Remember the Guild01 series from all the way back in late 2012? Of course you do. It’s the little eShop series that could. Defying all expectations, the Guild games jumped the pond from Japan and landed securely on the Western 3DS eShop stores, providing three indie games that span a variety of genres. The success of the original three — Liberation Maiden, Aero Porter, and Crimson Shroud — led to the eventual Western release of Guild02, but the first collection was never actually complete. Now, more than a year later, we’re finally treated to the fourth and final instalment in the Guild01 series, the rhythm-based RPG Weapon Shop de Omasse.
Originally citing an excess of dialogue as causing localization issues, it immediately becomes apparent upon loading up the game that this was a valid concern. Weapon Shop de Omasse is a very text heavy game, especially when considering that it doesn’t exactly fall into the visual novel or other similar categories. In fact, this game tends to pick and choose elements of different popular genres and mash them together into an entirely new concept that wouldn’t ideally work on paper, but it all somehow comes together; it’s a rare type of game that sets itself apart from specific classifications and still manages to provide a fulfilling experience.
Putting a twist on traditional RPG roles, you play as Yuhan, an apprentice blacksmith determined to revitalize your master’s failing business and bring it back to the forefront of weapon crafting. Rather than engaging in any type of monster slaying or relic hunting, heroic figures and nameless NPCs instead visit your shop in search of the right equipment to complete their own gallant quests. Through interactions with your customers the full story unfolds, revealing the return of a great evil. It’s up to Yuhan to become the best blacksmith that he can be in order to craft a weapon powerful enough to allow a hero to defeat the Evil Lord.
Combining rhythm gameplay, RPG elements, and a whole lot of dialogue, Weapon Shop de Omasse stands out as something completely unique on the eShop. Though billed as a rhythm game, the process of shaping your weapons’ metal is the only time when you’ll be following a beat, and this doesn’t constitute nearly as much of the gameplay as one might expect. Hammering away at a weapon takes around 30 seconds of tapping on the touchscreen, and though you’ll be crafting many, the majority of gameplay involves interacting with customers and determining what to create next; not unlike a Phoenix Wright case, part of the challenge for crafting the perfect weapon for any given customer involves getting to know them.
Presented as an in game “blog,” key elements from conversations with customers are recorded along with their skill level, strengths, and weapon of choice, and this is where the RPG elements come in. Using the information received in conversation, it’s your job to assess what weapon would work best for each customer before crafting the armament accordingly. Adding additional elements to weapons can give an advantage to specific attributes, and how well you can follow the beat during the actual crafting also contributes to its overall quality. Properly making the right weapon means a successful quest and payment to you, but loan out the wrong armament and you might not hear back from your customers again.
Dialogue can be sifted through using the 3DS’s lettered buttons, but gameplay mostly involves the handheld’s touchscreen. From hammering out a sword or axe to polishing your new tools, everything is controlled with taps and swipes on the lower screen. The controls don’t exactly call for precision, but they work well and add an extra layer of engagement between the player and the game. It would have been just as easy to allow players to use the A, B, X, and Y buttons to shape their metal, but having to physically interact with the product via touchscreen controls adds an extra sense of connection to your work.
As odd as the plot and gameplay may be, the most bizarre aspect of this title may be that the entire game apparently takes place on the set of a television sitcom. Whenever someone visits your shop, an off-screen studio audience will cheer as the character makes his or her grand entrance. Humorous dialogue is accompanied by laughter and the entire game features a docile soundtrack that could easily be plucked out of your favourite TV comedy from the '90s. The whole aesthetic comes off as frivolous and confusing at first, but once you realize the tongue-in-cheek nature of the game and get to know the characters better, it all comes together to create an experience that makes sense.
Following in the trend of its sitcom styling, the entirety of the game takes place within the walls of the weapon shop. The characters who you loan weapons to leave to take on their foes, but you never actually see them out in the wild. As such, the setting is limited, but the character models and interior environment are both detailed and attractive. Interactions with characters are displayed on the top screen, allowing for the console’s optional 3D effect to add a little depth to the otherwise flat rooms occupied with 3D character models. This is not the type of game that relies on its visuals from which to draw appeal, but enough is done with the limited environment and characters to make for an attractive game with a lot of charm.
The overall effect is fantastic, with excellent writing binding the quirky gameplay, setting and presentation into an entertaining end product.
Weapon Shop de Omasse isn’t going to appeal to everyone, but it’s a fantastic option for gamers interested in its small niche of unusual gameplay and unique staging. Combining RPG elements with rhythm based gameplay, there is definitely something here for fans of varying genres, but what stands out most of all is its relentless charm. It’s a very basic game conceptually, but a lot of care was put into its writing and development to turn this into a new experience worth having. If you’re looking for something new, this is the perfect time to pick up your hammer, start a fire, and get crafting.