The game is a 2.5D side-scrolling action-adventure for PS5 and PC, but one of its most charming aspects is the story and the cast of characters, cute rabbits living on a planet long-abandoned by humanity, which left behind only memories and junk.
The presence of an interesting story shouldn't be a surprise since Gen Urobuchi is a writer, scriptwriter, and visual novel and light novel master known for masterpieces like Fate/Zero, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Psycho-Pass, Saya no Uta, and Phantom of Inferno.
To know more about this rather unique project, TechRaptor talked to Urobuchi-san himself and producer Yuichiro Saito from studio Chime at Tokyo Game Show.
The inception of the project is certainly interesting: Urobuchi-san explained to me that NetEase initially reached out to Nitroplus asking if they were interested in working on a game together. At that point, Urobuchi-san was creating a game in Unity on the side as a hobby.
That game was inspired by illustrations he found on social media and by the Sylvanian Families toys. He showed the prototype to NetEase, and they suggested brushing it up and turning it into an actual product, and that's how the Rusty Rabbit project was born.
This is also the primary reason why Rusty Rabbit is so different from the games Urobuchi-san's fans are used to. Having been initially conceived as a personal pastime, he simply wanted to make something fun for himself. It was Saito-san and the development team at Chime that turned it into a full-fledged game that everyone can enjoy.
Urobuchi-san kindly shared a screenshot of that prototype in Unity, and you can see it below as a special treat and realize how it evolved by comparing it with the actual gameplay images at the bottom of the post.
Interestingly, this prototype game had randomized dungeons. Rusty Rabbit will have both hand-crafted artist-designed dungeons and randomized dungeons.
The story unfolds while playing in the hand-crafted ones, while the premise of the randomized ones is that the fabric of time and space is distorted, mashing together parts of the story-driven dungeons.
The randomized dungeons are designed to offer additional challenge and replayability after the player has become powerful enough through character progression and mecha upgrades. This allows players to enjoy the game in different ways, instead of just having one linear path.
Of course, since Urobuchi-san is primarily a storyteller, Rusty Rabbit is a story-driven game. The main overarching story sees the protagonist Stamp (funnily described as a "cute rabbit with an old soul") searching for D-Tam terminals located underground that contain information on the whereabouts of his daughter.
Yet, that's not all. There are parts of the story tied to mechanics in the dungeons, for instance focusing on the reason why certain shutters are closed. On top of that, Stamp's hobby is messing around with junk, and that leads to other events hinted at by Saito-san that he couldn't share details about.
Urobuchi-san explained that further inspirations for the story include the movies recently directed by Clint Eastwood portraying old macho guys trying to come to terms with their own aging. That's why Stamp is basically a stubborn old man despite being a cute rabbit.
Interestingly, he mentioned that - being 50 years old - he often finds himself wondering how to interact with younger people. That kind of daily issue is reflected in Stamp's character as well.
Not only is the hero inspired by parts of Urobuchi-san's own personality and experiences but also by some of the clashes he had with his own father, on top of the trials and tribulations he saw older men go through, albeit translated into a more comedic style.
Basically, Stamp's character incorporates Urobuchi-san's awareness of his own age.
I asked him whether he has ambitions about turning the game into something bigger, and he explained that there already are elements that couldn't be included in Rusty Rabbit due to size constraints, so if the game is popular enough when it is released, he'd definitely love for it to expand into a franchise.
Saito-san added that the attractive characters of Rusty Rabbit (designed in collaboration with Usavich's studio Kanban Graphics) haven't been created to remain confined in a game, so the team would like to figure out a media mix strategy to possibly expand gradually into other forms of media.
At the moment, the game is coming for PlayStation 5 and PC. Saito-san explained that it's developed in Unreal Engine and the whole map is loaded into memory to achieve fully seamless gameplay, so there are constraints for less powerful platforms.
If the development team manages to find a solution to the memory demands, they would, of course, like to expand to other attractive consoles like the Nintendo Switch. They're working on this and seeing what they can do, but for the time being, they can't promise anything on that front.
Rusty Rabbit is coming for PS5 and PC in 2024, published by NetEase and developed by Chime in collaboration with Nitroplus.