and character-rich story.
● Unique non-combat adventure that mixes whimsical dungeons, eerie room escape puzzles, and dialogue-based mysteries that are intricately tied to the story.
● Walk a mile in everyone’s shoes as you traverse each character’s life to learn about their unfinished business and help them through it.
● An original soundtrack featuring multiple vocal songs that are closely tied to each character.
● Collect items and build friendships to gradually make the hospital a better place.
● Go on humorous quests for strange creatures in the fantasy world.
The soundtrack notably contains over 50 tracks by Shigihara: Looks like she couldn’t keep away from composing in her own games as well. Concept artist Emmy Toyonaga (The Sims series) is also assisting with the game by adding a colorful pixel art style and large character portraits.
I find it difficult not to be excited for a game like Rakuen that slows things down with a more story/character driven approach. The unique setting of a hospital and parallel fantasy world open up the possibility of intriguing drama and an exploration of more mature themes. We’ll have to wait just a little bit longer to see just how well Shigihara is able to balance youthful whimsy with the seriousness of terminal illness and death.