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  • Writer's pictureNate Hermanson

SGF 2024 x Steam Next Fest Mini-Preview: Kitsune Tails brings queer joy to hardcore platforming

Updated: Jun 17

Follow along with our continuing coverage of Summer Game Fest 2024 as we play demos that are out now for SGF and Steam Next Fest, a weeklong celebration of games featuring tons of free demos from June 10-17.


We love our gay games at VGG. Being a queer- and trans-led site, it only makes sense that a solid third of our Game of the Year nominees the last few years have featured queer storylines, themes, and characters, and that our favorite 2024 Summer Game Fest showcase is the one that specifically put out a call for developers' gay crime games.


But if we had any one complaint about LGTBQ+ gaming, it's that it still tends to be fairly genre-locked. If you're looking for queer video games, you're going to find them the most heavily represented in the realm of visual novels. That's no problem for us — we regularly host a visual novel stream series, after all — but we know it's not every gamer's cup of tea, and we believe everybody should be able to find a wide library of queer and trans games within their favorite genres.


We're excited that, in recent years, the indie scene has shifted and we're seeing more LGBTQ+ gaming variety than ever. Leading the charge are games just like today's focus, Kitsune Tails. Games that so naturally implement deep and impactful LGBTQ+ stories into genres and styles where it's still far more rare.


After spending some time with a special press build of the Kitsune Tails demo, we can say the industry would be even better with more games like it around.


The Kitsune Tails key art. A fox girl with purple hair and fur and purple clothing jumps away from a series of enemies based on various bits of Japanese mythology. She jumps toward a blue-clothed human girl and an orange-clothed fox girl who watch with joy and frustration respectively.

Just the Facts

Developer: Kitsune Games

Publisher: Kitsune Games, MidBoss

Platform(s): PC — date TBD for PS5, PS4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox Series S and X

Release Date: August 1, 2024

Preview build provided by developer.


Kitsune Tails comes to us from Kitsune Games, a small studio that rose to prominence after the release of Super Bernie World, a retro platformer meant to support Bernie Sanders' 2020 presidential campaign. Riding that high, the team has continued to tinker with their platforming style to find themselves building something truly unique with this Super Mario Bros 3/World homage in Kitsune Tails.


Unlike Mario though, the queer representation is blatant instead of hidden in the margins of... what we can all see with our eyes. (Happy Pride to you specifically, Luigi, Birdo, and Boo.)


Kitsune Tails tells the story of Yuzu, a young kitsune messenger who relays messages between the humans and the gods and navigates a world of demons and creatures from Japanese mythology. Early in her messenger career, she stumbles into a friendly human healer named Akko. Something draws Yuzu back to her again and again throughout her missions for the goddess Inari, and a burgeoning relationship builds between them.


But things get dangerous when jealously bubbles over within Yuzu's childhood friend and fellow kitsune, Kiri — so much jealousy, in fact, that she decides to kidnap Akko to remove her from the picture. (Kitsune Games heard the calls for more messy queer characters and then rolled up their sleeves.)


Platformers aren't known for their stories, but Kitsune Tails has a fun focus on it here, tossing in cutscenes that celebrate cute fox girls flirting with humans and each other, and adding an extra layer of investment to what is otherwise just a series of platforming challenges. The press demo doesn't go much further than that narratively but provides a worthy setup for what looks to be the game's main motivating factor: saving Akko and figuring out why Kiri did this.


There's so much queer joy seeded all throughout the story, with Yuzu's mother talking about her previous polycules, and the aforementioned Yuzu-Akko-Kiri love triangle whose build-up is done so satisfyingly. It's presented without fanfare and delivered naturally, and it's so great to see where the industry has ended up thanks to the indie scene.


We're curious to see where the story goes in the end and if there is even room for some hard bits of decision-making, because a love triangle usually doesn't end in a happy triad like we often wish it would. But maybe Kitsune Tails has some surprises up its sleeves, we'll have to wait and see.


The team has solid bones here for what should be a sneaky classic for retro platforming fans and queer gamers alike.

An animated GIF showcasing Kitsune Tails' samurai powerup. A purple foxgirl bounces off of a skeleton enemy and into a bit of samurai armor. She equips the armor in an instant and uses a spear in the wall to give herself a leg up. Lava is coming from below. The scenes changes as a ghostly samurai figure attacks her, making her lose the armor, and she jumps on it to finish it off.

On the gameplay side, Kitsune Tails plays somewhere in between generations of Mario releases: somewhere between NES and SNES in style and design, somewhere between Super Mario Bros 3 and Super Mario World's physics in practice, and somewhere between cozy platformer and something hellish.


The game's first world introduces its platforming physics that are clearly inspired by Super Mario. You build up Yuzu's speed by running about. You've got the traditional two-hit lives that sees Yuzu in a full humanoid form at the start and turned into a tiny fox when hit and weakened. It's a fun contextual reasoning for being small when hurt that makes a lot more sense than "Mario turns from a grown man into a child when hit." It's all kinds of classic platforming fun. Jump on heads, break bricks, time your jumps, and get to the end.


But the minute I got out of the first world and into the press-exclusive second world, things started to ratchet up. Everything I experienced in that second world was on another tier of difficulty, even coming from a fairly veteran platformer-player like me. The hope is the content presented in this second world was meant to be a showcase of how far the platforming goes in the full release, because some of the precise jumps and nagging targeting enemies reminded me of some of those truly difficult Mario fangames released over the years.


I'm all for more difficult platformers, and it was satisfying to eventually overcome those challenges, but the jump in difficulty from these two worlds was a lot to take in, especially with what's set up in the first world. Advanced difficulty aside, Kitsune Games has a great Mario-like adventure on their hands here — and I usually try to avoid comparisons like that, but the ways this looks and feels to play makes it clear the correlation is intentionally created by the team.


An in-game screenshot of Kitsune Tails' overworld map. There are three varied regions, one with Fall-like orange vegetation, one with green forests and a small village and tower. And one gray and stony with a strange portal at the end of its path. A purple fox girl can be seen in the orange area and in the upper left of the screen. Text reads: "Life carries on, and the seasons change."

Outside of the difficulty, one of the other major things of note in Kitsune Tails are the game's unique power-ups. Each one drastically changes your play style in each level and promises to offer some unique levels of player expression not usually seen in a retro-tinged 2D platformer.


There's the samurai outfit that equips you with a spear you can use to stab into any wall and get a leg up. A forest spirit warrior suit gives Yuzu a classic spin jump that enable her to break through blocks below her. There's the classic SMB3 boot that allows you protection from spike pits and overall bouncier jump physics. And in trailers, they've shown a shark outfit that allows you to run atop water. Kitsune Tails is making the most of its setting and helping contextualize things in fun ways and offering some genuinely interesting shifts to gameplay in ways you almost don't expect.


Like Super Mario Bros 3, you'll be able to carry power-ups between levels and store them to choose what you'll enter a level with. It's the kind of thing I can't wait to see speedrunners get their hands on to find out how much specific power-ups break the game in sneaky ways.


I also have to shout out the game's two boss battles: one where you dodge an umbrella yokai driving a giant boot, climbing up the side of it to knock him out; the other where you fight against an Earth spirit wielding a variety of unique weaponry to prove your worth in a classic bullfighting provoke-and-dodge style.


An animated GIF of boss battle gameplay in Kitsune Tails. A purple fox girl runs forward to hide between two large laser blasts. She then jumps up some bamboo stalks that grow from the ground to hit a red-cloaked bunny girl floating on on cloud.

Kitsune Tails is a fascinating platformer with tons of potential, and I think the team has solid bones here for what should be a sneaky classic for retro platforming fans and queer gamers alike. Evening out the difficulty spikes could help it. But even with that, we can't wait to see what Kitsune Games does with this game and how this sapphic hero's journey plays out in the full release. Announced earlier this week at the Wholesome Direct, it's slated to arrive for PC on August 1, 2024.


The platformer has a Steam Next Fest demo out now.


 

Let us know about some of your favorite queer games you've played or demoed this year! We want to get our hands on them. Want to read about a few LGBTQ+ games across multiple genres that hold a special place in our hearts and minds? Check out our coverage of 2023 GOTY noms Amarantus and In Stars and Time, Death of a Wish, and I Was A Teenage Exocolonist.

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