The weirdest thing about Weapon Shop de Omasse is that it’s not even the first game to have this kind of set up. Games like Recettear have had this sort of idea: by now being the main character of an RPG has been pretty well played, so why not cast you as an NPCin a shop? And it’s a good idea because it allows for the game to make fun of RPG tropes while in the familiar trappings of the genre without falling into that terrible game parody hole of “hey doesn’t this mechanic suck ha ha now you have to do it anyways.”
So your weapon shop is run by a master and apprentice (I also saw somewhere describe them as father and son but didn’t really catch much of that in the game) who rent out weapons. They put their names on the line because of their guarantees- if the renter loses on their quest, or their weapon breaks, they don’t have to pay, but if they succeed you also get any forging materials they found. This plays into the forging mechanic that the game has, since you also have to make your own weapons.
Forging is the biggest misstep of the game. It could have been something more; obviously I’m not asking for a full-fledged “hammer this for hours!” type experience, but I’m also not asking for a game that’s based around tapping a molten chunk in a rhythm minigame, which is what I got. As we learned with Rhythm Heaven Gold on the DS, tapping the touch screen rhythmically can be a little imprecise, and having to tap precisely makes it that much more finicky.
Precision is mostly a problem with some of the longer, thinner swords, but otherwise it doesn’t take much skill. You can pretty easily hammer on the touch screen and get it right, turning out a weapon that’s serviceable and gets the job done. Then you polish it, and that’s all- your weapon is made and ready to go. It would have been interesting to see a little more control over the weapon- purity of the metal, addition of the different alloys, temperature control, something. But instead you’ve just got tapping.
When NPCs come in, they vary in importance, and you’ll want to save your best weapons for the named ones with actual stories, and give your lesser ones to the nameless people. Weapons can level up, but you don’t get enough people to run in and rent them for most weapons to actually hit that new level, and it’s easier to just build the already-leveled ones you unlock as you forge more weapons. Luckily, when the NPCs come in, they give you a summary of the mission so you can plan what weapon is best, what weapon they have an affinity for so you can make it, and what level they are so you can make one of the right strength. They also give you time to make one for them so amassing weapons mostly works for nameless NPCs, since you always have time to make another for the named. You give them a weapon and, with the audience’s applause, they run out.
Oh, right, the audience. You know, THAT’S actually the weirdest part of Weapon Shop de Omasse. The game has a full laugh track, complete with applause and reactionary “ooh!”s. And you better believe it took me a while to get used to. It’s not something I’ve ever seen a game do before.
Which doesn’t mean it’s a great thing but… it’s also not the worst. I can see a lot of people finding it grating, but I didn’t mind it that much because it fit well with the tone of the game. The whole thing is rather humorous, with a quick back-and-forth dialogue clearly meant to poke at RPGs. A decent amount of the humor comes from “this character is SO over the top and your character thinks it’s weird!” but each has their own situations they’re riffing on and it can work ok.
The problem is that outside of the main in-store conversations, the plot for each quest is relegated to The Grindcast, a sort of in-game Twitter that continuously scrolls no matter what you’re doing. Is it hard to keep track of The Grindcast when you’re having a conversation with someone? Yep. Is it hard when you’re doing a rhythm based minigame? Of course. When you’re polishing a weapon? It works best then, but it’s still not ideal. As a result, people will come in, talk about, say, saving sacred grass, then come in and talk about how they failed and I wouldn’t have any idea. It all scrolled past me and I just didn’t see it.
It is possible to go and just check out the Grindcast and sort it by character and scroll through their history, but you rarely have the time. You want to keep making more weapons to upgrade your shop, you want to polish new ones and ones you get back to improve them for rental, and you want to make sure you have all the materials you need so you can keep making stuff, as well as making the special requests you need before the NPCs return. If you have time to stand around and just read someone’s Grindcast, you can probably find a better use of your time to help your shop.
But it helps to make the parodies less engaging. People will come in and tell you their mission, then come in later and tell you how it goes, and save for a few snatches here and there, you don’t know what actually happened. And it’s a real shame because some of the stuff that pops up there is pretty good. The ferocious pirate captain begins fawning over her boyfriend the minute she gets on the Grindcast. Izou the Samurai seems to spend his time asking existential questions about his duties and why he does them. Even the nameless NPCs have some pretty funny moments (one that made me giggle: “Intelligence +5, vitality -5. I turned 40.”) but you just might not actually see them.
The game was designed with the help of a Japanese comedian who worked with Level-5 for their Guild series, which is it’s own interesting thing. Apparently this is the last game from the series to be translated, and while I wouldn’t say they went out with a bang, it’s a good time to consider the strength of their work on this. While not everything was a winner, what I applaud them for is their ability and desire to experiment, from the in-the-dark first-person adventure game of Starship Damrey to the nostalgia-tinted card games of Attack of the Friday Monsters, the company was willing to do a lot of ideas that might not have seen the light of day otherwise. Even more, with the attached names of famous creators, from Suda 51 to Yoot Saito, and publishing backed from Nintendo, it gave them some extra exposure to get these ideas out. I’ve had a lot of fun reviewing most of these since they’ve all been their own unique experience, and it would certainly be nice to see them go on to another Guild run with new creators if they have a chance.
Weapons Shop de Omasse is a game of missed opportunities: giving you control of forging weapons, then making it nothing more than a rhythm game is a bit of a downer, though the actual experience is still at least decent; making fun of RPGs with the Grindcast is a funny idea and allowed them to write funnier scenarios without you having to leave your shop, but then you rarely get a chance to read it when the game gets more busy. With a few tweaks there could have been a more fun experience and a better way of keeping track of the numerous characters and all of their storylines, but instead it’s just serviceable.
You get a sense that if they had focused more on one of the mechanics or the other, they’d have made a better game; it was just too difficult to balance. But the idea of an interactive sitcom is kind of novel, and the writing is fine enough that in the spots you can actually read it, you can get a good bit of entertainment out of it. I just wish that I had more chances, or more to do with the weapons. But you don’t really get either, and you just get a middling game that has two clear ways it could have been better, but the inability to give priority to one.