A Unicorn Overlord Sequel Could Be Great, But There’s A Catch

Vanillaware can do better than more of the same.

screenshot from Unicorn Overlord

Unicorn Overlord released to rave reviews and solid sales this March, quickly becoming developer Vanillaware’s most successful launch. Unsurprisingly, that’s led Sega, the owner of publisher Atlus, to consider whether a sequel would be worth pursuing. While fans seem excited about the possibility — and I would probably play it, too — I can’t help but feel that a sequel would be missing what makes Vanillaware great.

To be clear, there’s no indication that a Unicorn Overlord sequel is actually underway. Atlus has released similar surveys after launches in the Persona series before as a way to gauge player interest and reactions. The question about a sequel comes at the end of the survey, after more general questions onthe game. The difference is that a new Persona game is pretty much a given after every release in the series, while a sequel to a Vanillaware game is unheard of.


It makes sense that Unicorn Overlord would be the game to break the mold. It sold 500,000 copies in its first month, while 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim (Vanillaware’s previous most successful game) took more than three years to crack 1 million. That’s even more impressive considering it launched at a time when players were still finishing up Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth and getting ready for Dragon’s Dogma 2, landing squarely between those blockbuster launches. If there were ever a chance for Vanillaware to make a play for mainstream success by kicking off a series, this would be it.

And, well, good for them. Vanillaware has been at it since 2002, launching one banger after another without too much recognition outside its established fanbase and fans of the niche genres its games inhabit. Around Unicorn Overlord’s launch, I noticed a wave of fans coming out of nowhere to sing the publisher’s praises and point out that it’s in fact been very good all along, but each of its games so far have made basically just enough money to keep the studio afloat until the next release, as CEO George Kamitani revealed.

The only problem is that I’m selfish and want brand-new games from Vanillaware. I love Unicorn Overlord — it’s easily my second-favorite game so far this year, behind Dragon’s Dogma 2 — but I don’t need more of it. Its massive campaign kept me busy for dozens of hours and there’s still plenty of side content I haven’t finished. I have doubts about whether its threadbare story could even sustain a sequel, but my real concern is what we’d be missing out on instead.


Part of the reason that Vanillaware has attracted such a fervent, if small, fanbase is that every game is a surprise. It’s bounced between tower defense, hack-and-slash RPGs, visual novels, and tactics games throughout its history, each time bringing something fresh to the genre. The last two in particular are interesting, because visual novels often lack the mainstream attention they deserve, and tactical RPGs in the style of Unicorn Overlord have essentially disappeared in recent years. If there’s a chance that Vanillaware could breathe new life into similarly forgotten or overlooked genres in the future, that’s far more exciting than getting another sequel.

That’s not to say that Vanillaware would necessarily lose its magic by making a sequel. That sequel could be handed off to one team within the studio while another team worked on something brand-new, for instance. Unicorn Overlord was in development at the same time as 13 Sentinels, so there’s precedent for that at Vanillaware.


The situation also reminds me of Image & Form, another endlessly creative developer that’s flown a bit more under the radar than it ought to. The developer of the Steamworld series has a similar genre-hopping approach, but released a sequel to its Steamworld Dig mining game after also dabbling in turn-based tactics and tower defense. At the time, I was worried that its days of experimentation could be over, but since Steamworld Dig 2, it’s mixed things up with a card game, a city builder, and an upcoming third-person shooter.

I can only hope that if Vanillaware does shift some of its focus to sequels, it follows a similar path. As great as Unicorn Overlord is, sticking to one series seems like risking too much of a good thing. Vanillaware has found its strength in making wild leaps from one game to the next, and I worry that playing it relatively safe could extinguish its spirit. A Unicorn Overlord sequel may never come to pass anyway. I just hope that whatever happens, Vanillaware can maintain its momentum as one of the most inventive developers around.

Unicorn Overlord is available now on PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch.

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