Who would have thought that a chance encounter between leaves and hot water would lead to one of the most popular hot drinks in the world? Tea is a necessity for many of us to survive, mostly because the Nintendo Life team is 90% British, but also because it serves as a soothing, relaxing ritual that starts our day.
This article? Fuelled by tea. Our reviews? Caffeinated by a nice cuppa. And this feature, in which we speak to the developers of upcoming Switch game, Spirittea? Literally would not exist without the existence of Camellia Sinensis, the plant that made all this possible.
Spirittea is a relaxing life sim inspired by games like Stardew Valley and "spirit-focused anime and manga" — think Spirited Away, Yokai Watch, and Princess Mononoke. We spoke with Dan Beckerton, Lead Designer on Spirittea, to find out more about the game...
Nintendo Life: So... Why tea?
Dan Beckerton: The game is set in a fictional East-Asian country. Like with many actual East-Asian countries tea is commonly consumed with meals and just on its own, so I wanted to adopt that practice in Spirittea.
What does a typical day in Spirittea look like?
A typical day in Spirittea would probably involve: Chatting with some of the locals (especially if you have some you prefer over others). Maybe you’ll hear about a strange occurrence one of the townsfolk is experiencing and you choose to investigate it a bit. It’s probably a good idea to leave an offering at one of the shrines around town, to increase your spirituality (which allows you to encounter more spirits).
You’d probably want to earn some money, so heading to the bathhouse on the mountain and doing some management would be a good way to earn a quick buck. By this time, it’s likely getting late. You could check if any townsfolk have free time and do an activity together, such as drinking, karaoke, fishing, digging for treasure, etc. If you’ve still got some time before becoming exhausted, you could always spend some inspiration points and work on your book a little.
Then it’s likely time for bed!
What are the players' long-term and short-term goals in Spirittea?
The overall goal of the game is to finish writing your book. This can take as long as you want, really. So long as you do activities that provide you with “inspiration” points, you can use those to work on the next chapter for your book.
Another long-term goal for ambitious players would probably be to discover all of the spirits in the game, and to stop them from causing problems with the townsfolk.
Short-term goals would be things like: gradually fixing up the bathhouse and unlocking new baths/wings of the bathhouse, finding the treasure indicated on a buried treasure map, getting closer with some of the locals and catching new bugs or fish together, and more!
The game is heavily inspired by Asian folklore — was this always the case? Did the tea or the spirits come first?
I believe it was the spirits that came first. One of the big inspirations for the game was the animated movie Spirited Away. This movie centered around a bathhouse for spirits, and I loved this idea for a game.
The spirits in Spirittea are not your typical Japanese yokai
The spirits in Spirittea, however, are not your typical Japanese yokai. They were inspired by folklore from all around the world (especially when it comes to their naming). I would essentially design the spirit first and then research myths and legends about some characteristic of that spirit, such as it being a frog, or being a trickster. There are influences from Greece, to Poland, to various African cultures.
Wonyan, a large cat spirit, will serve as your guide — but who is he? And how can he help?
Wonyan, like most of the spirits in Spirittea, has a bit of a muddled memory. The spirits begin to lose themselves when people forget about them. As such, Wonyan’s importance and role in Spirittea may start as a simple guide, but could evolve into something different. You’ll have to encounter the various spirits in the game to learn more!
How does the tea element of the game fit in with the Stardew Valley-like gameplay? Will we get to grow our own camellia sinensis?
Fortunately for you, the player, there is already a tea field in the town, run by a kind lady named Tifa (a fitting name). Spirittea doesn’t involve much in the way of gardening, however there is a section in the bathhouse where you can grow plants, which can then be used to make food or elixirs for the baths.
The tea aspect of Spirittea comes from the tea you drink from the ancient teapot in your house, which gives you the ability to see into the spirit world for a limited time. This is how you can spot the mischievous spirits around the town.
What kind of teas can we expect to serve?
Spirittea is created when you put regular old tea leaves in an old teapot found in your home
You won’t be spending much time serving tea. Rather, Spirittea is created when you put regular old tea leaves in an old teapot found in your home. But Spirittea isn’t enough to see all of the spirits. You will be able to see two or three of them simply by drinking the tea.
However, spending time leaving offerings at shrines will increase your spirituality level, which allows you to see more spirits. That said, you will still be able to buy and make some teas, and serve them to your bathhouse customers. I think there’s only a handful of teas in the game currently (green and black), but more will most certainly be added by the time of release.
You've said that the most exciting spirits that come to your bathhouse are the Lord Spirits. What happens when you entice a Lord Spirit into the bath?
Once your spirituality is high enough, and you’ve helped enough spirits, a Lord Spirit will take notice. There is one Lord Spirit per season, and they will only visit the bath during their season.
Lord Spirits can be extremely generous when it comes to paying the player, but they are also very needy. They sit in their own private bath, which requires its own boiler to heat (separate from the rest of the baths). They will also demand food as well as elixirs to make their bathing experience more enjoyable. If you manage to please one of these Lord Spirits you’ll certainly be thankful with your reward.
Will there be dating? And can we date the Spirits??
At this point there isn’t a romantic aspect to your relationships with the townsfolk. The goal was to create friendships that felt genuine, which is why you get closer to NPCs by talking to them, hanging out with them when they have “free time”, and doing activities with them, such as karaoke, drinking and eating BBQ together. I might expand your possibilities with NPCs somewhere down the line, but for now it’s all about forming friendships.
As for the spirits, there’s no dating at this point, though that’s certainly an interesting idea!
Thank you to Dan and to No More Robots for setting up this lovely interview (we had a cup of PG Tips while writing it!), and hopefully you all have a better idea of what to expect of Spirittea when it comes to Nintendo Switch later this year.
What tea are you drinking right now? Tell us in the comments!