You can almost count Xbox One’s Japanese exclusives on one hand, and over time some of these have understandably been ported to other platforms. Xbox 360 was a treasure trove of shoot ‘em ups (shmups) and initially it looked like Xbox One was going to carry the mantle, but it clearly wasn’t meant to be; after Raiden V there was really nothing else in the way of exclusives. Not that Xbox One has any shortage of Japanese games, it recently picked up Yakuza and Kingdom Hearts for Xbox Game Pass after all, but it certainly lacks the allure of legitimate Japanese exclusives that the original Xbox and Xbox 360 enjoyed for a brief time.
Alongside the aforementioned Raiden V, there was meant to be another shmup launching around the same time, going by the name of Natsuki Chronicle. Months became years and the years turned into well… half a decade. After sitting in pre-order for years on boutique video game store websites, the fabled shmup exclusive was nowhere in sight until now: December 24/25 (depending on your time zone) 2019 is the official launch date for Natsuki Chronicle. To make it even more official, there is now an official Xbox Store listing for it too.
Natsuki Chronicle was first teased in 2014 for a then planned 2015 release, but developer Qute pulled one hell of a Duke Nukem Forever on this one as it took all of five years for them to finish what looked like a pretty straightforward shooter. Initially delayed by a few months, the developer fell silent until they finally admitted the game wouldn’t be ready until 2016, which of course never happened. Fast forward to the end of 2016 and the release that was changed to sometime in 2017 and… well you’re starting to see a pattern here by now. By early 2019 the developer basically had to state an indefinite delay for the Xbox One exclusive. The reason for all the delays? To improve the game’s quality apparently.
This vicious cycle continued until just last week when finally an actual release date was locked in just in time for Christmas. If you’ve been writing to Santa for this particular game, then rest assured it will be express delivered to you under the pine tree come this festive season. Even I wasn’t convinced at first, but once a game gets listed on the official Xbox Store with a price tag then it’s pretty much a done deal.
Is Natsuki Chronicle a big deal? Well it certainly would have been a welcome addition to the library had it launched in 2015 as originally intended, because at the tail end of 2019 that’s basically what it looks like: a 2015 video game. It doesn’t look amazing by any stretch as it is just a typical Japanese shmup with rather dated looking graphics, but it looks to offer an interesting shooting experience with its comprehensive story mode. They’ve had five years to work on this so hopefully the level design and difficulty progression are at least polished.
The game is set to feature multiple weapons which can be mixed and matched in different ways to suit different playstyles, with the ship itself being highly customisable from both a visual and gameplay standpoint. Natsuki Chronicle is also a follow up of sorts to Qute’s 2013 shooter titled Ginga Force, a game which was released exclusively for Xbox 360 in Japan.
Natsuki Chronicle will launch digitally in time for Christmas with a physical retail edition likely to be made available in Japan and Asia at some stage, but certainly not available for pre-order on import retailers as it once was. As Microsoft looks to transition into Series X in 2020, we wrap up Xbox One’s career with a release which was once part of its earliest line up of titles. Better late than never as they say.
The question on everyone’s mind (well, mostly mine) was how on earth did a Japanese studio stay afloat by spending five years developing a rather simple looking shmup, and that to for Xbox One which in of itself alienates their intended audience fully. The answer, as it so turns out, is that Qute is actually a developer of healthcare , IT infrastructure and software solutions in Japan, with video games being a bit of a side business for them. Stranger things have happened in gaming, but I admire a Japanese healthcare company with such persistent dedication to the Xbox brand.