Game publisher Sunsoft, best known in the West for games from the 8-bit era such as blaster master, Batmanand Fester’s quest, is trying to get back to publishing and developing video games. On Thursday, the new Sunsoft – which technically never went away – outlined its plan to re-release and revive its classic game catalog, starting with the Vampire Survivors-inspired Ikki Unite and releases of beloved retro games Gimmick! and Ufouria (known as Heereke in Japan) for modern platforms.
Sunsoft even hints at bringing back Aero the Acro-Bat, the anthropomorphic bat that appeared in a few Sega Genesis and Super NES games near the top of the console mascot platformer.
The publisher’s first game under the new plan, Ikki Uniteis kind of a sequel to Ikkian arcade game (later ported to Nintendo’s Famicom) about the rebellion of a medieval Japanese farming village against its feudal ruler. Ikki Unite expands on the original single player game with online multiplayer, and is undeniably inspired – if not outright copy – the hit of 2021 Vampire Survivors.
Yuichi Ochi, general manager of Sunsoft, told Polygon in an interview on Wednesday that: Ikki Unite it is being built on Vampire Survivors game design and viral success to find an audience for the Ikki brand, which he admitted lacks worldwide fame. (The Famicom gate of Ikki is notorious for its sloppy quality and is said to be the basis for the derogatory expression “kusoge” or “shit game”, in Japan.)
Only slightly better known than Ikki to be Gimmick! (which saw a Scandinavian release) and Heereke (which features) metrolike mechanics and was released in North America for the NES under the name Ufouria: The Saga). But Sunsoft hopes to bring those underdog games new levels of exposure by bringing them to Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows PC via Steam and Xbox One.
There are also plenty of games developed and published by Sunsoft that were cult hits in Japan, but never made their way to the West. Ochi hopes to breathe new life into those too. While Ikki Unite is developed internally by Sunsoft, other titles are developed using external studios. Sunsoft is willing to work with smaller indie studios on games based on its IP, Ochi said, “Our strategy is very open.”
So why bring back Sunsoft now, years after the last attempt at publishing games? Simply put, business is good for Sunsoft’s parent company Sun Corporation, and the electronics company is looking to reinvest in game making, Ochi said. Ochi himself is relatively new to the company, having joined Sunsoft in July 2021, following stints at Capcom and other gaming companies in Japan and Taiwan.
But with a recognizable vintage name, a back catalog of underused brands and now an official VTuber called Sunsoft Nosuke to bring the good news on games like Gimmick! for a global audience, Sunsoft proudly claims it’s back.