Team TokuNet sits down with 13am Games, the developers behind the tokusatsu inspired brawler Dawn of the Monsters, to learn more about development and inspirations for the game.
Update: As of 3/15/2022 Dawn of the Monsters has officially launched. It is available for digital download on the Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and Stadia. Pre-orders for a physical version of the game can be reserved from now until April 3, 2022 for Nintendo Switch, PS4, and PS5.
13am Games is the team behind the upcoming game Dawn of the Monsters, a new tokusatsu & kaiju-fighting inspired brawler. Dawn of the Monsters brings the kaiju fighting of tokusatsu, and takes it to the next level.
Giant creatures called Nephilim invades the Earth and are wreaking havoc. It is up to DAWN (Defence Alliance Worldwide Network) to stop them. DAWN releases their own countermeasures, in the form of their own giant creatures and robots, to stand up against the Nephilim.
Players can take control of one of four characters, each with their own fighting styles and mechanics. These characters can be powered up using DNA augments and can take enemies down with Rage move and finishers. Dawn of the Monsters features over 35 missions to play from, as well as two player co-op.
Below are the team members of 13am Games who we spoke with about Dawn of the Monsters:
- Alex Rushdy (Creative Director)
- Takashi (Art Director)
- Mike Lambert (Concept Artist, Animator)
- Juli Ivy (Animator)
Read our full interview with 13am Games below:
How did you come to start this project?
Alex: Well, most kaiju games tend to be either fighting or strategy games and I always thought to myself “Why has no one made a kaiju beat em up? I mean, that’s the perfect combination, right?” I always wanted a kaiju game that I could play co-operatively with a friend!
We started initial development in late 2018 and in 2019 we kicked into high gear and showed it off at G-Fest. Then we got WayForward on board and have been truckin’ along ever since!
What programs have you been developing the game on? How has progression been with making Dawn of the Monsters?
Alex: The game engine we use is Unity, and we’ve been using it for years now. It’s allowed us to do a lot and bring the game to as many platforms as possible (Switch, PC, PS4, PS5, XBO, XSX). We use a lot of programs in addition to that such as fmod for audio, as well as Krita and Spine for art and animation.
How did the team come upon deciding on the game’s dynamic art style?
Takashi: The art style didn’t exactly come from just one specific place. At first we decided what the mood, theme and atmosphere we wanted for the game as a whole, and once that was locked, we started experimenting with how we could convey that best. Since we’re talking about Kaiju, we felt like strong, visually contrasting and impactful elements would be great to portray their sense of size and weight, and convey the intended narrative elements well.
The graphic novel inspired look, and more specifically the influence of Mike Mignola’s art, came from these ideas. Since we were kids, we would read manga, and watch anime, tokusatsu and kaiju content, and considering the origin of Kaiju, we thought it would be a good idea to bridge the comic book elements with Manga influences.
Can you tell us a bit about how artists Shinji Nishikawa and Matt Frank became involved with the project? What was the process for creating these characters?
Alex: It was really important for us to make it clear that this isn’t a parody or a game made by people who don’t hold the same passion for kaiju & tokusatsu as diehard fans do. We wanted to make something that could even be embraced in Japan. To that end we wanted to include some famous and notable kaiju creators in the project to help convey that authenticity.
I had the opportunity to work with Matt Frank by meeting him at G-Fest years ago, and he helped me get in contact with Shinji Nishikawa. It was fantastic working with both of them, and the designs they’ve contributed are great. We would explain the mechanics and concept behind a character and they would iterate on designs until we had something that worked for everyone.
We also worked with EJ Su, who is known for his work on Transformers, Rise of Ultraman, and Godzilla Rivals as well as Kim Jacinto, who worked on Shang Chi and Rise of Ultraman.
But that’s not everyone! We’ve got a few more surprise guest artists to announce in the weeks before launch!
What are your inspirations behind the making of this game?
Alex: Back in King of the Monsters 2 there were these brief beat’em up sections between boss fights and they were pretty darn cool. I always thought “why couldn’t there be a whole game that’s a kaiju beat’em up?” and kind of went from there.
I also really dig hardcore action games like Bayonetta and Ninja Gaiden, as well as games like Monster Hunter where you have a kind of meta game loop and can improve your skills in various ways. So we drew on those to inspire the combat and growth/development systems in the game.
What Kaiju are the fan favorites among the team?
Alex: I’m a huge fan of Godzilla and Gamera, but beyond those I love Titanosaurus, King Guesra, Gamakujira, Gomora, Iris, and Guilala. I actually have a shelf dedicated to Titanosaurus and, well… I’m a bit obsessed!
Mike: It’s really tricky to choose because there are so many good ones but I really like the weird early Ultraman monsters like Baltan, Pigmon/Garamon, and Dada. I also really like Destroyah, Biollante and Mothra. Also who could forget Galgameth?
What reference material do you use to work on this game?
Alex: Well, before we even started the thick of development, during pre-production we sat down and watched a bunch of kaiju movies to prepare for the game. It became a kind of “weekly movie night” where we would watch a movie or tv show and then have a discussion about it, understanding the themes, the creative team, the special effects, etc. Almost like a “kaiju 101” class!
We watched some new movies, some old movies, some Godzilla, Gamera, Ultraman, & Pacific Rim, and even went to go see Godzilla: King of the Monsters in theatres together.
Ultimately it was less about “let’s try to copy this and make rip offs for the game” and more about understanding the appeal behind the best of the genre.
When it came to action games, we looked at Monster Hunter, Dynasty Warriors, Streets of Rage, Turtles in Time, Dragon’s Crown, Bayonetta, and Devil May Cry to inform our design sensibilities.
Takashi: Specifically talking about the art style, we got references from all over the place. A lot from Mike Mignola’s work (Hellboy, Baltimore), but also from Frank Miller (Sin City), Takeshi Koike (Redline), Yusuke Kozaki (Fire Emblem), Daisuke Ishiwatari (Guilty Gear), as well as things like Neon Genesis Evangelion and Dead Leaves, and of course, the work from Shinji Nishikawa, Yuji Kaida, Noriyoshi Ohrai. But, really, we find references everywhere, from weird deep sea animals, to insects, plants, fungi, ancient architecture and relics, other Kaiju media, tokusatsu designs, etc
Mike: For kaiju designs I primarily took inspiration from the kaiju from the Showa and Heisei Godzilla eras and the Ultraman designs by Tohl Narita. Rather than just using their designs as direct inspiration I tried to take inspiration from the techniques they used in hopes that our kaiju would not feel derivative (outside of intentional references anyway). This means mashing real world animals together or reinterpreting how they look, as well as taking inspirations from bizarre looking plants, animals, historical art, and avantgarde/Dadaist art.
Juli: When it comes to animation I took a lot of inspiration from other beat’em up and fighting games. We would look at kaiju movies as reference for more cinematic animations, like the enemy and boss executions, but the game’s very quick and snappy pacing makes it hard to reference those movies due to their slower, heavier action. I studied the moves from games like Street Fighter, Guilty Gear and Darkstalkers a lot – those last two are especially great due to having very varied and monster-y characters and very creative animations.
Does the team watch any tokusatsu shows? Which are the favorites among the team?
Alex: I love tokusatsu shows! I’ve always been a massive fan of Ultraman, but I also enjoy Super Sentai, Kamen Rider, and various other tokusatsu shows. Some of my favorites are:
- Ultraman Gaia
- Ultraman X
- Choujuu Sentai Liveman
- Choujin Sentai Jetman
- Kamen Rider Black
- Kamen Rider J
- Neo Ultra Q
I also really enjoy Captain Ultra but it’s very hard to find in English…
Takashi: Growing up I watched a lot of tokusatsu shows like Choushinsei Flashman, Changeman, Juspion, Jiban, Jiraya, Kamen Rider, Dennou Keisatsu Cybercop, Winspector and Soulbrain, and others even. It’s hard to choose a favorite one, but Cybercop, Jiraya and Jiban definitely have a special place for me!
Mike: I pretty much love it all, especially if it uses practical effects, but here a few of the shows that have had the biggest effect on me:
- Choujuu Sentai Liveman
- Choujin Sentai Jetman
- Hikonin Sentai Akibaranger
- Kamen Rider Black
- Kamen Rider OOO
- Robot Keiji K
- Ultra Q
- Kyojuu Tokusou Juspion
- Kaiketsu Zubat
- Denkou Choujin Gridman
I’m also a fan of shows that are closely associated with tokusatsu stuff like Tokusatsu Gagaga and Sh15uya.
How has it been working with WayForward on this project?
Alex: It’s been great! WayForward has been really supportive of us and it’s been incredible working with a publisher that is also a game developer- they’ve been on both sides of that relationship themselves so they’re really understanding.
They’ve also offered a lot of valuable feedback and insight into the game that has really helped push the quality up even higher.
Is there anything you can tease for readers to look forward to?
Alex: Well, I can’t wait to reveal the other artists we’re working with, what we’ve got planned for the physical version of the game, more details about the story, and the full voice cast. We’ll be revealing much more in the coming weeks, so please follow us on twitter (https://twitter.com/13amgames) and join our discord (https://discord.gg/ZkadGEzvg8) for updates!
Dawn of the Monsters will release in early 2022 and will be available on the Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.