Nature is a caring and protecting mother and, while does its best to protect us, it also needs our help. Kloa is the only hope to save the forest from a mysterious curse in this action-adventure title in the works at Kibou Entertainment. Successfully backed on Kickstarter in August of 2022, Kloa - Child of the Forest managed to raise almost €85k from 2065 backers.
We spoke to Simone Granata, a representative of the development team. Even though individuals like to throw the word “Ghibli” around a lot, there is much more that inspired Kloa than the famous Japanese studio.
“The game was already in development when I joined in September 2020, even though the original version was definitely different from the current project,” recalls Granata. “It was called something like 'thailproject' and it had a completely different gameplay concept.” He started working with Salvatore Regalbuto from Wildpad Games, who he calls “partner and friend”, in order to bring a new attractive aesthetic and story to their game.
“Salvatore is a master with Unity and deals with programming," Granata says, "while I am the more artistic/creative developer. Joining forces, as it happens, allowed us to create something much more interesting than before.”
If you’ve never heard of Kibou Entertainment, it's a team that generally develops old-school pixel art games, according to Granata. “We released two titles in the Timothy series - Timothy and the Mysterious Forest and Timothy and the Tower of Mu - in 2019 and 2022 respectively on PC and console.”
He goes on, recalling the interesting origins of Timothy and the Tower of Mu. “It was published by the Japanese publisher Playism after winning a contest that starred Koji Igarashi (Castlevania), Daisuke Amaiya (Cave Story), Takumi Naramura (LaMulana), and Rafael Grassetti (God of War) as judges.”
But, still, the adventure of Kibou Entertainment was not without its fair share of issues and obstacles, especially at the start. “We started with basically no budget to speak of and no publisher or other studios that could support us." recalls Granata. "It was only through sheer determination and sacrifices that we have managed to reach our current status and have been able to launch a successful Kickstarter for Kloa. Clearly, this will not be our only goal, as we are planning to work towards even more ambitious projects.”
With most coverage of the game focusing on the Ghibli selling point, is that really all there is? Of course not, as Granata tells us. “We are relying on some foreign artists and developers to have the best art possible. I think we want Kloa to take inspiration from classic Japanese animation - clearly the bittersweet atmospheres of Studio Ghibli films - but not just limiting ourselves to that. Personally, I love the playfulness that you could find in old NES, Game Boy and SNES titles from the early 90s. I would like to mix the classic Japanese atmosphere with modern anime style.”
Granata has been a gamer for more than thirty years so he wants his experience to work as a sort of gel connecting all the various parts of the game. “Hyper Light Drifter is definitely a game we are being inspired by, along with very pleasant memories related to Minish Cap, especially its peculiar setting. Let's say that seeing Kloa associated with titles of that caliber can only make me smile.”
Even though both teams, Wildpad Games and Kibou Entertainment, are from Italy, still it doesn’t seem there will be any inspiration from the belpaese. As for the apparent lack of true Italian in the game, Granata does say it was an issue in the past. “Unfortunately (for some) I'm not a big fan of my country, mainly due to the quite terrible situations I found myself in, during the first years of my work as a developer. So, I think we can safely say Kloa will be 100% Japanese, as it should be!”
Speaking on how the game will fare in the busy roleplaying scene. Granata says we should think of it more in terms of an action/adventure. “On Kloa, I'm working on game design, story and level design, so I can tell you the inspiration comes from famous titles of the past I grew up with. I don’t think it will necessarily fit with traditional RPGs, since we are designing it more in the way of an action/adventure hybrid, with just a splash of RPG mechanics.” The developer also references the original Zelda titles he grew up with, so both A Link to the Past and Link’s Awakening, and even more modern action titles, like Bayonetta and the original God of War.
When will we get to play it? Apparently, a demo is being released very soon as the work seems to be going well. The team recently lost its original pixel artist, but Granata reassures us they found a worthy replacement in a girl from the Dominican Republic. “We are still discussing in-house the final release date, but I can already tell you that it will certainly be in 2024. The demo will show some of the main gameplay features: the combat system, a mini-boss fight and of course a glimpse of the setting. I can reveal that the final game will have six different well-defined and explorable environments with many bosses and quite the interesting story. Also, a big surprise at the end!”
Kloa is shaping up to be quite the interesting action-adventure with an inspired mix of classic inspirations, both from anime and classic Nintendo. But with a personal touch that is going to please many fans of the style.
We'll be eagerly following Kloa's development, that's for sure.