Vanillaware’s Charm Is On Full Display In New Unicorn Overlord Details

Still got it.

Originally Published: 
screenshot from Unicorn Overlord

When Unicorn Overlord was revealed at the September Nintendo Direct, I only needed to see one thing to get excited: the Vanillaware logo. The developer of 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim, Dragon’s Crown, and Odin Sphere has yet to make a bad game, and its signature hand-drawn art style looks as good now as it always has. With Vanillaware at the helm, Unicorn Overlord immediately became one of my most anticipated games of 2024 — even if I’m not quite sure what it’s about yet.

Thanks to a fresh press release from publisher Atlus, however, we now know a good deal more about Unicorn Overlord. The game takes place on the continent of Fevrith, where five nations are ruled over by the Zenoiran Empire. Fevrith is populated by distinct groups of angels, elves, humans, and wolf girls in metal bikinis (Vanillaware isn’t here to judge what you’re into).

Unicorn Overlord’s real-time battles play out on a gorgeous world map.


Before 13 Sentinels, Vanillaware’s games tended toward fairly broad fantasy plots that were more interesting stylistically than narratively. Odin Sphere splits its story up among several playable characters, and Dragon’s Crown is read by an unseen narrator like a storybook, which helps bring their somewhat derivative stories to life.

From the sound of it, Unicorn Overlord may veer closer to those examples than to the mind-bending sci-fi saga of 13 Sentinels. If anything dulls my excitement over the game, it’s the idea that nothing reminiscent of Vanillaware’s investigative visual novel will make its way into the upcoming tactics RPG, which makes sense as the studio started working on Unicorn Overlord well before it released 13 Sentinels. There’s something charming about the way Vanillaware approaches its familiar stories with utter sincerity, and the excellent art and music that’s already been revealed for Unicorn Overlord suggests it will have the developer’s usual touch as well.

The more interesting details in the release point to how Unicorn Overlord will play. Its Nintendo Direct trailer revealed tactical battles with units moving in real-time on a map but didn’t explain much beyond that. According to Vanillaware, combat will largely center around fighting the Empire’s forces to liberate towns their armies hold. Battles sound like they can get absolutely massive in Unicorn Overlord, as you’ll be able to control up to ten groups of five fighters each in combat.

The new character portraits are ever bit as good as you’d expect from Vanillaware.


Once you liberate a town from the Empire, it will serve as a hub you can build up by delivering supplies, offering more services the more you contribute to the local economy. The release specifically mentions the ability to build inns, which serve meals to your troops. Maybe if we’re lucky that will mean the return of some variation of Dragon Crown’s excellent cooking minigame, where you make meals from a variety of beautifully illustrated ingredients to give your party buffs.

Just as Dragon’s Crown was inspired by old-school brawlers, Unicorn Overlord looks like an homage to retro tactics games. Vanillaware has experimented with tactical combat before, in the 2D strategy game GrimGrimoire and 13 Sentinel’s real-time tactics. But where the strategy was fairly stripped down in those games, mostly concerned with deploying units to the right place on the map, Unicorn Overlord takes things much further. Its strategy isn’t just about winning fights but also incorporates elements of town management and a social sim system that grants you more rewards from any outposts where you have a good reputation.

On top of all that is the obvious beauty of Unicorn Overlord. Vanillaware has always excelled when it comes to its art, usually done in a gorgeous house style that layers painted character illustrations and backgrounds to create an aesthetic somewhere between a watercolor painting, a hand-drawn animation cell, and a pop-up book.

In liberated towns, you can recruit mercenaries, supply your army, and hopefully do some cooking yourself.


That style is on full display in new screenshots and character art Atlus released along with the new gameplay details. This particular batch includes screenshots of the game in action, plus detailed portraits of a handful of knights you’ll meet in Unicorn Overlord. Atlus previously revealed a cast of 60 recruitable characters you can use to build your army, including mercenaries you can hire in liberated towns. If they’re all even half as interesting as the characters already revealed, Unicorn Overlord’s armies will be a visual treat.

While we’re still a little light on information about how battles and town management will actually work in practice, I can’t wait to get my hands on Unicorn Overlord. It looks like nothing else out there, both in terms of art and gameplay, which is exactly what Vanillaware does best.

Unicorn Overlord comes to Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS4, and Xbox Series X/S on March 8, 2024.

This article was originally published on

Related Tags