Bit Summit
Image: Bit Summit / Michael Holmes

Based in beautiful Kyoto, Japan, in what started out as a sparse event in something close to a gymnasium, Bit Summit has rapidly become the second-largest independent games showcase in the country, just behind the grand spectacle that is Tokyo Game Show.

Now situated in central Kyoto's Miyakomesse event centre, this year’s event – titled Bit Summit 7 Spirits – overperformed for yet another year, with record levels of attendance, veteran guest stars of the game industry, a wide range of incredible games and live performances by top quality musical talent.

Nintendo Life got to check out this year’s event to bring you some of the best highlights. Sitting comfortably? Then let's begin.

The Sights

Bit Summit
Image: Bit Summit / Michael Holmes

Nintendo, as Bit Summit’s Platinum sponsor this year, had a very cheerful cafe theme for its Indie World Cafe booth, sporting long tables and vibrant walls reminiscent of cosy coffee houses. Some of the games on show this time around included the delightfully absurd Untitled Goose Game by House House, that naturally attracted a lot of attention for its farmer-harassing goose and its particularly trolly game mechanics.

The brilliantly addicting rogue-like Slay the Spire by Mega Crit was also on show at the event, just before its June 6th release date, mixing card battling with often brutal defeats against all manner of bizarre enemies in a constantly-changing tower. You can check out our review here.

Other Nintendo titles playable at this year’s event included DELTARUNE Chapter 1, The Gardens Between, Just Shapes and Beats and Pikuniku to list but a few of the more than 37 participating titles available for the Switch.

Among some of the more interesting titles to play, particularly in the Devolver area, was a demo for the DLC update to The Messenger, entitled Picnic Panic. While no release dates were forthcoming, the developers assured us that the announcement would be “soon”. Make of that what you will.

Bit Summit
Image: Bit Summit / Michael Holmes

With over 100 games on display this year, deciding what to play made walking around the event a challenging experience. One of the more popular titles for event-goers was Heave Ho by Le Cartel, another Devolver-published title. Up to four players can “hang out together” as each dangles, grapples and swings their way across numerous misshapen environments. Think of Tarzan, where you’re nothing but a head with arms and your friends are the ropes, and maybe you’ll get the gist. While Heave Ho has no set release date yet, expect it fairly soon with an approximate date for summer 2019.

Of the non-exclusive Nintendo titles spread out across the event hall, there were a few other stand-out titles that caught a lot of interest. Chrono Sword, developed by South Korean studio 21c Ducks co.,Ltd is a mix of old skool Diablo and Dark Souls, providing some kinetic isometric action with excellent sound design and pixel animation.

For those horror fans out there, World of Horror by panstasz, a solo Polish developer, garnered a lot of attention for its monochromatic, Junji Ito-inspired art style and atmosphere. Part adventure, part point-and-click, World of Horror is a game made to fascinate and disturb in equal measure, but is one to look out for if you’re after something a little grittier for your Switch.

The Speakers

Bit Summit
Image: Bit Summit / Michael Holmes

While much of the event is about seeing and playing the games, attendees got the chance to hear from some of the big names behind the games, and with Bit Summit being a more up close and personal experience, many of these figures in gaming were there walking the floor, often inviting interaction with attendees.

During the two-day event, a mix of both international and local gaming talent sat down for Q&A sessions as well as directed talks on development subjects of their choice. Atsushi Inaba, studio head of PlatinumGames, spoke on ‘Training the Next Generation of Disruptive Creators’, a running theme with indie developers.

Fans of Ninja Gaiden III and Captain Tsubasa III would have been no doubt delighted to see Kaori Nakabai on stage, speaking about her work as the composer for those particular games alongside Keiji Yamagishi, composer for Ninja Gaiden, Captain Tsubasa and Tecmo Bowl.

Kouji Igarashi of Castlevania fame spent some time on stage with his talk ‘A Bloody, Bloodstained Development’, talking on the issues that arose with his game Bloodstained and addressing the somewhat prickly response of fans to its previous state, and the massive turnaround to make it the hotly-anticipated title it is today.

All of the talks and events on stage at this year's Bit Summit can be found online, courtesy of Famitsu’s live stream on Youtube.

The Sounds

Bit Summit just wouldn’t be the same without accompanying entertainment of the more musical variety, and this year was no exception, with two acts worthy of note. Doseone, a prolific rapper, producer and artist in his own right, has provided music for numerous games over the years, including Enter the Gungeon, Nuclear Throne, Gang Beasts and Nidhogg 2. Performing on stage throughout the two-day event, Doesone added some heavier yet equally impressive chip-tune mashups for attendees to rock out to.

On the Sunday, local Kyoto-based rock band Nice Legs performed original music for the event, while dressed as trees. It was apparently Tree Summit for them. While they clearly didn’t get the memo as to what the showcase was actually about, the music was still highly vibrant and entertaining, with some slick guitar riffs and melodic vocals. Nice Legs recently had a song in the Toejam & Earl telethon and can be regularly found hanging around Kyoto’s indie game dev scene.

Bit Summit 7 - Bigger, Better, Bolder

Bit Summit
Image: Bit Summit / Michael Holmes

While the event may have only lasted for two days, the attendance already beat last year's with a total headcount of 17,048. While that may not seem much for a game event, Bit Summit has already proven to be a strong contender for game developers to showcase their games in a more friendlier, more intimate setting compared to its Tokyo-based mega event Tokyo Game Show.

As this year's event was unfortunately quite close to E3, the organisers of Bit Summit have made the decision to already announce the dates for next year's 8th showing, guaranteeing a much bigger and better weekend for games.

Bit Summit 8 will open its doors again at Miyakomesse, Kyoto on May 9th & 10th, 2020. Should you find yourself in Kyoto during that time and are looking for something to do in between getting your photo taken by the old Nintendo building and checking out the tori gates where Star Fox was first conceived, why not visit the show and see what it’s all about?