Weapon Shop de Omasse is one part rhythm game, one part Japanese sitcom, one part brutal RPG parody, one part economic store simulator, and two parts Twitter. Keeping up? Good. The game is also one of the smartest commentaries on videogames I’ve come across, leveraging the technology of the present to talk about the past (as well as some commentary on the present slipped in there). It’s an absolutely fascinating sample case for the differences between Japanese and Western humor and how to localize a work so dependent on cultural touchstones and expectations.
In short, you’ve never played a game like Weapon Shop de Omasse.
Okay, here’s the skinny. You are the boy working the front counter at the weapon shop in the town of Omasse. You are responsible for ordering materials, interacting with customers, polishing weapons, and assisting the master smith in actual forging. Various colorful NPCs will come in and ask you to forge them a weapon for a particular quest or another, and it falls upon you to make something that suits their weapon proficiencies, the weaknesses of the monsters they will face, and their current level.
But the initial transaction is not the end of your involvement. See, this is a weapon rental shop. You issue weapons to your customers and only get paid upon a successful return. If the quester succeeds, they bring back a leveled up weapon, a rental fee, and whatever useful loot they may have stumbled across. If they fail, though, then they bring back no loot, no cash, and no weapon. So you need to be careful allocating your best weapons—a poor decision could mean you lose a precious blade forever!
No, I don’t think this is a particularly clever business model either.
In order to better understand your customer’s needs and better serve them, all weapons you rent out record a Twitter feed of sorts, detailing the wielder’s exploits and send it back to you. So yes, you’re basically a company spying on the doings of your customers. You can’t check their browser history like Facebook… but you keep up with pretty much everything else. It’s a surprisingly modern notion of privacy in a fantasy RPG setting.
So, what does the player actually do? You forge weapons to meet orders, polish weapons for marginal stat increases, order materials to ensure you can make whatever is needed, and do an awful lot of reading. The Twitter of this universe is called the “Grindcast” and the top screen keeps you a live Grindcast feed even as you attend to the mundane shopkeeping.
The Grindcast is the heart and soul of the game. Though generic NPCs do come through to rent weapons (I’m not being dismissive, they’re actually named NPC A, NPC 2, etc.) there’s a core cast of developed characters who return again and again to your shop. My personal favorite is the fearsome pirate captain, but there isn’t really a bad one in the bunch. Each of them gets up to ill-advised antics and makes terrible mistakes, but there’s a core of character development to each of them that makes following their progress from quest to quest compelling. It really surprised me how invested I became in, essentially, just watching other people’s RPG adventures play out.
A lot of the reason for that is that these adventures are funny! I have at various points issued weapons to help characters search for a senile grandpa who wandered off, defend a secret hideout made of cardboard, and “negotiate” a meeting between leaders of competing cosmetic brands. It really shows that this game came from a comedian.
It’s also really interesting on a conceptual level that a game supposedly set in a traditional RPG from years ago presents its satire via a Twitter feed. This is a game about videogames’ past viewed through the context of the present. It also reverses that duality, occasionally using the clichés of old RPGs to say something about today. It never gets too heavy, but there’s some meat on this bone for anyone who chooses to dwell on it for longer than it takes to rush to the end.
Ultimately, Weapon Shop de Omasse is a tough game to sell. I absolutely adore the game, but will other people like it too? I feel like there’s only a super specific audience that will appreciate it. Do you: Own a Nintendo 3DS? Have a familiarity with classic RPG conventions and frustrations? Think you could be satisfied reading about adventures rather than going on them yourself? Deal well with multi-tasking? You kind of need to answer “yes” to all of those to get the most out of this release.
But if you did say yes four times last paragraph? Then you simply cannot miss Weapon Shop de Omasse. The game will be available via the eShop for Nintendo 3DS later today, in both North America and Europe for $7.99 / €7.99 / ₤7.19.
Food for thought:
1. I didn’t get into the localization in the main body of the article, but this is easily the best written script out of Level 5’s Western branch yet. The extra time it took to get this localized was clearly well spent. They didn’t change the distinctively Japanese laugh track or sound effects though, so it maintains a unique sort of Japanese sit com feeling throughout.
2. Replay value on this game approaches zero. Such is the nature of most comedy. Jokes wear out their welcome quickly. Considering the price to buy a work of comedy at your local video store, and considering the quantity and quality of jokes available here, this game should be considered a bargain.
3. The way the voice actor reads the title is absolutely adorable. It sounds like Weeeapon. Shopday. Omassay. It’s a wonderful first impression for the game to make, not unlike meeting someone for the first time and getting a nice firm handshake. Doesn’t hurt that the intro movie is pretty great too.