Not only does Skulls of the Shogun: Bone-A-Fide Edition prove that the turn-based strategy genre is alive and kicking, but it does so in a stylish and grin-inducing manner.
Whenever turn-based strategy fans reminisce about their favorite genre, a strong sense of nostalgia invades their minds. Arguably, titles such as Advance Wars, Sid Meier’s Civilization V, XCOM: UFO Defense and Jagged Alliance 2 represent the pinnacle of the genre and if you have any appreciation for turn-based strategy games, you probably think that “they don’t make them like this anymore.” That said, Skulls of the Shogun injects life into the dormant genre and not only does the indie game prove that the genre is alive and kicking, but it does so in a stylish and grin-inducing manner.
The game’s ridiculous story puts you in the shoes of general Akamoto in feudal Japan. During the opening cutscene, we see the Japanese warrior in a fierce battle. But in a manner of seconds, he’s killed and transported to the afterlife. Soon after arriving in the underworld, the general starts defying authority. Basically, Akamoto refuses to wait in line to be judged. He demands to be judged right away and he sets out on a journey to fight anybody who opposes him. Needless to say, the story is lighthearted and chances are you’re going to find it so funny, that you’ll want to continue playing just so that you can see what the ridiculous characters will say next.
In terms of gameplay, Skulls of the Shogun mixes some traditional elements with some innovative ones. At the beginning of your turn, you can move units around the battlefield. Each of these units has a limited number of actions they can perform each turn, such as a attacking, defending, using a spell and haunting fields or temples, to name but a few.
At the same time, there are different types of units, each with its set of advantages and disadvantages: infantry has a high defense, but a limited movement range; cavalry is both average in terms of attack and defense, but they have a large movement range and finally, archers have a big attack range, but a weak defense. Additionally, special units known as monks (which can be summoned via temples) have the ability to use powerful spells. But without a doubt, the general is the most important unit. The general has more HP and attack capabilities that the rest of the units, but a specific disadvantage discourages from using this unit: if your general dies, you lose the game.
But despite their differences, all your units have something in common: they can eat the skulls of dead enemies. When an enemy unit dies or falls off a ledge, it leaves a skull behind. The unit that eats the skull will heal and gain max HP. Additionally, eating three skulls will transform that unit into a demon which means that it can perform two actions in the same turn instead of just one.
Understanding all the different mechanics, unit types, abilities and spells takes some time, but once you’ve mastered the basics, Skulls of the Shogun becomes deeply engrossing. It also helps that as you make progress, new units come into play, encouraging you to approach situations differently.
Once you finish the single-player portion of the game, you can sink your teeth into the multiplayer, There are three main modes: Skulls on the Couch, Skulls Online and Skulls Anywhere. As its name suggests, Skulls on the Couch is a typical hotseat mode in which you and up to three friends can play one turn at a time. Skulls Online is a purely online mode that’s divided into two self-explanatory modes: player match and ranked match. Finally, Skulls Anywhere is an asynchronous multiplayer mode which means players can make moves when they find it convenient.
Apart from including the single-player and multiplayer campaigns from the original version, Skulls of the Shogun: Bone-A-Fide Edition has several new features, including six new maps, a four-chapter epilogue called The Forgotten Isles, a unit type known as Tanuki (which has the ability to confuse enemies,) developer commentary and a new song by artist Mega Ran.
In conclusion, Skulls of the Shogun: Bone-A-Fide Edition has everything you’d expect from a turn-based strategy game and more. A variety of units, solid gameplay, fresh mechanics, laugh-out-loud moments, great visuals and some potent multiplayer modes make Skulls of the Shogun: Bone-A-Fide Edition a turn-based strategy game you won’t want to miss.