The Hottest JRPG Of The Moment Is Being Developed By A 22 Year Old

The Hottest JRPG Of The Moment Is Being Developed By A 22 Year Old
Screenshot: Stephen Ddungu

Most musical games are rhythm games, popular examples include titles such as Guitar Hero, Beat Saber, and Dance Dance Revolution. However, Sword of Symphony turned that genre expectation on its head. It’s a stylish music-action roleplaying game that uses combat to compose music, meaning that the game inverts the typical relationship between inputs and combat. Sword of Symphony blurs the boundary between ‘video game’ and ‘musical instrument.’ For the solo developer Stephen Ddungu, defeating shadowy enemies is only a means to a beautiful end.

It also looks slick while doing it.

For those who have watched Stephen’s reveal video, it’s easy to see why it captured nearly 1.2 million views on TikTok, while also going viral on platforms like Twitter. Sword of Symphony takes strong visual and story cues from Japanese roleplaying games. The characters in its world wield magical energy based in music, and they fight an enemy that represents writers’ block. The animations on the protagonist’s attacks are dramatic and fun.

Stephen acknowledges on his Patreon page that its predecessor took inspiration from JRPGs such as Final Fantasy, Nier: Automata, and Kingdom Hearts. But unlike the inspirations that he cited, Sword of Symphony features a Black protagonist. Since most JRPGs feature Japanese characters, this exciting creative decision will undoubtedly help the game stand out when it releases in full. The success of the trailer also shows that there is a strong demand for JRPGs that feature character diversity.

Sword of Symphony takes place in a hollow, desolate landscape of abstract shapes. Yet both the music and the visual effects are gentle and soothing. I’m especially excited about the parkour mechanic that was added in early July. The juxtaposition between magical and artificial aesthetics creates a sense of intrigue that hooks potential players in, despite the fact that the game isn’t completed yet.

Considering that Stephen’s TikTok dev account has over a hundred thousand followers despite only a few videos, it’s fair to say that public anticipation for the game is very high. At the time of publication, the developer’s Discord server was overflowing with members who seemed excited about the trailer, action games, and music.

The trailer doesn’t try to tell us who the protagonist is, or what his motivations are. The powerful animations tease our imagination of what the game could be, and that in itself could be more compelling than the developer telling us outright.

Here’s the most absurd part of Sword of Symphony’s development: its creator is a twenty-two year old college student. The game was originally conceptualized as Stephen’s university project. I wouldn’t have guessed it, since the game’s polish is immaculate and the narrative ideas are ambitious. I’m hoping that his professor gave him full marks, but it’s clear that Sword of Symphony has grander potential than simply ‘thesis project.’

Log in to comment on this story!