Game Reviews

The Lore Behind Rusty Rabbit is Absolutely Nuts

Rusty Rabbit appears to be an ordinary platformer on the surface, but dig just a little deeper and you’ll find that this game has lore created by one of anime’s most celebrated creators. Gen Urobuchi created the concept and script of this wild post-apocalyptic adventure, and it’s no surprise the story is so deep when you consider this man is likely behind some of your favorite anime.

From Psycho-Pass to Fate/Zero, his portfolio spans across genres, and Rusty Rabbit definitely isn’t the first video game he’s worked on. Combined with the talented developers at NITRO PLUS, NetEase, and publisher SoFun, Rusty Rabbit is a game that offers a comprehensive package both in story and in gameplay.

To that end, we got a preview of Rusty Rabbit at Summer Game Fest. While viewing a gameplay demo controlled by one of its developers, we also had the chance to talk to Urobuchi-san himself and learn more about the origins of this adventure title.

A screenshot of Rusty Rabbit and scrapping gameplay.

It’s a Scrapper’s Life in Rusty Rabbit

Players take control of the rabbit hero, Stamp. He’s a gruff, down-on-his-luck rabbit that scraps for a living in a harsh, post-apocalyptic world. Noticeably, the world — enveloped by another ice age — is one without humans as the apex species; after a series of events, the rabbits are now at the top of the food chain.

Though it was a hands-off demo, I was able to ascertain the gameplay loop of Rusty Rabbit. On one hand, you have the surface and town that acts as a hub of sorts, and on the other, Stamp goes underground to scrap junk found in ruins, all the while fighting enemies in his way.

Gameplay from Rusty Rabbit.

The underground segments intrigued me, as its maps are laid out like a Metroidvania, which means there’s going to be some complexity to the level layout. By extension, we can expect to find upgrades for our mech, so eventually you’ll unlock things like a grappling hook to accompany starting weapons like a drill and shotgun.

After a brief demonstration of level layouts, we see Stamp take on a boss — some kind of hellish excavator machine that’s out for his blood. After what seemed like a chaotic ordeal, Stamp makes it out safe. If this fight was any indication, we can expect other bosses to operate like they usually do in Metroidvanias, using overwhelming attacks and patterns in an attempt to defeat the player.

A boss from the game Rusty Rabbit.

Gen Urobuchi on Rusty Rabbit’s Wacky Lore

The main focus of my presentation and interview was about the lore, of which there is much to digest. Urobuchi-san is known for writing brutal stories where characters are expendable and no one’s life is certain, so Rusty Rabbit is a pleasant departure from such themes.

For example, there’s a creation myth in the world of Rusty Rabbit. Urobuchi-san describes it as this “Book of Genesis” for the game’s world — a story surrounding Peter Rabbit and an evil human named McGregor. Peter Rabbit leads his kind to salvation after defeating McGregor, thus leading to a new era for rabbits.

A look at some characters from Rusty Rabbit, including Stamp.

There’s more than meets the eye to the world of Rusty Rabbit, and only by playing through will players discover the truth of the world. Of course, there’s a story surrounding Stamp and the characters he meets along his way. Stamp has family issues and will have to contend with that as he scraps away in these ruins.

“The main story is actually quite poignant,” said Urobuchi-san. “One of the core themes is this idea of what it means to age, and pass on. So, that alone would be really really heavy, and we didn’t want the whole game to feel heavy, so we counter-balance that with adorable characters and comic relief.”

There’s also a great number of other characters showcased during the presentation, many of which are voiced by an all-star cast of Japanese seiyuu. The designs of said characters are colorful and their outfits convey their personalities well, even though we didn’t dive into detail on exactly who they were. Promise of factions are sure to liven up the story as players progress.

A screenshot from Rusty Rabbit.

How Did Rusty Rabbit Begin?

In a surprising pivot from lore, I learned more about Rusty Rabbit’s origins as a game itself. Urobuchi-san is clearly a multi-talented man, as development for Rusty Rabbit began with a prototype he conceived during the COVID-19 pandemic. This all began when I asked a simple question: why rabbits? Urobuchi-san holds up his phone to show me the wallpaper, showing me a rabbit and a steampunk mech.

“I actually enjoy messing around in Unity as a hobby. I found this sculptor’s work of art and I saw this and thought ‘Wow, I can make a doujin game out of this.'”

A cutscene in Rusty Rabbit.

It’s a wonderful thing when artists inspire artists, and this was the catalyst that went on to become Rusty Rabbit. Urobuchi-san went on to show me a prototype of Rusty Rabbit on Unity. I recognized the familiar, Metroidvania-like level design and of course, the rabbit. He explained the prototype was created via royalty-free assets on Unity.

“Thanks to that,” said Urobuchi-san, “I was able to communicate my vision and ideas for a game to NetEase very easily because of how easy it was to assemble a prototype.”

Eventually, this project became something more. Urobuchi-san is no stranger to game development (mostly on the narrative side), having written, directed, and supervised quite a few visual novels and video-game adaptations of his work, but Rusty Rabbit is something a bit different from the norm.

A screenshot of the shotgun weapon from Rusty Rabbit.

“I think discovering Unity and realizing I can actually develop something on my own was a huge leap in that direction,” said Urobuchi-san.

Urobuchi-san pitched Rusty Rabbit to NetEase with this prototype, and it led to the project being recreated in Unreal Engine, backed by a full development team.

Everything about Rusty Rabbit is shaping up to be a surprise hit. The passion from Urobuchi-san and the game’s developers is evident, and the premise of the lore has me hooked. I’m excited to find out more and find out just how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Rusty Rabbit was previewed at Summer Game Fest Play Days courtesy of NetEase.

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