Every now and again, I’ll come across a game in development that immediately shoots to the top of my wishlist. Two Strikes is one such project. It is the aptly-named sequel to One Strike, a one-hit fighting game that came out in 2017 for PC and Switch. Whereas that game employed a pixel art look, Two Strikes boasts a beautiful aesthetic thanks to the work of Gerson Oshiro. Screenshots of the game bring to mind Japanese artists like Hokusai, Hiroshige, and Kunisada, masters of the ukiyo-e genre popular from the 17th to 19th century. The term translates as “pictures of the floating world,” and is characterized by bold lines and flat colors.
In fact, the first stage Two Strikes developer Retro Reactor has shown off bears a striking resemblance to the woodblock prints “Rainstorm Beneath the Summit” and “Fine Wind, Clear Morning,” both taken from Hokusai’s Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji collection. According to founder Danilo Moreira, the goal of the project is to create a goal resembling a movie poster for an old samurai film, with some modern dashes of Tarantino thrown in for good measure.
As for how it plays, Two Strikes, much like its predecessor One Strike, leans heavily on the principle of yomi, or “reading the opponent” that underpins most fighting games. Here, the concept is boiled down to its fundamentals, as victory is determined by — of course — only two strikes. Players need to block and fake out their opponent to open them up, and then attack in order to grab the victory. This means that battles are more akin to tense Kurosawa-style samurai standoffs than energetic fighting games. There are no special moves, combos, or super meters. Just you, your opponent, and your blades.
Moreira tells me that Two Strikes is all about improving on his first release, which he produced alone. He wants to make “a fun, very approachable fighting game” that’s playable locally and online — the latter of which didn’t make it into One Strike.
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Retro Reactor has teased three characters so far, including some returning characters from the first game. These include Kenji, “a balanced duelist with average mobility and attacks;” Tomoe, based on the 12th century female samurai of the same name who is “agile but risky;” and Ishikawa Goemon, the semi-mythical outlaw hero who also inspired the long-running Ganbare Goemon series of games, known as Mystical Ninja outside of Japan.
While the game is still early in development, Moreira says that Retro Reactor plans to release a demo by the end of the year. The game itself will be out by the end of 2020, which, between Two Strikes, Spiritfarer, and Streets of Rage 4, promises to be a good year for 2D animation in games.