Review: MIYAMOTO16 Jan 2019 5
Released 01 Dec 2018
Bestowing your game with the same name as that of the most famous game’s designer on the planet is a bold statement. Depending on your point of view, you will either be disappointed or relieved to discover that there are no portly plumbers or pointy-eared heroes on display here. Miyamoto turns out to be a roguelike game with elements of both card play and turn-based tactical battles.
Before you even start playing, it is obvious that Miyamoto is a game proud of its tabletop miniatures gaming influences. The title screen shows a board game box and tapping on it will flip the lid, launching you into the game. Each playing piece is portrayed as a static model, posed on a coloured base. The game has a wonderful minimalist look, with the limited colour palette ensuring that the stylised units are both lovely to look at and easy to identify. Information is also kept to a bare minimum as each unit only has two statistics to display; health points and attack strength. To top it off, the way that cherry blossom flutters across the screen with the unobtrusive music playing away in the background, is in perfect keeping with the feudal Japanese setting.
Each of the eight levels is a skirmish battle set on a tiny four by four grid. At the beginning of each battle, your leader and your opponent’s leader are placed on opposite sides of the battlefield. Tap your leader and you are able to move them to an adjacent space and then if an enemy is within range, launch an attack. The results of combat are easily resolved; the strength of the attacking unit is deducted from the remaining health of the assaulted unit. It is as simple as that with no other statistics to worry about.
At the beginning of each round you will draw some cards. These do not cost any resources to play and will either allow you to introduce a new unit onto the battlefield or cast a spell. When a new unit is placed on the board it will usually be inactive until the start of the next round. Spells, meanwhile, have an immediate effect and fall into two types. Missile spells allow you to assail your enemies with the likes of fireballs and ice bolts. Other spells can be used to enhance a unit’s abilities; this may improve their attack strength or ready an inactive unit.
There is little opportunity to manage the content of your deck. After each victory, you are awarded a choice of one of three cards to add to your deck, but you never get to thin out your cards or even see the full list of the cards that you own. This does mean that the game has quite a high level of luck; drawing powerful cards early on will give you a distinct advantage.
The units have a satisfying variety of unique powers. The catapult is a static unit with a fearsome ranged attack that causes damage to all nearby units. The thief is weak but he does immediately add two extra cards to your hand (better not ask how he acquired them). He is great to use in tandem with the Princess as she gains an extra point of attack strength for each friendly unit already in play. The graveyard is another cool card; it will allow you to deploy an extra skeleton unit each round. Other units have abilities that enhance nearby friendly units, adding to their strength or protecting them from attack.
The overall aim of Miyamoto is to defeat eight progressively more difficult enemy leaders. Once a leader has their health reduced to zero the rest of their troops will pack up and go home. Hence, you need to protect your leader at all costs, which can be a real headache when you are coming under threat from every which way at once. It is at times like this that the small 16 square arena begins to feel especially claustrophobic, brutal and chaotic. If you are too wary then there is a real danger that your units will be swamped but throwing caution to the wind may leave your leader vulnerable.
Defeat an enemy leader and not only will you progress to the next battle but also earn some coins. This money can be put towards the cost of a new leader, each of whom has their own unique set of abilities. Be warned, these guys are not cheap. At the bottom end of the market and with an asking price of 10,000 coins is Hanzo whose fiery palms inflict area damage to all nearby units. Save up 30,000 coins and you can enlist the titular Miyamoto, whose wide-ranging power will give a permanent attacking boost to all allied units. The most that I have earned for defeating an opposition leader is around 300 coins, so a new leader is a long-term investment. However, they do give you the hope that they will provide the spark to defeat the final couple of tough levels.
Getting through all eight battles before your leader is killed offers a stiff and addictive challenge. Sometimes the enemy leader will make things a little easier by going on a kamikaze charge, leaving them in a very vulnerable position. Usually, however, the high speed turns and constantly changing battlefield means that you will always need to have your wits about you. A single high-powered strike against your leader can bring the entire campaign to an abrupt end. Miyamoto has lashings of rogue style tension. As you invest more time and effort you will have more to lose, thus escalating the pressure to ever-greater levels.
Miyamoto is a small game with very spartan presentation. There are only eight levels which means that the experience is going to be over sooner rather than later. There is no background story or rules explanation. Thankfully, it is straightforward enough to ensure that anyone with a passing familiarity with turn-based strategy games should be able to pick it up in next to no time. The interface helps, being instinctive and responsive, although it would be nice to be able to check on the abilities of enemy units. Some players will find the approach overly simplified. There is no pinning of units, terrain modifiers or flank attack bonuses. But that’s fine because Miyamoto isn’t aiming to be an in-depth simulation, in fact, with such a tiny field of play, there isn’t really that much scope for manoeuvring your units. It a fast-paced game of throwing your units into battle as quickly as possible, filling as many spaces around your leader, so that you can place new ones ever deeper into opponents’ territory – of course the problem is that they are attempting to do exactly the same.