BitSummit 10 Developer Q&A: Music is rebellion in the cyberpunk RPG Keylocker
For the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, Japan's longest-running independent game dev festival, BitSummit, reconvened this August in Kyoto. A special deputized deployment of VGG staff attended the weekend-long event and reported back with exclusive Q&As with developers in Japan's pioneering indie game dev scene. Check back in with us to explore an exciting batch of upcoming games in VGG's BitSummit 10 coverage.
Our next spotlight gives a behind the scenes glimpse at Keylocker, a cyberpunk RPG developed and published by Moonana that has a surprising connection to Footloose.
Set in a dystopian cyberpunk future where music is outlawed, Keylocker is a turn-based RPG where players use rhythm prompts to fight against an authoritarian government that seeks to prevent people from harnessing the power of electricity through music. Main character B0B0 is a fugitive musician who uses her sword and guitar in unique grid-based battles, rebelling against the sacred Law of Silence.
The game depicts the future through a vivid, retro art style highlighted by bright neon colors and distinctive character designs.
Moonana — the creators of Keylocker and the well-received 2019 pixel art RPG Virgo Versus the Zodiac — were present at Bitsummit X-Roads and agreed to speak with us about this challenging, real-time rhythm combat game.
VGG: “Please introduce yourselves.”
Nana: “I am Nana. I am the game’s director, writer, and the concept artist as well.”
Anglerman: “I am the game designer Anglerman. I do animations as well.”
Nana: “We do a lot of stuff.”
VGG: “Give us a quick rundown of what Keylocker is, as if to someone who had never played a game before.”
Nana: “Keylocker is a turn-based cyberpunk action (game). It’s about B0B0, she’s a singer in a world without music. The 'action' part of the turn-based is like a rhythm game element, like Mario RPGs where you press a button to attack and defend.”
Anglerman: “You get this turn-based system where everything you do is in real time. When an enemy attacks, you can defend it in real time, you can attack in real time, and play a rhythm game to generate electricity. That’s the whole thing of the world: Music was banned because it generates electricity and people wouldn’t have that power. The government is looking for people who can sing and can play music so that they can make a perfectly silent society.”
VGG: “What would you say is your favorite part in your game?”
Nana: “I like writing the endings…I like doing the endings first, before anything else, so I like the ending a lot.”
Anglerman: “I’d say I like the combat above all. It’s something I always wanted when I was young and played turn-based RPGs. I thought that when you pressed the button you’d get a hit or a critical and that if you didn’t then the timing was wrong…I wanted to turn it into a reality like this.”
VGG: “What would you say would be the main inspiration for your game?”
Nana: “I think for the combat it would be the Mario RPGs and Shin Megami Tensei as well.”
Anglerman: “We also have a bit of Dark Souls in it…We want it to be challenging, because we believe that without challenge there is no point. We want you to get into the game and fail a bunch before (you) actually learn it. Because that makes it way more satisfying when you do stuff, and it’s your fault if you fail.”
Nana: “Yes, we’re very adamant about the difficulty being high.”
VGG: “How would you rate the difficulty of your game?”
Anglerman: “I’d say it’s way closer to Shin Megami Tensei…It is punishing when you fail, but it also lets you do stuff and destroy your enemies if you know what you’re doing.”
Nana: “And try different things out. There’s a lot of equipment options. You can choose between four classes at the beginning, so difficulty varies depending on the type of equipment you’re using.”
Anglerman: “We in fact made four classes where one is easier than the next, but people kept picking the hardest class…We also don’t believe much in making the player replay a bunch of the game. We have this system where you can try again after you die in a battle. It skips you right back to the start of the fight.”
VGG: “Aside from buying the game, what can people do to support your game and make sure that it reaches the most people possible?”
Nana: “We have a Steam page so that people can wishlist the game. There’s also a Patreon.”
Anglerman: “We also have a Discord channel as well, so people can join in and talk about (the game).”
Keylocker is currently planned for release between late 2023 and early 2024. Keep up with development by checking them out on Steam (wishlisting can go a long way) and following the developers on Patreon and Discord!