There’s a new game coming out soon that is inspired by the Mario & Luigi RPG series and Chrono Trigger, called “Keylocker.” It is a cyberpunk, turn-based rhythm JRPG in which you play as the singer and songwriter, Bobo.
Cyberpunk has always been a popular setting and still is, now more than ever. Especially for those looking to satisfy their high-tech urges in case Cyberpunk 2077 didn’t do the trick. RPGs also feel like a good fit for the genre, as proven by the aforementioned game and Shadowrun.
But what does a developer do to get noticed in a crowded field? Keylocker explores that conundrum.
Welcome to the world of Saturn, where you take the role of Bobo. Gifted with the ability to sing, her talent is more of a curse, since music has been prohibited. She’s freed from her prison by those sympathetic to her cause, and she makes it a point to fight back against her oppressors to make music legal again.
After Keylocker’s fairly lengthy intro, you choose one of four classes, each with different offensive and defensive maneuvers.
First up are Samurai, which have a basic guitar attack but can also rely on counters to stay fighting. Next are Hackers, which have a basic slash but can use an electronic fist to punch foes two tiles away. Then there’s Juggernauts, which have the power of a counterattack along with a rhythm-based attack, while Sequencers use rhythm to power up their electricity so that all of their counters are extremely effective. Each of these play styles is wildly different, so switching between them feels like you need to relearn the game.
Aside from each class’s different abilities, each of them follows a different story path. The overall storyline is the same, but the major rooms have completely different layouts. The same goes for characters, as no one you meet ever crosses into another class’ storyline. While the overall tale may end the same way, the journey feels distinct.
One of the strengths of the gameplay is that there are no random encounters. All enemies are visible on-screen at all times, and you know exactly when you’ll get into a fight. Random encounters may be gone, but enemy movements are fast enough, so fights are all but inevitable. It’s possible to get away unscathed with no fighting involved.
Also, Keylocker’s combat system follows the basics from any turn-based RPG, but the menu’s hex system isn’t immediately intuitive. Aside from the different attacks and defensive moves that aim for either electricity or life, almost everything here is timing-based.
Whether you’re parrying an attack, countering, or attacking, you need to actively hit the button at the right window to get a perfect hit. If you don’t, you settle for inflicting less damage or taking more damage yourself. The game has some leeway in terms of how far you can miss, as you aren’t required to make one-hit kills, but at least the timing can be practiced to make it second nature to hit perfect marks.
Oh, and if you’re playing on the Steam Deck, the game runs beautifully there. There aren’t many graphical options to change, if at all, but the game still manages to run smoothly with no hiccups during the many rhythm sections. The battery life averages 4-5 hours. Except for the resolution, it looks identical to a fully maxed-out desktop running the game.
I must admit, Keylocker does have potential. The different classes and story pathways ensure some replayability for completionists, while also providing a distinct experience to those who only play through games once. But the combat system takes some real getting used to because it introduces precision for attacks and defensive maneuvers but, it also adds something that few RPGs ever work with.
Hopefully, we can see more of the game before its eventual release date is revealed. so get those gaming PCs ready for action!