Yokai Inn developer Shiba Pixels discusses Studio Ghibli inspirations and comparisons


There has been an increase in demand for heartwarming games in recent years, as evidenced by the huge hype surrounding Wholesome Direct and the explosive popularity of titles like Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and Valley of stars. Shiba Pixels, the solo developer of the next life simulation, Yokai Inn, draws inspiration from both of these titles, featuring evolving relationships between characters, farming, crafts, fishing, cooking, and home improvement mechanics. But Shiba adds a third element to the equation that draws from equally comfortable sources: the Studio Ghibli films.

Studio Ghibli – and the films of Hayao Miyazaki in particular – have inspired the narratives and aesthetics of dozens of video games, including the Ni No Kuni series, and the recently released indie puzzle, Behind the frame. But when the cozy color palettes and charming characters from the Ghibli movies are translated into retro pixel art style, according to Yokai Hostel, the impact is both refreshing and deeply nostalgic. Game Rant spoke with Shiba Pixels about their fondness for Studio Ghibli and the specific films that inspire their work in progress.

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A love letter from Game Dev to Ghibli

Given the premise of the life simulation – players take on the role of innkeeper for spirits in the Taisho era – it can be easy to guess the game’s main Ghibli inspiration:

“The concept of Yokai Inn was written based on many Studio Ghibli films, including Abducted as if by magic. The main places where this inspiration shows up are in character designs and color palettes. ”

Abducted as if by magic is a masterful work of animation and could arguably be considered Miyazaki’s finest work. In the film, a young girl ends up in debt to a witch who runs a public bathhouse that welcomes strange spirits, much like traditional Japanese yokai. As well as setting the stage for a heartwarming coming-of-age story, this whimsical premise provides the perfect foundation for a healthy gaming experience.

It must be said, Yokai Inn isn’t meant to function as a direct adaptation of Ghibli’s properties, and the game has a charming identity in itself. Rather than being in a rush for service, the player is the hostel owner, and their interactions with otherworldly guests seem to be less painful than those Abducted as if by magicthe faces of the heroine. But there’s no doubt that the heartwarming indie title owes Studio Ghibli and could be seen as a love letter to the studio’s films.

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Borrow from the best

Flew in the train

Throughout the artistic design process, Shiba repeatedly revisited the Ghibli films that inspired him. And this effort is evident in Yokai Innthe art of; in particular its warm and nuanced color palettes.

“I watched and re-watched my favorite Studio Ghibli movies several times during development. Some of them include Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and Whisper of the Heart.”

Studio Ghibli is known for its charming cast of characters with simple designs, amazingly detailed backgrounds, smooth animation, and vibrant colors. To date, the pixel art that Shiba has released for Yokai Inn removes much of this substantive likelihood; cramming too much detail into a top-down pixel art game would actually make the backgrounds muddy or claustrophobic. Rather, the buildings, foliage, and figures that have been revealed are vibrant, alive, and bursting with character.

On the contrary, the seeming simplicity of the pixel graphics – and the color palettes carefully chosen by Shiba – have an intrinsic and accessible appeal, just like the protagonists of Studio Ghibli.

Most sincere flattery

yokai hostel makoto

The players made comparisons between Yokai Inn and Studio Ghibli when the game was first unveiled at E3, and the recently released art update appears to bring the game even closer to its most important influences. Shiba is delighted that players are feeling the “same vibes” in his work. While imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, having one’s imitation recognized is both humiliating and encouraging. It may also be the hook Yokai Inn must stand out in a host of retro style games, pixel art and Valley of stars-inspired titles.

Despite the recent art update, a release date has yet to be set for Yokai Inn. The development of the game is also early enough that the art style can undergo more evolutions and refinements before the release of the title, as Shiba incorporates new mechanics, cosmetic items and characters. Even though the wait seems long, and there are plenty of other healthy games to keep gamers busy in the meantime, Yokai Inn is a title to watch, especially for Studio Ghibli fans.

Yokai Inn is currently in development for PC and Switch.

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