September 06, 2020

[Game 070] Ganbare Goemon Gaiden: The Missing Golden Pipe (NES - 1990)

Translation by Adventurous Translations

Another day, another JRPG, this time from the popular Goemon franchise in Japan.  However, since it has nothing to do with giant mecha or martial artists shooting pure energy at each other, I know nothing about this series at all.  My only experience with Goemon in any way was back in the day playing Legend of the Mystical Ninja (for your Super Nintendo Entertainment System) for some hot co-op platforming action, though at the time I didn't realize it was connected to anything else.  I do remember always wanting to be the pudgy ninja chap and was not disappointed to see him in the prologue.

Just nonchalantly leanin' against a wall,
no fucks being given.  Dude's so cash.

Whoa!  Nevermind.  What the hell's
wrong with this guy?

The main quest for this game is contained right in the title; Goemon's favourite golden pipe (pipes being his main weapon proficiency) has gone missing so it's off to track it down.  Will this involve visiting villages filled with quirky characters, delving dungeons that have nothing to do with pipe finding, and beating up goofy looking randoms?  You bet your sweet bippy it will!

Everyone in this game looks like they've just
taken a massive shot to the nutsack whenever
they take damage.  I fuckin' love it.

Unsurprisingly, the quests follow the standard, linear JRPG formula — go to town, talk to NPC, get MacGuffin from nearby dungeon, and return.  NPCs also fill their standard role with lots of flavour text but little in the way of useful information — well, the human NPCs anyway.

Th-that's actually a really helpful tip, doggo.
Who's a good boy?  WHO IS THE GOOD BOY?!

What a great mechanic for the simplistic dungeons that JRPGs like to have.  No more exasperated sighs whenever a dead end comes into view and then angrily turning around to retrace one's steps and bear the burden of even more shitty random encounters.  Even when a true dead end happens in GGG (and that's still most of them), I don't even get mad because at least there's a chance of something happening.  The loot is always optional (thus far) as well; there is no dickish hiding of MacGuffins or anything like that.  This is a good example of the kind of little touches that I like to see developers putting in their games.  Another nice touch I'd like to see more often is having an entire village populated by cats and... what's this?  Why, GGG hath dun read my mind!

Well, yeah, if licking your groin for five minutes
straight is wrong, then I don't wanna be right.

OMG!  So adorbs!  They even make a little mew sound whenever talked to!  Squeee!  GGG then doubles down on the cute and has one of the cats actually join the party.

Having "owned" many cats, I can attest that
they all come with this jutsu pre-installed.

The quirkiness of these types of JRPGs is easily the best part of the game, so I'm going to focus on the things that tickled my fancy instead of a play-by-play of each quest.  The quests are fucked anyway, obviously being generated by a blindfolded developer throwing darts into a quest dartboard.  For example, blocking the way through a mountain pass is a giant blue stone wall creature who wants to eat some grapes before letting the party through.

Shouldn't you at least be wanting something
like peaches or cherries or plums instead?

Okay, anyway, so each town has a place where the party can rest and refresh their stats, as one would expect, but in GGG it's not just the classic room at the inn.  Sometimes it's going out for a fine meal, or perhaps taking a steam at the local sauna, where Ebisumaru will take a peek over the male/female divider like a total creep.

And, bless his heart, he looks
every.  single.  fucking.  time.

So, for readers who don't know the details of the Goemon universe, does the above pic stick out at all?  Did you think, based on what we've seen so far, that the setting was decidedly feudal?  Yeah, so did I.  Modernity bursts onto the scene whenever the hell it feels like, even if it means a fast food joint located out in the middle of BF Nowhere.

mm-MMM!  Hey baby, do fries come with that
chicken — uh, I mean, sh — DAMMIT!

The juxtaposition of the two settings is a little jarring, but given the quirky nature of GGG, I'll just try to roll with it.  Especially when the quirkiness results in some seedy port town offering a peep show for only a few bucks.  With the party fund in the thousands, I could easily afford to watch this show at least ten times and... what?  No, to get screenshots, you sick fucks, not to sit there and play with myself.

Though, obviously, I did that too.

I thought this would be a one-off but was titillated to find another building later on with similar signage.  The man at the entrance also promised me a good show in that *wink**wink* *nudge**nudge* kinda way, so I gathered all my boners in what I could only imagine would become known as Acocklypse 2020 for eons to come.

Instead, I got a burning and undying
hatred for magicians of all kinds.

Welp, that killed any desire to continue on since 95% of my motivation to play is the minuscule chance that I'll get to see some pixelated... um, boo... boobies.  Still, there's hope since the party has acquired two swappable females, Yae and Lin, for the fourth member slot.  Then again, maybe not since the first time Yae was met, she beat the crap out of the entire party (case of mistaken identity).  And, come to think of it, Lin is like a level 5 kung fu warrior so she's likely to have her inner whore under complete control.

Yes, Ebi.  I, too, would also like to bang both of them.

Damn it, my only hope is for another skin show, so I guess I gotta keep playing.  ♫ Venture ooooonnn, braaaave soldier ♪

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.



FINAL RANKING

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.