RPGs, despite being a diverse genre, have become a trite predictable of late. With Giftpia (from "Gift" and "Utopia"), Skip hopes to change that. Similar to the Harvest Moon series, Giftpia shuns battles and combat, and instead makes the player do some good honest work. Mundane? Somehow, the word just doesn't seem to fit when it comes to Giftpia.
The story takes place on Nanashi Island. The populace is eagerly expecting the coming-of-age ceremony of one Pokkle. Coming of age ceremonies are a big deal in these parts, because without them, the child will never become an adult! By the time Pokkle arrives, having just woken up, the would-be celebrators have left, and the mayor (Pokkle's dad, incidentally) is in a fury. He throws his son in jail for his behavior, and demands that he pay 5,000,000 moneys to perform the ceremony. Once released, Pokkle sets out to collect the funds.
Giftpia (or, if you must, GiFTPiA) is yet another game to use cell-shading graphics, but Giftpia looks like it might even surpass The Wind Waker. The graphics have a more full-bodied, three-dimensional look to them, with a hard-edged style. Of course, they still look benevolently cartoony. The animation is fluid, which is good because the characters are full of motion and crazy movements. Skip hasn't slacked off on sound, either. A lot of time has been invested in the voiceovers, which are not in English or Japanese. Skip has created a unique language that has its roots in Vietnamese and African tongues, among others. Sounds a bit like Furbish. The music comes from a radio DJ who spins tunes from a variety of genres, not excluding, of course, syrupy video game music. Many bands and groups had a hand in creating Giftpia's soundtrack, so it should prove interesting.
There are many ways to earn cash in Giftpia. Many are positively mini-gameish, such as collecting pineapples or fishing. Others are more quest-like, and these will be both the major sources of income and the events that advance the plot. There are a number of rules that limit Pokkle's enterprises, however. The main one is again reminiscent of Harvest Moon. There is a counter in the top-left hand corner that displays how long it is until Pokkle's bedtime. Failure to get to bed on time results in undesirable consequences. Pokkle has a robotic companion, Mappo, who offers advice but also enforces other rules of the island. As the quest continues, some of these limitations disappear or become less significant, and new areas of the island become open to Pokkle.
The RPG element of it all comes into play with the heart containers. They are found, exactly (right down to the musical tone) in the same way as Zelda. Only here, they represent calories of energy. Pokkle will obviously need a lot to complete his quest. It is not clear in what other ways this game is an RPG, but Harvest Moon style tool and equipment upgrades would seem to fit the pattern.
Giftpia has tons of fun characters to meet, and NPC interaction is the backbone of the game. Even more enticing than these characters may be two of the developers. They are Kenichi Nishi and Keito Eto. The pair has previously worked together on Chrono Trigger. 'Nuff said.
Although it is not exactly without parallel, Giftpia nonetheless represents a change of pace among RPGs. As of writing, the game has not yet been confirmed for North America. Hopefully some good news will come out of E3. Please keep up to date on Giftpiaís release below.