Witch and Lilies is a "Yuri DRPG" with a lot of heart
Tucked away in a corner of the Indie Games section of Tokyo Game Show 2023, I spotted a surprisingly detailed booth for a game, with not only two separate monitors playing a trailer for Stromatosoft's debut game, but also two demo stations comprising Steam Deck's running a custom demo for the TGS Showfloor - Witch and Lilies, a self-described "Yuri Dungeon Crawler". Considering both Labyrinth of Refrain and Labyrinth of Galleria could be considered genre-adjacent, I figured I'd give the game a shot - spurred on by the strong character artwork and the idea of playing a demo on a Steam Deck.
My immediate takeaway was that the studio's first project feels remarkably strong. There are a lot of indie games you can play at TGS, but the studio's history - comprised of developers with decades of experience developing titles - is plain to see. The game looked and ran great, shockingly so for an in-development build. Character portraits as drawn by magodesu, known from their work with Space Patrol Luluco.
Enemy designs are of a considerably different style, drawing from some of the games that Scenario writer Makoto Kedouin, who worked on titles such as Death End Re;Quest and Corpse Party, has contributed to in the past. They're certainly eye-catching, particularly compared to the colorful and cute visuals of your party; though such a dichotomy has certainly worked out in the past, such as with - again - Labyrinth of Refrain and Labyrinth of Galleria.
Gameplay was fairly standard DRPG fare, but one of the defining aspects of the game comes down to party composition and how the bonds between your party members might blossom on the battlefield. To that end, party management will require players to consider the interests of each of their party members, which of them might be compatible, and who would benefit from being able to protect each other in battle once they've sparked a relationship.
None of that was present in the demo, but it is showcased in the game's debut trailer. Having the relationships be such a core aspect of the gameplay seems like a promising touch, and if the quality and polish of the system is up to par with the rest of the game I'm excited to see more. What was on display at the show is promising enough as it is.
The demo itself, while limiting, was a lot of fun - and the charm of the navigator character asking what sort of maze is called "Makuhari" anyway got a chuckle out of me as it alluded to TGS' actual location at the Makuhari Messe. I'm always down for a new DRPG to play, and consider Witch and Lilies on my radar when it launches next year for PC and Steam Deck.