SWERY and White Owls Inc. just debuted a trailer for their new game The MISSING: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories! When I think about Japanese developers who create genuinely unique and original games, a couple names come to mind. There are obvious visionaries like Hideo Kojima, Yoko Taro, and Suda 51, but one name that’s a bit less common and just as important is SWERY. Hidetaka Suehiro or SWERY as he’s known in the video game industry is a Japanese video game director/writer who has been in the industry since 1997.
SWERY is best known for his game that is totally not a reference to Twin Peaks, called Deadly Premonition. This title was and still is a real cult classic, even with all its technical flaws. SWERY would go on to make D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die, a game very much in the Telltale vein of choice-based, story-heavy games. This partnership was assumed to be part of Microsoft’s ongoing effort to increase their catalog of Japanese-developed games since Sony at the time was releasing them left and right. Unfortunately, D4’s first chapter ends on a cliffhanger and Microsoft pulled the plug even though the title had over a million players.
The Man Behind White Owls Inc.
Since then SWERY has been constantly working to create these bizarre but creative games fans love him for. He left Access Games and created his own studio White Owls Inc. in 2017, and together they launched a Kickstarter for The Good Life. Another murder mystery centered game, almost as if SWERY is a fan of them or something. In any case, the Kickstarter had an increasingly rough ride along its 30-day campaign but ultimately passed its 68 Million yen goal (about $616K USD). But SWERY is ready to multi-task because on August 20th, 2018 White Owls showcased a release trailer for their other new title The MISSING: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories.
In this trailer, we find out that White Owls is actually partnering with Arc System Works to create the game! For those unaware, Arc has created games such as Dragon Ball FighterZ, BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle, and Guilty Gear Xrd. They’re known in the industry for their prowess with fighting games and the ability to make 3D models look amazing in a 2D space. So what’re they doing making this game? Looks like there’s no shortage of mysteries!
The Debut Trailer Itself
But onto the actual trailer. From the title alone, one can imagine that this “island of memories” could be in the protagonist’s head, an abandoned island, or is actually symbolic and there is no island at all. I had pictured the game being an atmospheric, scenic adventure to find out the mystery of J.J. Macfield. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.
J.J. Macfield is our protagonist and from the trailer, we discover her name is actually Jackie Jameson and she’s not alone on this island. But that’s not even the biggest surprise: turns out the biggest gameplay mechanic involves Jackie dying repeatedly. The trailer is a compilation of all the absurd ways Jackie can bite the dust, whether it’s being pulled into a giant fan or crushed between the symbols of a giant monkey toy. The tone is very SWERY-esque, which is to say incredibly bizarre. The stinger of the trailer involves what I think is the head of Jackie somehow alive and well, calling out for “Emily.”
That’s All Folks!
And that’s all we get! The MISSING: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Mysteries is coming to Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, and Xbox One later in 2018. I for one am plenty intrigued by this debut trailer. Who is Jackie Jameson? Why does the obviously evil disembodied voice know who she is? Who is Emily, and why is she so important that Jackie would face 1,000 deaths to find her? Do we always control Jackie after she dies? Are the deaths actually puzzles, and we as players need to figure out the right way to die to progress?
There’s a lot of questions to be asked and making death the central mechanic has always been interesting. A lot of comments on the debut video are comparing it to games like NeverDead, Limbo, and Happy Wheels or any combination of the three. And I can easily see why: The MISSING just from this trailer alone has an incredibly interesting atmosphere and tone. I’m ready to solve this mystery.
What A Partnership
Honestly, we’ve had amazing company tag team games in the last few years such as NieR: Automata and now The MISSING. Arc System Works is known for their amazingly tight, responsive controls, and their awe-inspiring art direction. If Platinum Games are the “guns for hire” company of character action games, Arc System Works is the same for fighting games. So to see them working with White Owls to make such an intriguing title is enough for me to get excited about the final release! SWERY hasn’t had “huge” success in the gaming industry yet. His games are always beloved by a niche crowd. But there is a place for him to make these absurdly odd games in the market, and I sincerely hope The MISSING is the game to nab him that place.
Now if only they could shorten the title a bit. The MISSING is great as a title by itself and adding “J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories” makes it sound like a Nancy Drew book to me personally. In any case, a platformer like this works perfectly for a portable console like the Switch, so do yourself a favor and support SWERY when this game comes out. If the gameplay alone doesn’t grab you, I’m sure his trademark absurdity will.
[Source] Polygon Interview With SWERY