Cast your minds back to Nintendo's Indie World Showcase in March this year and you may well remember the intriguing reveal that kicked off the presentation. Blue Fire is a mysterious 3D combat platformer from Argentina-based Robi Studios which piqued our interest, although that initial trailer played its cards close to its chest.
Fortunately, we're now able to reveal more about the game with some exclusive gameplay footage (above) alongside new art and an interview with Santiago Rosa, Co-Lead at Robi Studios, that sheds some light on Blue Fire's combat, influences and its reborn protagonist, Umbra.
The game is scheduled for a Summer 2020 release as a timed Switch exclusive, so let's take a closer look Blue Fire and the land of Penumbra...
Nintendo Life: Blue Fire kicked off Nintendo’s Indie World Showcase back in March and gave us a glimpse of a 3D action platformer with lots of air dashing, acrobatics and combat. Tell us a little more about the land of Penumbra and what the game is about.
Santiago Rosa, Co-Lead at Robi Studios: Penumbra is a desolate fantasy land with different regions, characters and much to explore and discover. About the game's story itself, we’ll just let on a bit on the general background for players to start off with, but our purpose is to make it so people get immersed in the world and let their imagination run, putting small things together to make sense of the whole plot.
[Umbra is] a soulless being with an aggressive nature
Here’s an introduction! After the fall of Penumbra, the land entered into an era of eternal darkness. During this time the corruption, also known as the Black Shadow, breached the land and spread to dominate as the main source of life. The Black Shadow had many effects throughout Penumbra and many dead and alive creatures were slowly corrupted by it becoming Shadow Reborns, very powerful and destructive nature beings.
The diminutive fighter in the trailer appears to have ninja-like combat skills and can certainly traverse the levels in style, but we don’t know much else at the moment. What can you tell us about the main character and his abilities?
Umbra, the main character in Blue Fire, is a fallen warrior of Penumbra that was reborn by the Black Shadow. He will interact with other creatures in his quest, both uncorrupted creatures as well as shadow beings and spirits in search of self-empowerment to overcome harder obstacles as they appear.
He’s a soulless being with an aggressive nature. Empowered by the Black Shadow, Umbra has an extraordinary set of abilities. He can dash, wall run, wall jump, double jump, downsmash, slash both horizontally and vertically and do a spin attack, and use all these and many other moves combined to move throughout the world of Penumbra. His small but agile body makes him a stealthy warrior with a great potential, which players will build up through combat and exploration.
In terms of art style, Umbra is a very stylized character. He wears a navy blue and inner red cloak which was once the uniform of the Warriors of Penumbra. He also wears a mask and carries with him a pair of swords. [Throughout] the game, players will have the opportunity to personalize Umbra, choosing from their favorite weapons and tunics.
How long has Blue Fire been in development? Tell us a little about the team at Robi Studios and the genesis of the project.
Blue Fire was born about a year ago, give or take. At that time, it was just me and my brother Gabriel. We began pre-production for it while doing art outsourcing for other games and started to feel a great potential in the character, Umbra. Soon we decided to go all-in. We stopped our outsourcing work and started getting our actual team together. It's been several months now with all of us fully dedicated to Blue Fire. We're a solid team of 9 people constantly working to get Blue Fire up and running!
What games would you say have influenced the team while developing Blue Fire?
That’s a great question! Truth is, our team is a cool mix of people with different interests and tastes, and we’ve all played lots of games throughout the years. I think what’s great about this is we managed to get a mixed feel in Blue Fire: from some Dark-Soulish interactions to A Hat in Time cuteness, with maybe a Zelda base [laughs]. And that's where it gets interesting, 'cause the game gets its own feel and takes life on its own, nurturing from so many great sources of inspiration.
we managed to get a mixed feel in Blue Fire: from some Dark-Soulish interactions to A Hat in Time cuteness, with maybe a Zelda base [laughs]
From the small amount of gameplay footage we’ve seen so far, there appear to be lots of high platforms and combat encounters. What sort of environments can we expect to visit in Penumbra? Will we be plummeting to our death a lot?
[laughs] Yes you probably will. The world is quite harsh and if you get distracted you can die easily. The environments are varied, going from flatter spaces to others with lots of verticality, at times getting really high above the ground. Jumps from these high spots to lower levels have to be carefully measured, otherwise they’ll result in a game over.
The PR mentions boss fights and we glimpsed some sizeable enemies in the reveal trailer. What can you tell us about them? Will we be facing a ‘big bad’ at the end of every level?
There are certainly big guys you’ll have to face, but I don't want to spoil too much about it now, though I will tell you, you will be fighting in mid air and it’ll get pretty hard!
What game engine are you using for Blue Fire? Tell us about some of the challenges you’ve faced bringing the game to Switch.
We use Unreal Engine 4 for Blue Fire, and it’s given us tons of flexibility all around. Switch porting was a target for us from early on, but even so, there’s tons of technical aspects we’re adapting to make the game run as smooth as we can. We’re really stoked to have Blue Fire running on Switch!
How has the global COVID-19 pandemic affected the team and development? Is there anything that has particularly surprised you about the situation (from a work perspective) – positive or negative?
To be honest, at first we were kind of excited to have an excuse to lock ourselves up at home and work non-stop 'till we got Blue Fire finished. Developers might relate [laughs]. But it was clearly not as simple as we thought. We've worked tons and have stayed very motivated, but nonetheless, there are many aspects of remote work that we've had to solve and thus find new workflows for content creation and implementation. As of right now, we have daily and weekly calls and e-meetings to optimize our time and make sure everyone stays on track with development and the vision for the full game.
However, as the weeks went on, we realized that even though we have lots of “free” time on our hands, working remotely isn't that simple. Our team is pretty tight, and beside missing laughing and goofing around at the office, live feedback is something we truly need at this moment of development. Putting environments together and starting to close the game up would be a lot easier to do with everyone being side by side.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about the game?
We’ll be sharing more information in the future and you can follow us on Twitter to find out our reveals.
Finally, what other Switch games has the team been enjoying when it hasn’t had its nose to the grindstone with Blue Fire?
Well, we’ve played lots of Mario Odyssey, Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Splatoon, and several indie titles as well. We also have lots of fun with Super Smash Bros. at the office, we’ve had some pretty solid fights.
Our thanks to Santiago. Blue Fire is scheduled for a Summer 2020 release on Switch. As you can see from the footage and gameplay gifs above, it certainly looks promising. We'll be keeping a close eye on this and look forward to sizing it up this summer. Until then, let us know your impressions of Blue Fire below.