Genre: Tactical turn-based

Release Date: 2013 

Developer: 17-Bit

Publisher: Microsoft Studios

Skulls of the Shogun website


General Akamoto has been betrayed! Stabbed in the back as he was winning the final battle to become Shogun of all of Japan! As he arrives in the land of the dead, he realises that there is a line of several hundred years to enter the afterlife (presumably because of poor bureaucracy). Arrgggh! Rallying an unlikely cast of disgruntled dead samurais and monks, with the help of Sakura the Cherry Tree Princess, Akamoto San battles his way through the forces of the Shogun of the Dead… with a chance of getting even with an old enemy and the final prize of becoming Shogun himself!

Playability: Casual medieval Japan cartoonish warfare

Skulls of the Shogun does a great job at gradually introducing units (infantry, cavalry, archers, monks) and teaching you their most efficient use. After a few battles, the straightforward mechanics of the game becomes second nature. Charge with cavalry, pick out enemies at a distance with archers, blow them away with monks… the combination of terrain and picturesque characters is a winning game combo. The controls are straightforward (click, move, fire etc), even though stacked unit selection was a tad difficult.

Annoyance: Great fun until they ask for seppuku!

It was a jaunt full of humour through the four regions of the afterlife until the very final level… It must have taken me a good week to win the final battle where undefeatable enemies endowed with almighty supernatural powers left a bitter taste of treachery even after the last skull was eaten. It fell like an ushiro geri to the groin, a stab in the back, as easy as opening one’s abdomen in an unexpected seppuku. Was it a final prank from the developers? Even on the easiest setting, it was nigh impossible for an old video gamer to complete Skulls of the Shogun, and when it was finally completed, the game wasn’t that fun anymore.

Beauty: Gaijin humour with neat Japanese Gameboy wrap

Skulls of the Shogun is great for suckers of manga, anime, Feudal Japan, ramen, sushi eating old video gamers. It feels Japanese, plays Japanese and even sounds Japanese. Of course, it’s not. The humour is (luckily) a lot more international. It’s fun, it’s laughable and it’s slapstick without ever getting rude or crude. The little cartoon samurais are endearing (a little on the scary side if you look closely), and the colourful landscapes evocative of Japanese prints.

The Old Video Gamer’s Prattle: Amusing samurai tactics 7/10

Skulls of the Shogun is a fun and humorous tactical game except for the extremely annoyingly difficult final battle. It’s an easy choice for those who love anything Japanese (even fake Japanese). The story is originally intriguing and opens to a kabuki of colourful characters.