There is a certain sort of real-time strategy game out there that offers an interesting experience to players. Popularized in games like Swords & Soldiers and The Battle Cats, players see a 2D playing field in front of them, with their base on one end and an opponent’s on the others’. The goal is to send units out in real-time, as resources allow, so you can defeat the enemy and destroy everything it holds dear. Choju Giga Wars for the Nintendo Switch and 3DS does this, but in a far more stylish way than its contemporaries.
The basic formula of Choju Giga Wars remains similar to these other titles, with The Battle Cats being the most obvious inspiration. Players control a force of animals in the name of a supernatural woman named Orihime, who is fighting to be reunited with her lover. You can have 10 animals, all of which can be upgraded as you acquire currency, in your current army and send them out when you have created enough mochi to acquire them. Once you overwhelm the foe, you receive a score based on your tactical approach and performance and can move on to the next match.
What sets it apart is the source material. Choju Giga Wars takes its name from Choju Giga, which is short for Choju-Jinbutsu-Giga. That is a set of emakimono scrolls in Japan created during the 12th and 13th century. These show anthropomorphic animals getting involved in different adventures and activities. These detail activities in side-to-side panels, with black and white figures painted across them. The game directly copies this aesthetic.
While some later stages involve more colorful backgrounds and characters, the earliest rounds in Choju Giga Wars draw directly from the designs seen in the actual scrolls. We see strictly black and white figures fighting one another. The background is taupe, with environments drawn in what appears to be black ink. The very first animals are all ones actually seen in Choju Giga, with rabbits being our primary force, then accompanied by monkeys, frogs, dogs and foxes. The animations look similar to the sorts of actions people might see in these pieces, with some earlier ones having more mystical abilities.
This fits in with the aesthetic of the original scrolls as well. We are seeing action proceed from the right to the left, as our army heads out to fight in Orihime’s honor. With these same comical actions, we really are seeing a sort of Choju Giga under our own control play out. It employs the same sort of weirdness and comical effect as a game like The Battle Cats, but the tribute paid to the source material lends a little extra artistry. We can look up the actual art and see how similar the game can be.
Choju Giga Wars is a game that does more than give Switch and 3DS owners another strategic alternative. It offers another sense of style. It calls back to a form of art thousands of years old. Perhaps, it might even call attention and interest to its source material in the process. At the very least, it gives importers an aesthetically pleasing option.