Rinmaru is a web gaming phenomenon and a one-woman force of nature. Art prodigy, games developer, entrepreneur and role model to thousands of girls, this “level-24 human female” has been quietly changing the face of online fantasy role playing with smart, funny and well-plotted games where strong women are firmly to the fore.
I say quietly, but when she announced that the forthcoming fourth chapter of her visual novel Ascension, “Echoes in the dark” would feature my original music, her dev blog on Tumblr exploded. That is one seriously devoted following. A large part of her appeal is her humility: “I make games. It’s not a part time job. I don’t do this as a hobby but I’m not a professional either. I’m an amateur. I do what I do because I love it and I’m lucky to earn the amount of money I need to keep doing this.”
I’ve known Rinmaru for as long as I’ve been on social media, since 2007 probably, when she allowed me to use some of her video work. She was still at art school then and already at the helm of a web gaming empire that offered the “cutest online dress-up games” at rinmarugames.com. Since then, her following has only grown.
As her followers have grown older, so Rinmaru’s gaming universe has matured. Building on her early success, Rinmaru released in 2013 the first chapter of Ascension, an innovative hybrid of the otome visual novel and fantasy role-playing game genres. A stark departure from her kawaii dress-up games, it targets older girls with fully interactive fantasy quests—featuring music, sound and Flash animation—in which the user gets to play the leading role of Aida, a female noble with silver hair, dry wit and a deadly secret … Two more chapters followed, with the most recent published this month.
Casting women in the chief roles has always been important to Rinmaru: “When I was a kid, I really wanted to play video games with female protagonists and there was only Lara Croft back then … So I really want to create games like this,” she tells me. On her blog she expands: “I’ll always have female protagonists in my games. Until the day I sell my soul to the devil for a few million dollars. Then I’ll continue making games with female protagonists with the million dollars I earned in exchange of my soul.”
The first three chapters are offered as free games on rimarugames.com. However, for “Echoes in the Dark”, Rinmaru is moving the goal posts. This “chapter” will be a total re-imagining of the game and the first to be sold commercially. Abandoning Flash for visual novel engine Ren’Py, Rinmaru saw an opportunity to up the production values, which is where the original score came in.
She was looking both for flexibility in licensing and, from the creative standpoint, a coherent musical identity that could be exploited alongside the game, rather than simply download licensed material piecemeal from library sites. When she approached me, I jumped at the chance to explore and underscore the emotional journey of Rinmaru’s new characters and help take Ascension to the next level.
My score will be in-keeping with the previous musical material, so fans will feel right at home. However, my pieces will be created especially to complement Rinmaru’s art, characters and storylines. The colour palette will be folk instruments such as harp, flute, fiddle and duduk, tribal percussion ensemble and full orchestra, so players will know their favourite game has come of age right from the get go. Excited? We are. “It’ll be totally epic!” says Rinmaru.