Title screen of ツキササリーナ (Tsukisas Arena)

“STRANGE 2D ACTION + STRANGE STORY,” announced the black-and-white sign on the table at a booth at Tokyo Game Dungeon 2. Behind it was a monitor with the opening animation for ツキササリーナ (Tsukisas Arena), made by 超OK (VeryOK). I asked the young man behind the table what this was about, but he just motioned for me to have a seat. I did so, put on the headphones, and picked up the controller. Immediately, a bespectacled character with twin ponytails bobbed onto the screen.

Screenshot of Professor Shiika saying in Japanese, 'Welcome, new assistant! This is a bit sudden, but this laboratory will be gone by next month.'

what what what

“Welcome, new assistant!” they say. “This is a bit sudden, but this laboratory will be gone by next month. It was so kind of you to come help me out when I’m in this pinch!” And thus begins the story of Professor Shiika Takahashi, brilliant and eccentric scientist from Tokyo Science University, and how they strongarm you into being their new lab assistant.

Screenshot of Professor Shiika holding up two test tubes filled with water and what appear to be an orange and blue squid in each.

"This is what I'm currently researching.These creatures have very... mysterious behaviors..."

Professor Shiika brings out two tubes filled with water, and what appear to be an orange and blue squid in each. They tell you, ignoring your protests, that you must help them with their research on these strange creatures. Together you will present your findings in a last-ditch effort to save the lab next month. “Isn’t it the perfect strategy?” Shiika then hands control of one of the squids so you can better observe what they do.

And what do these squids do? Well, they can move very slowly from side to side. They can jump up into the air and then dive back into the water, after which they will bob quickly back towards the surface. And they have those pointy heads. I waited for the opposing squid to jump towards me, then positioned myself underneath. It landed directly on top of me, and the screen erupted into stars! A direct hit!

Screenshot of a battle in Tsukisas Arena. The blue squid has attacked the orange squid from below in the water. There is a giant cross on the screen from the point of impact. In the background, Professor Shiika watches with interest.


“Yes!” cried the young man behind the table, startling me back to real life. “That is exactly it!” This man was Kurusute, one of the members of VeryOK and the developer of Tsukisas Arena. He also made some Unity Room games that I enjoyed in the past, like カタムケ怪盗 (Katamuke Kaito, tilting master thief). The levels in VeryOK’s puzzle games are usually centered around a simple but surprising mechanic. They are designed so that even someone who usually skips reading game tutorials can understand how to go about solving them. (It’s me, I’m that someone.) Tsukisas Arena is no exception. The joyful animation of both the squids and the water practically invites the player to leap and dive without having to say a word.

The game is currently under development and does not have a release date as of this writing, but you can play the demo in your browser on Unity Room. The demo includes a preview of the story mode with a battle against the CPU, as well as a 1v1 local multiplayer mode.

Screenshot of a battle in Tsukisas Arena. The blue and orange squids are leaping out of the water and towards each other. In the background, Professor Shiika watches with interest.

The ebb and flow of the squid in the water looks and feels very cool.

The combat balance is quite interesting because of your limited controls. The idea is to stab your opponent from below, but the only way to get underneath them is to jump up and then dive down into the water. That means that every attack you make opens you up to being attacked yourself. Finding the right rhythm to strike at your opponent is critical. The flow of combat, as well as the fluid animation and art style, gives the game a real sense of faking out and jabbing at an opponent. Although the demo only has the first tutorial battle, I am very interested to see how Tsukisas Arena builds on this foundation with new skills, levels, and characters.

Tsukisas Arena is a promising game from a developer with an obvious love for its characters and setting. Professor Shiika’s funny mannerisms and distinctive look lends the game a strong sense of personality and charm. I sure hope that Shiika can get funding to save the lab! I am looking forward to playing the full game whenever it releases, but for now, I quite enjoy facing off against friends and family in the demo.

You can wishlist Tsukisas Arena on Steam, and play the demo in your browser on Unity Room. You can follow 超OK (VeryOK) and Kurusute on Twitter, and visit their homepage for more games. And you can see us play Tsukisas Arena on stream!