July 09, 2020

Stardom Warriors - Ranking

Story & World

I'm always going to award a few points for any setting that deviates from the classical formula, just like I'll always take a few points away for a setting being right shit.  At the beginning of SW, I was a little worried that the ladies would do nothing more than get on stage every so often and require the occasional watering.  By end game, however, more of their backstory and personalities were fleshed out, even if all three of them had the same spoiled little princess attitude.  NPCs took their standard role dispensing mostly useless one-liners, except for that crazy old grandma and her gross piss story.  Exploration was also quite standard, mostly linear until getting the coracles which opened up the final stretch of the game.  Exploring the "dungeons", which are supposedly buildings, had wave after wave of multiple branches which resulted in a dead end.  No chests, no NPCs, no nothing, just dead ends as far as the eye can see.  Just another lazy move by the devs, which is about par for the course in Stardom Warriors.  3/20

Character Development

No surprises here, not a lot going on in this department.  As experience (popularity) goes up, so does the group's charm as well as levels for the manager.  All the equipment bought for the band just increases charm and there is no equipment available for the manager.  Oh, the game certainly makes it seem like there is EQ for the main character, as is evident by the small box in the lower left corner of the status screen that start with a "cheap suit" in it.  There are other suits hidden in the overworld, but they can never be picked up or utilized in any way.  One more troll point for you, SW.  I found the fire suit (too hot!), the ice suit (too cold!), and the silk suit (too slippery!).  I'd like to able to give the game some non-troll points here but it's making it pretty tough (too shitty!).

The managic system is as bare-bones as the rest of the game, really only functioning as a convenient replacement for items.  Did I say convenient?  Because I meant necessary, since the inventory only has six bloody slots.  Thankfully, most spells are fairly cheap, especially the all-important warp.  3/20

Combat & Monsters

The potential for something other than button mashing through the battles is ruined by not significantly changing the reward for defending until the enemy befriends the group.  Combat gets a little better when the enemies start damaging the ladies, but the atrociously boring "mini-game" of hide 'n seek ensures that a manager will always keep the hoes well fed.  The only status ailment is when the manager gets hexed and can't cast spells, but this only happened frequently near the beginning of the game and mellowed considerably by the end.

For a game that's based on J-Pop and set in modern times, all the "monsters" should realistically be human meatsacks and there is a good number of variants, but over half of the entries are non-homo sapien.  This includes such classics as coils of poo, underwear men, and piles of puke.  And yes, they all can indeed become fans of the Stardom Warriors.  And yes, the puke does get palette-swapped (into the superior pile of vomit!).  Another interesting set of human creatures dwelt on some island where they spoke a different language and so no damage could be done to either combatant.  The "battles" just went on and on until someone got bored and fled.  These were the only kinds of encounters on the entire island, just another case of SW thinking it's funny when it's totally not.  2/20

Graphics & Sound

Stardom Warriors is a pretty good example of a low budget game that obviously couldn't afford a graphical artist and just had one of the programmers do it.  All the graphics are universally shitty, especially the solid coloured ground tiles in the towns.  I mean, come on, all it takes is some black dots in there to help break up the contiguous eye-raping and make it resemble grass a little bit more.  I've got just as much imagination as the next retro-gamer, but let's see a little effort here, people!  The same guy who did the graphics probably did the music as well, because it fucking blows.  I don't even remember at all what any of the tunes were, I just remember that they generically sucked.  And I hope that's what my experience with Stardom Warriors eventually becomes, no memories of it other than it teh sux.  1/20

Gameplay

Holding concerts and selling records for the Stardom Warriors was only worth the exposure it brought them, as we made far more money just talking to people on the street and converting them into fans.  While we'd be lucky to clear two grand for a concert, peeps were consistently giving us multiple thousands of dollars money for just a brief meet 'n greet.  That makes more sense for encounters with the salaryman or the elderly gentlemen, when it'd be closer to a brief rub 'n tug, but not so much for a pile of vomit.  Regardless, money was never an issue by mid-game, not that there were a whole lot of items to buy outside of performance equipment for the skags.

The best thing about these low-effort games that are crapped out as soon as possible is that there isn't much depth either, so they're always over quickly.  Still, one probably won't have too much fun during that brief time, so it's really only suited for masochistic completionist bloggers like myself, who at least can ease the pain a bit by engaging in a multi-post bitch-fest.  2/20

Final Ranking:   11/100

June 25, 2020

Stardom Warriors - End Game

Being a talent manager involved a lot more than I had originally thought.  Stupid me thought that I'd be booking concerts and studio time, arranging transportation, generating media buzz, giving full body massages, etc.  Oh, I tried to book a flight to somewhere other than New Yorik, but all the tickets were sold out.  I attempted to purchase some scalped plane tickets to Botson, but buddy didn't want cash (even though I had over $100,000 on me).  Instead, he wanted a hot dog from the city of Denber and, since there were no flights going there and no car rental agencies available, the gals and I had to hoof it the entire way.  The "city" of Denber has a whopping three buildings and the citizens... well, let's just say the citizens are a simple folk.

Hey, Denber, I think your dog is broken.

The hot dog cost just under ten grand, which may just have been marked up substantially for us tourist-types, and we walked back to New Yorik to give the dude his soggy dog.  We got the tickets but didn't realize that they were super-saver extra coach and had to parachute out since Botson doesn't have an airport.  That was fine though, as now the Stardom Warriors were on their way to expand their sphere of influence and gain even more loyal fans and followers.  It was during this time that a new game mechanic appeared, as enemies started to direct their insults sometimes to the girls instead of just me.

She's not stupid, you jackass, she's
just a hugemungous heifer.

Ahh... much better.

The insults contributed to their stress levels, making each lady act like a buffer that absorbed the occassional attack but had dire consequences should any of them reach 100%.  At this point, I had managic spells to easily replenish my HP but nothing short of finding a restaurant and shovelling foods into their gaping maws would get the ladies' stress down (just like in real life).  I rather enjoyed this mechanic, not only because it made travelling more difficult and unpredictable, but because finally it wasn't just me berating these airheaded princesses.  Unfortunately for me, I made the mistake of thinking that the more expensive food items reduced their stress by higher amounts but it doesn't matter what item is picked, their stress is always reduced to zero.  Their demand for higher quality foods was actually tied to their current level/popularity, which makes a lot of sense for the talent in this industry.  The punishment for daring to let one of these precious snowflakes eat subpar foods was to go back to the starting agency and have to search the building to find the sulking baby.  There are no encounters of any kind, just empty room after empty room after empty room.  It figures.  I had just given SW a compliment on a game mechanic and then it hit me with this bullshit.  Of course, turbo-boost made this much easier to handle, but I vowed to never let this happen again.  My vow didn't last very long as I wasn't paying close enough attention during a random encounter and one of them got picked on and hit 100%.  After going through the worst mini-game in existence again, we stayed at the hotel as normal, to refresh my HP and MP.  Welp, I guess we gained a level somewhere in there because now the rooms weren't good enough either and so I had to do it again!

Fuck me running, why couldn't
I be killing kobolds instead?

With the devas now in full-blown prima donna mode, I could just buy the most expensive option and focus more on the many quests I had going on.  SW actually has a decent questing system, with many broken up in a non-linear fashion.  A major quest involved acquiring seven different cans of paint (all the colours of the rainbow), which would be combined into magic paint, which would then be given to some lady who would reward each of us with a boat.  It was great to be trudging along, doing the regular exploring and performing in new cities, and getting clues here and there as to the whereabouts of fresh paint.  The quest was viable for about half of the entire game and it felt like quite the accomplishment to finally wrap the whole thing up.

Though I was expecting something with
a mast, not a friggin' coracle.

While hitting up all the new locations, I thought that the cycle would be the same — small, similar looking towns sparsely populated with NPCs who one-line nothing of particular value.  Oh, how wrong I was.  Up until this point, I had thought that Stardom Warriors was just another low-effort and rushed cash-grab of a game.  Several events happened which convinced me that SW was actually a troll in disguise.  The first was when I walked into a new city, expecting to find the same solid yellow or green floor tiles every other place had, but was greeted with this instead.

Caution: do not look directly at above
pic if you value your retinas.

The second was some old lady who decided not to spew off some one-liner but instead told me her whole fucking life story.  It just went on and on and, of course, didn't have any relevant information at all in it.

WHY DO OLD PEOPLE ALWAYS
TELL THIS STORY?!

The last one involved the jackass who combined the rainbow paints and, instead of doing it instantaneously like every other game, wanted to engage in a staring contest while the paints did their magic.  It lasted for around a minute in real-time, during which all button presses and smashes were ignored.

To be fair, I did use this time to self-reflect and
determine WTF AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE?!

Okay, enough about my gripes, how had the Stardom Warriors been doing up until this point?  Oh, not much — just rockin' the faces off any city they happen to be in!  After acquiring a handful of songs and skits, all the concerts were easy-peasy to take to the max.  All I needed to do as manager was make sure they didn't repeat any song/skit and they'd always score enough points to win over the crowd.  On a personal note, we also engaged in a multi-part quest that brought us to the girls' mother, who had amnesia (runs in the family, I guess).  Seeing a picture of the girls as babies jogged her memory and the family was finally reunited after all these years.

Really?  And here I thought I was looking
at a picture of three CHRISTMAS HAMS!

She also outted Lord Scottish as being a practioner of "Dark Managic" and that only the powers of kindness and good music could stop him.  What a surprise, the creepy guy from the beginning turned out to be the final boss.  We'd deal with him in due time but for now we had all the MacGuffins necessary to be able to hold the CONCERT TO END ALL CONCERTS.

Aww yeah, standing room only, bitches.

In the inevitable confrontation with Lord Scottish afterwards, he completely breaks down and starts talking like a typical, fantasy-based final boss.

Which just made me want to play
a typical, fantasy-based game.

Oh, and he's LARPing as a vampire,
just like all those famous Scottish
vampires you hear about all the time.

After his defeat, the curse that he'd apparently been maintaining was broken and everyone lived happily ever after, just like so many J-Pop idols do, I'm sure.  For Manager Shen, though, I was done with dealing with the phony and exploitive nature of this industry and wandered off into the sunset, looking for a nice dungeon to delve into.

June 09, 2020

[Game 069] Stardom Warriors (NES - 1989)

Translation by Woolsey Fan Company

Don't you just hate it when you're playing a RPG and all you're doing is bravely slaying multitudes of fearsome monsters, bending the primeval forces of nature to heed your every whim, and saving the entire world from certain doom?  Wouldn't you much rather manage an up-and-coming J-Pop trio on their way to fame and fortune?...  He-hello?  Well, fine, be like that then; I still have to play through this all the way through to the end.  Now, one might expect that I, the lecherous Nung, would play my role to be as perverted as their real-life counterparts, but NO!, I am actually going to be playing it quite wholesome.  Being from Japan, I'm sure the game will also present itself in a likewise wholesome and pure way.  The story starts with a dude named Lord Scottish who has three young girls named Ely, Kat, and Liz, aged 15-17 respectively, who all somehow have amensia and know nothing about their past.  So he wants me to "save them" by having them participate in one of the most exploitative practices on the planet.  Uhhh... okay?

Err, did he find them in a forest or
what?  This is suspect as fuck.

The most interesting thing about Stardom Warriors to me is seeing how they take this concept and fit it into the standard JRPG framework, because you know there's no way that SW is going to innovate any gameplay mechanics.  For example, instead of attacking an enemy, I merely talk at them, although it still does hit points worth of damage.  Enemies talk back as well, and I will admit it's nice to see differing lines of "attack" dialogue.

You've pretty much hit rock bottom if
a Japanese schoolgirl is dissing you.

In addition to TALKing enemies into submission, my managerial skills include BEARing the brunt of rudeness and impoliteness, essentially a guard command.  Now, I have a particular loathing for guard commands in menu-driven RPGs, although I can see them being used very occasionally sometimes in a multi-member party.  With a solo protagonist, though, it's always a losing move to skip your one and only turn in order to take less damage for that one turn.  Stardom Warriors actually innovates here and makes it so that if one waits long enough in combat (discovered in an early combat when I missed a bunch of times in a row), the enemy will get tired of their constant berating and instead instantly switch over to becoming a fan, with a reward of both popularity (experience) points and cash.  I thought this mechanic, albeit minor, was pretty keen, at least until I started paying more attention to the outcome of regular battles and realized the reward was almost the same.  A little more cash is given in a standard battle, but my question is why?  Why bother to put in a mechanic only to make it immediately pointless.  Hell, just double the XP reward and halve or negate the cash if some balance is desired, but do something with it instead of making redundant right off the hop.  Oh well, at least now I can just turbo-boost (yes, it's back!) myself through all the "combats" to minimize the amount of time playing the game and maximizing the amount of the time ripping on it (easily the more enjoyable of the two).

Not that I can rip on these super sweet,
obviously-tons-of-effort graphics.

The spell system uses Managic Points, which I will admit is pretty darn clever, though credit here is probably due to the translators and not the original game.  I haven't tried any of the spells yet, as I'll need something to complain about and/or make fun of for the end game post (yeah, I'm calling it here that SW won't generate any more than two postings).  I did attempt some of the spells, but I kept forgetting that I had been HEXed by some enemy and all my spells were locked.  The hex stays until either I sleep at the inn or quaff a healthy drink, which I have never purchased because all of my massive 6-item inventory is filled with burgers and water.  Burgers are for me to heal a small amount of damage and the water is for when the girls get thirsty.

Not until you get three more fans, Liz! Ely already
has ten, so let's pick up the pace, shall we?
And don't forget, you're the oldest, and
therefore, the most replaceable, capisce?

Oh yes, the gals have been with me all this time as I wandered the streets trying to get fans for them.  The don't participate in battle at all or do anything really except get thirsty from time to time.  I must be some kind of ovary-busting manager if I feel that I need to control the ladies' moisture intake.  Oh well, it was time for the girls to earn all those waters so I slapped down five large to book a concert hall for them.  We had (what I thought was) a decent amount of popularity points and wasn't expecting a full house or anything but...

I'm a bad Mr. Manager Man.

I managed to fool the girls into thinking that it was just a dress rehearsal and not that I had just misappropriated five thousand of the band's dollars.  Even as a dress rehearsal, it failed pretty bad as we had zero songs and zero skits to perform anyway, leaving talking (regular talking, not battle talking) as the only available option.  The girls twitched and convulsed a bit on stage, which I think was suppose to be dancing, but overall I realized that I had a lot more work to do.  I needed to purchase equipment and wardrobe in order to get my girls to shine their brightest, so I headed down to the Idol store to stock up on necessities.

Uhh, I'm not filming a JAV so I don't need
a vibra— Ohhhhh, it's a microphone.

In order to get all the funds needed, I started roving into other areas of the city, looking for more difficult "monsters" to chat with or a place I could buy some songs or skits.  Turns out I needn't have worried as songs/skits are unlocked with level progression, so now I just needed to grind a bunch of those muthas out.  Some of the new fans in the area, namely middle-aged salarymen and elderly men, certainly gave more popularity and cash than say, the schoolgirl, though I did doubt their sincerity in regards to it being "all about the music".  It didn't matter who we met on the street, my motto was that anybody could be a potential fan.

You look like the kinda feller that's into
all the latest, hot J-Pop, amirite?
Please stop stabbing me now.

I also came across some "dungeons" which had special events inside that the lasses could partake in in order to boost their exposure.

And I mean exposure.  Dayum.

The swimming contest turned out to be a quick time event where I had to mash the A button as fast as possible.  I was already doing 300 rpms due to the above pic, so all I had to do was swap in the controller for an easy win.  They didn't award the Stardom Warriors anything though, as they told us we weren't popular enough to win.  I argued with them that that's not how races work and even if it was, why were we allowed to enroll in the first place?  I think I even paid a fee to get in but I can't remember because bookkeeping isn't my strong suit (kinda like managing).  I was beginning to realize that the life of a J-Pop group wasn't all sunshine and rainbows and that I'd have to be ever vigilant in making sure my sweet girls didn't get taken advantage of.

Resist, Shen, RESIST!

At the end of this city-wide excursion, the SW's had two songs and two skits ready to go and I booked them for their first real concert.  I wasn't about to shell out five grand again so I put them into a smaller venue at the mall and was quite please to see the place fill up with degenerates more than willing to fill the Stardom Warrior coffers.  The concert itself was done in real time, with me picking which and when songs and skits were performed, and the audience giving positive or negative feedback, while the girls flailed about on stage.  I never picked the talk option because who fucking cares what teenagers think, especially air-head idols.  The 60-second concert was received quite well and I knew my lovely ladies would be the next big thing.  We didn't make a lot of money from the concert, but at least the girls got some practical experience being on stage as well as boosting their confidence.  I rewarded their efforts by allowing them to drink as much water as they wanted and told them that, if they continue giving such good performances, they could maybe even have a bite of one of my precious pocket burgers.  I was just joshing them though, I actually took them out for sushi and let them enjoy the first solid food they've had since they were given to me.  As I watched them ravenously wolf down hundreds of dollars worth of sushi, I smiled inwardly and thought that — yeah, maybe with a gentle and kind hand guiding them, I could manage to propel these lovely creatures into fame and stardom.

Glad you enjoyed it ladies.  Now off to the
restroom to regurgitate it back up, you fat sows.