Wierd Japan: Makers of Dark Cloud, Ni No Kuni and Professor Layton bring us Weapon Shop de Omasse
Level-5, an often overlooked independent producer and developer based out of Japan, has an impressive portfolio of work. Going all the way back to the Dark Cloud series on the PS2 and stretching all the way into today with the Professor Layton series and instant classic Ni No Kuni, they've done a little something for everyone. The guys over at Operation Rainfall recently had a spotlight on one of their most recent games: Weapon Shop de Omasse and I bit.
The trailer is simply a must watch. It features Yoshiyuki Hirai, the Japanese comedian turned game developer, introducing the game in a goofy sort of way before some gameplay is shown. Not every day is a comedian given a large say on decisions in the game industry.
I always get this sort of happy feeling when the little guys get some attention. Weapon Shop de Omasse was originally not going to be localized and brought to North America, since it's by no means a Final Fantasy or another predictable JRPG and the amount of dialogue was cumbersome to translate into English. Thankfully, neither of these challenges made the experience any less enjoyable for me, and the expert job done on bringing the myriad of jokes in the dialogue to an English audience only enhance the gameplay.
It's Dangerous to Go Alone... Take this! (But Bring It Back Later)
The story goes like this: Adventurers all over need weapons and usually buy them. Omasse's shop gets an edge because you'll rent out weapons to adventurers and typical JRPG heroes and wannabes. Naturally, customers flock to you and if you keep hammering out weapons like a good smithy, your customer base will grow and you'll make more money.
At it's core, Weapon Shop is a rhythm game. You'll get requests from customers to make their preferred weapon and then go out back and hammer it out along to one of the game's catchy tunes. You need to be careful though, as you can't hammer the same spot too many times. You'll also need to balance heating and cooling of the weapons during it's creation as the stats of each weapon change depending on your skill.
Along with the rhythmic nature of the core gameplay comes a feature of this game that really makes it stand above other 3DS e-shop junk: the dialogue. As you rent out weapons and meet new customers, each will provide their own stories. The narrative is meant to poke fun at the typical JRPG and when each customer goes out with your rented weapon all sorts of fun is had. Along the top of your screen will scroll out multiple customer adventures in sort of a Twitter-esque feed, complete with hashtags and classic RPG parodies. At the end of their journey the adventurer will return hopefully with your weapon. You'll rinse and repeat this process until the end of the game.
Smithy in Training - The Bad Stuff
I felt sort of slighted by the Twitter-feed as the dialogue was comical but you never actually got to see anything happening on their adventure. I wanted to see how the knight who always returned a clean sword was maybe faking his fights. I wanted to see the French swordsman woo ladies in a cave.
I also felt that although I was first excited by the hype and laughing at the jokes, they sort of lost their magic for me after a couple hours of play. The characters were predictable and since there's only a handful of unique customers, the shock value of their jokes wears out quick.
The most upsetting part for me though was the fact that the tutorial is only given once at the very beginning of the game before you've had any time to experience it. I forgot a lot of what was said and since it's all digital with no manual, I made a lot of mediocre weapons when I could have made masterpieces with the right amount of instruction.
This game is perfect for jaded RPG players who can appreciate the dialogue, as well as the 8 year old who is satisfied simply by tapping away at the screen.
With a price point of less than $10 however, I would cut it a little slack and give it a go if only to rag on the genre it parodies.