Five years after launch, heartfelt indie Rakuen is getting a ‘major update’ and spin-off

In 2017, indie developer and composer Laura Shigihara released Rakuen, a delightful adventure-RPG about a sick boy and his mother who travel back and forth between a whimsical fantasy land and the somewhat less whimsical hospital where he’s staying. Now, Shigihara has announced (opens in new tab) that Rakuen is getting a significant update, and a new game in the same setting will be released next year.

Rakuen’s update will give it “a new custom-built engine powered by Ebitengine, new art, animations” and also a Japanese localization. It’ll be available on March 23 of 2023, as will the next game in the world of Rakuen, which is called Mr. Saitou.

Mr. Saitou will be about playing another character who finds himself whisked away to an unusual world after being hospitalized, this time “an average white-collar worker who struggles to find meaning in a life full of constant overtime and social isolation.” 

According to the Steam page (opens in new tab), it will feature a “Heartwarming story with an emphasis on humor and building friendships”, where we can “Get to know a cast of strange creatures (both new and familiar), impress your boss, and explore a scuffed Edudungeon.” I guess that’s an educational dungeon? One of the characters we’ll meet is called “the Sphinx of Basic Math”, so that checks out. Mr. Saitou’s description also says, “Synergize, Optimize, ROIs, and cherry pies. Lots of Golf Balls. Definitely Y2K Compliant. Definitely business.” Finally, it will be a short game, aiming for a duration “that can usually be completed in one sitting.”

As expected with Shigihara, who composed music for Plants Vs. Zombies, Deltarune, To the Moon, and other games, Mr. Saitou will be accompanied by a full soundtrack, which will be included with purchase of the game. From that we can apparently expect to hear “flowers dropping bars over electric guitars”.

“I am so incredibly thankful that in the past 5 years, so many people have experienced Rakuen”, Shigihara wrote (opens in new tab). “Thank-you for sharing your stories, for sending us fan art, and for all of the love and support throughout this whole process. It’s more than I could have ever hoped for.” 

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