🎮 Dramatic Road: The Origin of Wind

2023年 12月 17日
Indie Tsushin 2023 December-January issueThis article was featured in our 2023 December-January issue. Check out more articles and interviews in the full issue.
Title screen of Dramatic Road: The Origin of Wind

To everyone who is not actually a high school student, teenage life looks so wild and free. This is just my personal opinion, and it doesn't apply to everyone. But since becoming an adult, I feel like I had more freedom back then compared to now; and when I was in elementary school, I thought the teenagers in my neighborhood were so cool. In manga and video games, high schoolers always seemed to be living fully in the moment. Even if that vision of adolescence doesn't exactly match my actual experiences, it was the ideal image of a high school student that I always longed for myself. And now, many years since graduating, I got to experience my ideal teenage life through Dramatic Road: The Origin of Wind by Alaska Ohdanbu.

Introduction screen of motorcycle club leader Kajiwara Shotaro standing in an empty classroom. In the background are motorcycles and auto repair equipment.

The characters in Dramatic Road show off the different high school clubs and their unique cultures.

Dramatic Road is a strategy RPG depicting the lives of modern high school students. Battles are turn-based and units move in order based on their speed around a large grid-like map. Units have a set number of movement and attack actions each turn, and setting up your team's formation is important to prevent being caught off-guard. As the story progresses and your characters level up, they gain new attacks that use up action points, so managing that plus selecting which characters to take with you into battle adds a lot of diversity to each fight.

Hasegawa Eiji selecting an attack to use against a character in a gray jacket and helmet. Underneath is the UI showing how much damage that attack will do.

At the start of each turn, move your unit within range and select an attack. You will get a preview screen to show how much damage you will likely do.

When I think of touchstones in this genre, I think of fantasy worlds filled with political intrigue, or science fiction where robots fight in the vastness of space. I'm sure many of you can imagine the kinds of games I'm talking about. The SRPG genre has become inextricable from these kinds of sweeping epics. And then we come to something like Dramatic Road, which takes away the knives and bullets from those SRPGs and instead has you doing battle using the burning passion of high school students as your source of power. Much like chaos raging across a fantasy world, these high school students are driven by their own whims and those of their classmates, seeking their own place in life and defending their territory from mundane invading forces. The chaos that comes from youthful exuberance provides ample soil for a sprawling strategy RPG.

A list of the different attacks that the Birdman club unit can use.

Different clubs specialize in different abilities, such as the Birdman club being able to fly over obstacles.

The story begins with a high school motorcycle club focused on racing. On top of that, the club members lament that their town and school have gotten unruly and out of control, and they band together to save people from bullies and thugs. Moved by their passion, students from other school clubs join in, and the protagonists unite and fight for a peaceful student life. The other clubs are as equally bizarre as the high school motorcycle club, such as the expedition club, the Birdman club, and the magician club. (If you don't know about the Japan International Birdman Rally, it is a televised contest where teams create human-powered aircraft to fly over Lake Biwa.) Of course the story is quite intense, but it's also a lot of fun to see what club will appear next.

Baseball club members joining your team to fight against another baseball team.

Baseball club members are divided into pitchers, who deal long-range damage, and batters, who are melee fighters who are strong against range units.

The characteristics of each club determines how their units will behave, adding a lot of depth to the strategy. The motorcycle club have excellent mobility and can move again after attacking, similar to a cavalry unit in similar games. The tennis and baseball club can attack from long distances, acting as Dramatic Road's version of archers or gunners. If you are already familiar with other SRPGs, it is really fun to see what their club equivalent will be here, and in what ways they differ. The enemy units are tough to take down, and if you make any careless mistakes, you can get buried under a cascade of counterattacks. There are useful functions such as Shift Change which passes a unit's turn off to an ally, and the ability to rewind back to your previous action, so be sure to take advantage of those.

Tokita Kyousuke talking with Kajiwara after their first race together.

"Today's victory was pure luck. At the next race, I'm going full speed!"

Since the main characters of Dramatic Road are part of the motorcycle club, you have access to highly mobile units right from the start. This creates an interesting game balance compared to other SRPGs that introduce cavalry units later, since here, it is tempting to push your units too far into enemy territory and find yourself in a world of pain. I think the strategy you build around Tokita, a first-year student and new club recruit, will be the key to winning battles. When my youthful impatience and immaturity bubbled back up and sent Tokita too far ahead, leading to a game over for my entire team, I felt like I had touched on the quintessence of Dramatic Road. But that might just be my imagination.

Character landing a critical hit and showing a blown-up portrait.

The hot-blooded story is echoed in battle, with great touches like these anime-style close-ups for critical hits.

As you would expect from an SRPG, there is a large cast of characters which leads to a lot of dramatic plot beats. The passion of youth burns bright in these high school students and their many friends. Maybe you can find someone among the cast who resembles your own younger self. It is heartening to see the way these characters support and uplift each other. Play Dramatic Road and rewrite your own immature and earnest youthful history.

Dramatic Road: The Origin of Wind is available in early access on Steam. Visit Alaska Ohdanbu's homepage for more of their works. And you can watch us play Dramatic Road on stream!