Skulls of the Shogun Archive


Skulls of the Shogun originally had a more serious tone

Skulls of the Shogun General Akamoto

When developer 17-Bit's Skulls of the Shogun released in early 2013, it did so with a light, humorous script that mixed pop culture references with a near-constant string of jokes of the developer's own creation. According to a recent interview of studio CEO Jake Kazdal by Pocket Gamer, however, the original plan was for the game to have a very different tone. The plan called for more austerity and less clowning.

That all changed when original scribe Ben Vance — who also served as the game's programmer and designer — penned a joke-filled draft that clashed with 17-Bit's more restrained vision of the game. Vance's approach resonated with other members of the team, and everyone began slipping even more humor into his script during the game's protracted development cycle.

"Since the game was in development for so long, everyone involved kept throwing in jokes and massaging the script," Kazdal told Pocket Gamer. "And then we got a complete editing pass from localisation company, 8-4, where script doctors Mark MacDonald and Alan Averill just nailed it.

"We originally were going to have a much more stoic, serious script, but people responded so well to the goofy offbeat humor we had stubbed in we just decided to run with it. We wanted to entertain players, while reinforcing our stereotypes, and just rolled with it."

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Best of the rest: Skulls of the Shogun

Skulls of the Shogun battle

Last week, XBLAFans ran down the 25 best XBLA games to be released on the Xbox 360. This week, some of the games that didn't make the cut get a second chance as select members of our staff make their cases for their personal XBLA favorites.

Almost every time I played Skulls of the Shogun prior to release, it seemed to be almost done. It felt polished and ready to take XBLA by storm. It looked splendid and somehow played even better. The playable on display at PAX East 2012 was actually the entire game, and word from Jake Kazdal, developer 17-bit's CEO and Skulls of the Shogun's director, was that development was essentially complete, but 17-bit had to wait for Windows 8. Microsoft wanted the game to release simultaneously on XBLA, Windows Phone, Surface tablets and Windows 8 PCs to showcase its cross-platform play.

Unfortunately, Skulls of the Shogun slipped past the Windows 8 launch and didn't release until January of this year. Skulls' stellar gameplay, hilarious writing and beautiful visuals garnered it generally positive reviews, including a glowing one from us. Unfortunately that didn't translate to the kind of sales 17-bit was hoping for after spending years of time and much of its staff members' own money making the game.

The full story of 17-bit's woes can be found here, but sales and platform troubles aside, Skulls of the Shogun is a fantastic single and multiplayer strategy game. Its four regions are themed after the seasons and are bursting to life with color, creating a charming aesthetic for the war to control the afterlife. The units and battle mechanics are so excellently implemented that even gamers who aren't in love with the strategy genre will be hopelessly sucked into the game if they pick it up.

So stop not playing Skulls of the Shogun.


Unity engine coming to Xbox and Windows platforms


The ubiquitous multi-platform Unity engine is officially coming to Xbox One, Xbox 360 and Windows-powered devices. Unity and Microsoft announced their strategic collaboration during the annual Build Conference, reports Polygon, outlining a future of support for Microsoft's many platforms by fostering the "the best developer environment for creators."

Unity has committed to developing tools for the upcoming Xbox One, according to Microsoft's official blog Xbox Wire, with aim to provide "support for features like multiplayer matchmaking, SmartGlass, enhanced Kinect gestures and recognition, and the power of the cloud." Microsoft has also announced that developers whose games are published by Microsoft Studios will get access to the Unity suite free of charge.

David Helgason, Unity founder and CEO wrote, "I’m thrilled that the collaboration with Microsoft delivers more ease and more oomph for you guys to bring your games (and other work) to yet new places and new audiences," in a statement on the company's official blog. The partnership brings Microsoft into the fold as the last of the big three console manufacturers to support Unity, with Sony penning a deal for its stable of PlayStation hardware back in March, and Nintendo collaborating last year to supply the toolkit to third-party developers headed for the Wii-U.

Microsoft has aggressively targeted a multi-platform vision of the future for its content, with Skulls of the Shogun being the most recent example of the plan put to practice, launching on all supported devices with integrated cross-platform play. Hopefully this also the first step in a larger strategy to bring independent developers to current and future hardware.

Source: Unity, Xbox Wire via Polygon


XBLA occupies Metacritic's list of best-reviewed Xbox 360 titles


Metacritic has released its quarterly report on the best-reviewed Xbox 360 games of the year. The list runs from the beginning of 2013, through July 1st, and ranks each title by their critical aggregate. While the usual big-budget suspects make the cut, a surprising number of Xbox Live Arcade titles round out the top spots. Of the top 25 games included, 11 of them are branded Arcade — meaning nearly half the year's best-reviewed Xbox 360 games are sporting the orange badge of XBLA. Pretty nifty.

You can hit the link for the complete list, but here are the Xbox Live Arcade games that made the grade:

2. Bit.Trip Presents…Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien  |  87 percent
3. Pinball FX 2: Star Wars Pinball  |  87 percent
7. BattleBlock Theater  |  85 percent
9. Darkstalkers Resurrection  |  82 percent
12. Skulls of the Shogun  |  81 percent
13. Terraria  |  81 percent
14. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon  |  80 percent
18. CastleStorm  |  79 percent
21. Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara  |  78 percent
22. State of Decay  |  78 percent
23. Sanctum 2  |  78 percent

With so much Arcade excellence hanging out on the top of the heap, it's only natural to wonder which XBLA game is dwelling in the basement. To the surprise of no one, Double Dragon II: Wander of the Dragons sits in dead last with a collective score of 17. Just two spots above it, the Snoop Dogg/Lion-inspired rhythm fighter, Way of the Dogg totes a comparatively stellar 41 percent.

Source: Metacritic


Skulls of the Shogun prices slashed across the board

Skulls_Shogun_17BIT_ArcherIndependent developer 17-BIT today announced a permanent price reduction to their recently released tactical strategy title, Skulls of the Shogun. The news comes just one month after Skulls' multi-platform release, slashing prices on three of the four supported versions of the title: XBLA, Windows 8 and Microsoft Surface.

The Xbox Live Arcade version, already a bargain at 1200 MSP, can now be purchased from the Xbox Marketplace for a mere 800 MSP. Windows 8 and Microsoft Surface versions have been similarly reduced in the Microsoft Store; they will be available at $6.99 moving forward. The only platform to escape the price tag chopping block was Windows Phone, maintaining the lowest cost of entry at $4.99 on the Windows Phone Marketplace.

Though the prices might suggest otherwise, 17-BIT confirmed on Twitter that each version of Skulls of the Shogun was identical across all platforms. That consistency is important, as Skulls of the Shogun is the first of its kind to feature interconnected play across Microsoft's many platforms. Dubbed "Skulls Anywhere," the system allows players to challenge their friends, battle in competitive multiplayer or pick up their solo campaign on the road asynchronously.

We really enjoyed Skulls of the Shogun during our review playtime, enthusiastically suggesting that you buy it! If you haven't already, now you've got more reason than ever to see what all the fuss is about. We've also reached out to 17-BIT with regard to the price cut and the motivation behind it coming so soon after release. This story will be updated should the developer issue a response.


Skulls of the Shogun soundtrack available for download


Enjoying 17-BIT's samurai-themed real-time strategy title Skulls of the Shogun? If you've picked it up, odds are you are – the game currently sits on a kushy 80 rating on Metacritic, with many reviews lauding the game's handsome cel-shaded graphics and deep strategy elements (we quite liked it as well). Now fans can enjoy a bit of Shogun on the go – the game's soundtrack is available digitally.

17-BIT has made the soundtrack available through major digital music distribution channels. The tracks are a collaboration between musicians Makyo and Sam Bird, weaving music inspired by classic samurai films and dub into Skulls of the Shogun. "I usually work with Indian and middle-eastern instruments…so this was a nice chance to explore Japanese instrumentation for a change,” Makyo said in a press release. “Each season needed to have a different feel, so I made a point of using different instrumentation for every track, including shamisen, shakuhachi, and sanshin."

Skulls of the Shogun is available on XBLA for 1200 MSP; the soundtrack is available on Bandcamp, Amazon and iTunes.


Score some Skulls of the Shogun schwag

SkullsoftheShogun_GeneralsSamurai-themed turn-based strategy game Skulls of the Shogun has enjoyed much-deserved success since its release last month. 17-BIT's blitzkrieg-style launch across Microsoft's many platforms means no matter where you are or what you're doing, you can bring Skulls of the Shogun along for the ride. But what if that's still not enough Skulls in your life? Well then, now's your chance to score some official limited-edition schwag, courtesy of 17-BIT's "Skulls Anywhere" contest.

Running now through February 27, 17-BIT's contest could let you snag one of six prize packs for showing your Skulls support in a creative or interesting locale. For the full details, check out 17 Bit's official contest page, but for those eager to get started we've placed the pertinent information below:

  1. Print out this picture of the Skull, available here:
  2. Take a picture of the Skull somewhere cool and interesting. (That being said, please keep it legal.)
  3. E-mail your picture to with the subject line “Skulls Anywhere Contest”, or post it on Twitter using the hashtag #SKULLSANYWHERE
  4. Hope your entry is chosen as a winner!

To be sure you're eligible for the contest, check out the official rules and regulations. You can hit the jump to check out the many sweet prizes up for grabs including art prints signed by the 17-BIT team. Finally, if you haven't yet checked out Skulls of the Shogun, you can catch up with the XBLAFans review and our exclusive guide.

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Skulls of the Shogun – XBLA Fans Guide – Region Five

Hello and welcome to the XBLA Fans guide to the fifth and final region of Skulls of the Shogun. On this page, you'll find a walkthrough to each of the levels in this region, as well as how to win all of the Gold Skulls for the area. Enjoy!

Please note that to get the most achievement points possible from Skulls, you'll need to play on normal difficulty, which is the default anyway.


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Skulls of the Shogun – XBLA Fans Guide – Region Four

Hello and welcome to the XBLA Fans guide to the fourth region of Skulls of the Shogun. On this page, you'll find a walkthrough to each of the levels in this region, as well as how to win all of the gold skulls for the area. Enjoy!

Please note that to get the most achievement points possible from Skulls, you'll need to play on normal difficulty, which is the default anyway.

Skulls MS5

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Skulls of the Shogun – XBLA Fans Guide – Region Three

Hello and welcome to the XBLA Fans guide to the third region of Skulls of the Shogun (Skulls.) On this page, you'll find a walkthrough to each of the levels in this region, as well as how to win all of the gold skulls for the area. Enjoy!

Please note that to get the most achievement points possible from Skulls, you'll need to play on normal difficulty, which is the default anyway.


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