Studio founder reveals the origins and inspirations behind this hack and slash RPG.
It all started with an indie game that I made myself with RPG Maker back in 2010. It was named Rainblood: Town of Death. The process of making it was an escape from the difficulties and frustrations life threw at me when I was studying architecture, first in Beijing, then in New Haven.
Then I returned to China and founded S-Game to make more games. Rainblood grew into a whole franchise and picked up a new name: Phantom Blade. Most of these games were for smartphones and never released outside of China. Still, we’ve managed to build a fan base of over 20 million.
Now is the time to make the game that we always wanted to make, and present it to the world as a new PlayStation 5 game.
Allow me to introduce Phantom Blade Zero, the spiritual rebirth of the original Rainblood. It’s massively larger and richer, changing engine from RPG maker to Unreal Engine 5, but has never changed in its core.
Phantom World, the universe that the game is set in, is a universe where many kinds of powers converge. You’ll find Chinese Kungfu, intricate machines reminiscent of steampunk, arts of the occult, and intriguing stuff that doesn’t quite fit into any of these categories.
In Phantom Blade Zero, you’re Soul, an elite assassin serving an elusive but powerful organization known simply as “The Order”. He was framed for the murder of The Order’s patriarch and gravely injured in the manhunt that ensued. A mystic healer managed to save him from death, but makeshift cure only lasts for 66 days. He must find out the mastermind behind it all before his time runs out, against powerful foes and inhuman monstrosities.
From Louis Cha’s Wuxia stories to Bruce Lee’s movies, and Michelle Yeoh in Everything Everywhere All at Once, and Donnie Yen in John Wick: Chapter 4, Kungfu in pop culture is constantly evolving, but always awesome! With Phantom Blade Zero, we are adding a new twist to the formula, a heavy dose of punk spirit, alongside with stylish visuals. We call this overall art direction “Kungfupunk”.
Phantom Blade Zero unfolds in a semi-open world. We are aware that “open world” is the buzz word in these days, but with limited resources, we would rather present you multiple maps of reasonable size, and handcrafted and populated with diverse activities, instead of one huge continuity full of repurposed/reused assets.
The dark/bleak visual style that you’ll see a lot in the game is a deliberate decision. A bleak world makes characters with hearts of gold really stand out. Plus, it serves as a reminder to never let your guard down. There are plenty of powerful beings that want to see you dead. They’re challenging but abundantly rewarding, in the form of weapons, armor, artifacts, skills, among other ways to customize or progress your character.
Authentic Kungfu moves
We are huge fans of the hack and slash genre. Stellar titles like Devil May Cry or Ninja Gaiden are insanely exhilarating with their huge arsenal of moves and lightning-fast pace. However, they are not for everyone. What’s more popular today is “strategic action game”, such as Soulslikes and Monster Hunter. They choose to slow things down a notch or two, giving players more time for strategic thinking. But that approach doesn’t convey the kind of action fest we have in mind, namely, the sleek, breathtaking moves in Kungfu movies back in the 1990s.
Lucky for us, during the decade making mobile games, we learned to simplify things in favor of touchscreens, giving players a way to execute elaborate chains of moves with a minimum amount of button-mashing. As it turns out, with some tweaks, this mechanism works just as well on controllers.
And we’re honored to have Mr. Kenji Tanigaki as our action director. Kenji-san is responsible for many mesmerizing fighting scenes in classic Kungfu movies. In fact, many of our ideas are inspired by his early works. In Phantom Blade Zero, his role is to demonstrate each designed move, which is then captured with a camera matrix, for the reference of our animation artists. You’re reading it right. Combat moves in Phantom Blade Zero have to be made with handcrafted animation, because motion capturing can’t do it justice.
This is as much as we can disclose at this stage. As we work vigorously on the new PS5 game, there will be more news down the road.
PlayStation Showcase 2023
PlayStation Studios & third-party publisher announcements
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- First Assassin’s Creed Mirage gameplay revealed, launches October 12
- Alan Wake 2 launches on PS5 October 17
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PS VR2 announcements
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- First look at Arizona Sunshine 2 revealed, launches on PS VR2 this year
- First PS VR2 footage for Resident Evil 4 VR Mode revealed
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- Revealing Ultros, a psychedelic sci-fi side-scroller coming to PS5 and PS4 in 2024
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- Towers of Aghasba hits PS5 next year – new gameplay details
- Revealing Cat Quest: Pirates of the Purribean, coming to PS5 and PS4 next year
- Phantom Blade Zero: a new beginning in a long journey
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- Meet the friends and foes of The Plucky Squire’s storybook world
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