Orangeblood is an indie-RPG set in an alternate universe in the 1990s. You control four characters as you beat your way through gritty “New Koza” in order to pick up new gear, listen to some solid jams, and further unravel the mystery of the island. When I first looked up Orangeblood my immediate thought was, “Ah, yes. A pixel art indie-RPG from a sole developer. Hope they do something to stand out, lest they bore the pants off me.” I’m not saying that is the way to get my pants off, mind you.
I didn’t think this because I dislike pixel art games or indie developers. Quite the opposite, I prefer them, but indie developers love to latch on to retro-style art and themes the same way the local vinyl club refuses to even listen to the radio anymore because they’ve all gone digital.
So when I play a new game in the same branch I have to look for something new and/or different to reel me in. That could be in the form of a well fleshed-out narrative, interesting character development, fun gameplay mechanics, or in the case of Orangeblood, a focus on environment and a dope-ass soundtrack. We’ll get to that part later ON WITH THE SHOW!
We begin inside of what appears to be an interrogation room inside a CIA facility. Our main protagonist is Vanilla. She, for what seems like no other reason than to prove she is the opposite of her namesake, curses every other sentence. She has a short interaction with the mysterious man behind the glass before working out a deal and voila, the game takes us to a month later where she is in a flying car headed to do her new job in New Koza.
Driving (flying?), taking her to her new home is Machiko, the younger sister of what we assume is one of Vanilla’s old acquaintances. In literally their first interaction with one another, Machiko reveals herself to be a DJ and offers Vanilla her mix tape. If you’re beginning to sense a pattern here, welcome aboard.
Throughout the game we meet our other two party members. A Yakuza Samurai named Yazawa who just can’t get enough of cutting people and is constantly reminding us of the fact, and Jackie, a young triad upstart who wants to further herself within the gang and starts a war with the Russian Mafia.
Character tropes aside I have to admit that there were times throughout the game where I myself lost track of where the plot was going or finding myself forgetting what it was altogether. If it wasn’t for the man behind the glass phoning Vanilla throughout the game I would of completely forgotten that the CIA was even involved.
Sometimes I enjoyed the character interactions with one another, but more anecdotally than in a gripping manner. Most interactions were either explaining their personality to me, or giving my next objective. Those objectives usually being; go to the place, fight through the place, fight a big baddie at the end of the place, listen to dope music while doing it, collect new gear, repeat.
New Koza is a man made island that is a host to several gangs, lowlifes, and an adorable puppy. I named him Lord Bork, fight me. The island itself is fairly small, and many areas are restricted from the get go. This isn’t a bad thing, since we’re not relying on the story to exactly guide us to where we need to be next. There are enough places for you to explore to sate your curiosity if desired, with new shops, diners and environments to explore. Aside from that, as new areas become available, it becomes clear as to where you’re meant to go.
Each new area unlocked offers enemies from varying backgrounds. You can fight Yakuza, Russians, Robots, or even Monsters. Unfortunately none of these enemies really differ from one another when it comes to combat. You have a mini map that fills as you explore and highlights enemies and points of interest alike. These range from crates to unlock using keys collected from enemies, to exits, to healing areas for you to replenish yourself in. And if you want to just chill, there are plenty of places to find for that.
The only real save points in the game are located in main safe houses you have acquired throughout the story. Otherwise you may save at any point if you are in the main map area, which is the outside of New Koza. While walking through enemy zones you can find checkpoints. These often occur before points of interest. If/when you get your booty handed to you, you are given the option to return to a checkpoint or return to a safe house so you can restock your gear.
The battle system in the game is fairly simple. It is a classic turn based style JRPG combat engine. You have basic attacks depending on which weapons you have equipped, as well as abilities that cost SP. I assume this stands for “Skill Points”. Each character only comes with a small set of abilities that offer something unique to the team. This can range from a taunt and counter-attack tactic, to an attack all, to strictly support abilities. If you use the mini map to your advantage you can stun enemies before entering combat, and grant yourself a start of 50 SP.
Firearms are the weapon of choice in Orangeblood, and give you four options to choose from; Assualt Rifle, Submachine Gun, Shotgun, and Anti-Material Rifle. Each possesses unique pros and cons. The pro being that they shoot things. The con is that they don’t do it very well. They all come randomised with different stats and attributes.
Humans are weak to flame and resist electricity, for some reason. Robots vice versa. Think the Borderlands franchise watered down. If you try to fire a weapon that has an empty clip, you receive a major stat penalty for that turn and reload automatically. There is a reload option in combat, and even provides bonuses like healing the party for a small amount, depending on the gear you have.
Most areas were breezy to run through. If you manage to get a stun off on an enemy before interacting you could usually end the battle in one turn. This made me not even care about weapon types or gear synergy, and thought I could avoid most combat. That is until I got to the first boss and they handily whipped me three times in a row. Only then did I take the combat any kind of serious.
Acquiring keys to unlock the better gear scattered throughout the zones required grinding. Thankfully minor battles were short, because if not I might of moved on to other things. That said, I found I enjoyed the music too much to be upset with the tedium of the combat, so let’s talk about that!
AUDIO AND MUSIC
During my first interaction with M. Glassman (the game calls him Iceman, but whatever) a movie sample suddenly hit me. “The hands of fate have doomed this man.” The game was using a Wu-Tang style sample that jumped right into what I think was the tastiest jam in the game. I liked it so much that I just sat there listening and not furthering the dialogue until the song repeated. This happened multiple times throughout the game. I’d walk into an area, the soundtrack started, and I would stop and just listen.
If you are curious the movie sample is from “Manos: The Hands of Fate.” It’s a movie from the ’60s and if you like terrible films, watch it. It’s real bad. The theme of the soundtrack is ’90s hip hop, and I dig it. The songs don’t actually have lyrics, but each track had me nodding my head at least once. The songs feel like they take influence from Snoop Dogg, NWA, Wu-Tang, and a load of other classics.
Unfortunately each area really only has one track assigned to it, so it could get stale. There was a moment after hearing the main hub song for the 20th time that I thought I might be sick of it, but then I settled on the roof of Shangri-La for some golf and just chilled to it.
As an RPG Maker game, I never expected Orangeblood to blow me away with the quality of background noises. The footsteps sound crisp, and change tone depending on the surface. The doors and elevators all sound clean, and the weapons use a stock set of firing sounds as well. You can hear stock audio of hustle and bustle in shops and in the streets. Just enough to add atmosphere.
I would usually have UI and menus in their own section, but Orangeblood‘s is so simple that I’ll put it here. There is a simple page for options, and you can change the volume of the effects or the music individually. Overall a pretty minimalist method to accentuating the soundtrack.
As far as art style I have to say Orangeblood did well setting the theme. Lots of bright summery colors offset with a hazy sunset from old kung-fu movie colour palettes nailed the tone. You can even change the colour scheme to fit your style. Choose from flat, cinema, old, or even grey. If you miss the olden TV times so much you can even set it to CRT, you psycho. Don’t do that one, I’m hoping it’s a joke setting.
The wardrobes for the party and the NPCs alike imbued the game with a ’90s alternate universe Los Angeles feel. I’m assuming here. I was in Canada and 10 years old in the ’90s, don’t judge. Turning a low-rider into a flying car was the right amount of cheesy retro future combo.
The quality of the art hit as par. I found no graphical bugs other than right after you beat the game. You can keep playing after completion, and a new fast travel option called “Scenario Cleared” becomes available. This just takes you to the main map, but the screen is black. You can fix this by walking into any location from the mini map.
There were also a few spelling errors throughout the game, but most didn’t bother me. Most. The one error that chafed my eyes all game was the “King’s Clothing” shop for gear. Upon approach the game highlighted “King’s Closing” over the door. My eye is still twitching thinking about it.
Orangeblood gives mostly what you’d expect. The story itself didn’t thrill, but was just enough to move me forward and bring me to the next track. The soundtrack kept your head bobbing most of the time. The game offered simple combat, but sometimes too much of it. The difficulty of the boss battles wasn’t due to new mechanics but rather a lack of grinding gear.
I didn’t love the main characters explaining their personality to me every chance they got, and tossing lingo my way like an undercover narc. Admittedly I also sound like a narc whenever I try hip phrases. See? I just said “hip”.
Overall any gripes I had never had a chance to fully set. I completed the game in about 10 hours, and that’s including times I just sat and listened to the music. That happened often. I’m listening to it right now while I write this summary. Worth a pick up? Sure, I enjoyed myself in doses. Bright colours and fun tunes while shooting things, I suppose. Lord Bork says, “Goodbye!”
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