Juno 06 is a rare indie game that not only exceeds in the execution of its core ideas but does so with style, substance, and a pinch of panache. To fans of developer Illunsoft’s previous tactical turn-based RPG masterpiece, Magellania, this will not come as a surprise. Juno 06 is a dynamic, unique, and wholly brilliant follow-up that will surely impress even the weariest SRPG fans out there.
“The dramatic tension propelling the narrative forward remains forever engrossing throughout the game’s lengthy runtime.”
Of course, I’m getting ahead of myself. Juno 06 excels not only because of its developer’s unbridled creativity but also because of its perfect balance of narrative and gameplay. The game follows Lyra and her cat Mot, who are invited by the elusive organization, Altair, to participate in the ultimate battle on the moon. The winner gets a single wish granted.
Juno 06’s narrative is as ambitious and brazenly epic as it sounds. Not only does it feature a battle arena arc set on the moon, but it also involves intrigue, psychic combat, a colorful cast of characters, and a generous helping of Illunsoft’s trademark wit and humor. This feels like peak anime, a collection of misfit characters, each with their own unique quirks and fleshed-out personalities.
The dramatic tension propelling the narrative forward remains forever engrossing throughout the game’s lengthy runtime while ensuring that the game’s combat never falls into tedium. Suffice it to say, and without spoiling too much, Juno 06 narrative far exceeded my expectations.
“Juno 06 has a striking art style that pulsates with jaw-droppingly gorgeous and vibrant originality.”
When it comes to Juno 06’s presentation, it is simply impossible to find fault. Much like its predecessor Magellania, Juno 06 has a striking art style that pulsates with jaw-droppingly gorgeous and vibrant originality. There is simply nothing like this on the market outside of Illunsoft’s other work.
Each and every character you encounter, from the goons you fight (on the moon of all places, lest we forget) to the integral protagonists, is beautifully realized in Illunsoft’s signature style. The limited yet impactful use of color and thick black outlining of each character alongside the overall creative designs makes every single one of them incredibly memorable. While my limited knowledge of art, in general, hinders me from heaping more praise onto the game’s enviable aesthetic, it is fair to say that it is one of, if not Juno 06’s strongest feature.
Fortunately, it is complemented by one of SRPG’s greatest soundtracks. While Magellania’s funky piano-driven soundtrack forever remains an earworm in my head, Juno 06’s phenomenally composed Persona-esque jazz-filled soundscape seems hellbent on worming its way in there. Every track feels fresh, switching seamlessly between whimsical jazz, melancholic electro, and upbeat synth. It elevates an already unique experience that much more, embuing every battle, conversation, and dramatic moment with the perfect energy.
“The impermanence of the level and combo system makes each combat encounter feel like its own game.”
In terms of its core gameplay loop, Juno 06 also finds significant success. The game is split into two segments: narrative-based sequences coupled with light exploration, and tactical turn-based battles. Battles are viewed from an isometric perspective and, if boiled down to a basic comparison, flow in the same vein as the Fire Emblem series. However, Juno 06 has plenty of exciting tricks up its sleeve that it satisfyingly drip-feeds to the player.
For example, units don’t level up in the typical way. Instead, characters begin every battle at level 1 and gain experience through combat. While seemingly innocuous, this slight tweak to a traditional mechanic massively impacts the overall experience. It means you begin most battles on an even playing field and overwhelm and overpower your opponent through sheer skill and talent. Primarily, it forces you to think more tactically about the order you use your units, encouraging you to utilize every member of your team efficiently to ensure they all gain XP and level up when possible.
Complimenting this mechanic is the combo meter that builds each time you perform an action, such as attacking or healing. The higher the combo meter, the greater the damage you do. However, it resets at the end of each turn, so you’re encouraged to make the most of it while it lasts. The impermanence of the level and combo system makes each combat encounter feel like its own game, a dynamic set piece perfectly crafted to challenge you in unique ways every time.
“Rest assured that Juno 06 offers fast-paced and exciting battles that cater to both new and veteran fans of the SRPG genre.”
There is frankly so much more to combat than I have elaborated on here. For example, you’ll encounter a vast array of complex unit types, each with various ways of vanquishing them. New enemies will be presented to you at regular intervals, shaking up any preconceived notions of how you should approach a fight.
Similarly, you’re rewarded with a new unit after you beat a region of the game’s overworld. The back and forth of introducing new enemies and allies keeps the flow of the game in a beautiful balletic state, ensuring it constantly remains as fresh and interesting as the rest of its phenomenally crafted elements.
I hesitate to spoil much else about the game’s combat systems. Experiencing them for yourself is an unparalleled joy (especially if you’re interested in SRPGs) that I’d hate to ruin. However, you can rest assured that Juno 06 offers fast-paced and exciting battles filled to the brim with unique concepts that encourage ever-changing playstyles and cater to both new and veteran fans of the SRPG genre.
“Juno 06 offers one of the most compelling and uniquely exceptional SRPG experiences ever made.”
Outside of combat, players must visit distinct regions to progress through the story. Every region you visit has four battles to complete, the last of which will see you take on a boss. They contain their own side story surrounding the boss and their connection to your party or the world at large. These stories are fun distractions from the core narrative and an excellent way of introducing new party members. Additionally, each region has an explorable environment that serves as gorgeous eye candy and houses humorous NPCs with cheeky one-liners or helpful information.
Encapsulating combat encounters in this framework while weaving the core narrative throughout makes for an incredibly engaging and meaningful experience. It’s a rewarding one too, as it constantly sees you unlock a plethora of useful badges (that improve a unit’s stats or unlock a new ability) and even entirely new units to experiment with. Juno 06’s gameplay has clearly been very cleverly thought out and expertly executed, resulting in an SRPG that is endlessly engrossing to play.
It goes without saying that I enjoyed Juno 06 quite a lot. In fact, I’d go as far to say that Juno 06 offered me one of the most compelling and uniquely exceptional SRPG experiences I’ve had in a long time. For the very low price of $9.99/£7.19, Juno 06 offers more impressive tactical turn-based gameplay than Fire Emblem could ever dream of.