It took a lot of hard work, dedication, love, passion, and luck to create Savior and bring its protagonist “Little God” to life. In 1959, Fidel Castro and his band of not-so-merry rebels took over the island nation of Cuba. For the next 60 years, the island’s communist leader was in a standoff with the United States. Without getting much deeper into the convoluted history and politics, long story short, Cuba existed all this time in a sort of partial isolation. But that didn’t stop Josuhe Pagliery from creating a video game.
Savior’s side-scrolling gameplay is smooth, with rich, layered graphics that feel old-school but new.
Our interview with Josuhe took place in two parts. First, we at the Miami Maker Faire and got a chance to play Savior, and later we chatted via email. Our conversation started with what Savior is about: “‘Little God’ is living inside a collapsing video game. To save the world, Little God is trying to connect with the Great God who departed for an unknown place.”
Though not a conscious attempt at being for LGBT rights, Little God is a “kind of androgynous” protagonist. It suits the game’s old-school feel which harkens to a simpler time before everything became politicized. Savior’s side-scrolling gameplay is smooth, with rich, layered graphics that feel old-school but new.
The influence of games like Super Castlevania or Symphony of the Night is apparent. But Josuhe explains that the overall gameplay is closer to stuff like “Earthworm Jim or Legend of the Mystical Ninja.” As for other influences, “MDK, Final Fantasy, Breath of Fire, Vagrant History, Shadow of the Colossus, 8 Eyes, Wizards & Warriors, and many, many more!”
As for other influences outside of video games, Josuhe says “I am a huge fan of the movies of Lars von Trier and David Lynch, also old Disney animated movies … bands like Nirvana, Blood Brothers, The Locust and I used to like LOST and Berserk the anime.”
Over the years, Josuhe started “evolving the idea” of Savior.
As an isolated nation, one of the first challenges for Josuhe was getting his hands on games. “Back in the 80s or 90s, video games in Cuba were very uncommon …” But there’s nothing like family, “My older cousins had an old Atari with games like Burger Time and Demon Attack. For me, it was love at first sight.” The story of all gamers, right? “that feeling only got deeper as I was growing up.”
Josuhe’s love with video games was a drama with antagonists: “Having games at that time was super-hard in Cuba … the few kids who had consoles weren’t exactly the nicest people in the world.” But, the community came together to overcome [Video games] were “a very social thing …” that involved “giving your cassette to other kids for a certain amount of time in exchange for a game you want.”
Naturally, some games were a hot commodity: “Games like Top Gear or Street Fighter 2 Turbo was at the top of the ranking.” Joshua’s tastes were a little more offbeat. As a fan of RPGs, “that kind of video game wasn’t so popular among the vast majority of kids. So, lucky me!”
Over the years, Josuhe started “evolving the idea” of Savior. “But at the time in Cuba, the technology needed [to create a game] was simply impossible to have.” A creator at heart, Josuhe turned to what he had available to him. “As an artist, I made lots of videos utilizing a video game aesthetic and later I was interested for a little time in … experimental video games. But I discovered that I don’t want to that, so I started developing the concept of Savior, and here we are today.”
Josuhe hopes this is the start for the Cuban video game industry, but he’s realistic about what needs to happen.
Josuhe’s love-affair with video games keeps him playing. Some of his favorite modern games: “Demon Souls, the Dark Souls series, Bloodborne, The Last Guardian, Inside.” With a wide smile, Josuhe says “There are a lot of good vide games out there.”
Back to Savior, Josuhe tells us when the Little God will land on Earth for the rest of us. “We launch the playable demo in the next two months, maybe easier, and then start applying … to game festivals and see what happens.” In true indie fashion, the only plan right now is to promote the hell out of Savior. “We don’t have any other game in the making. Only if I split myself in two pieces could I manage to try and develop two games at the same time!”
Josuhe hopes this is the start for the Cuban video game industry, but he’s realistic about what needs to happen. “I think we first need a Cuban video game with some international success and then all things will start to come after that first milestone. Let’s hope this first … will be Savior!”