By Japanime Games
Support a princess in her race for the throne–just be sure to choose wisely. Build up your economy and infrastructure. Go to war against rival princesses and their supporters. And gain the succession points needed to win the throne.
Heart of Crown is a very cute but complex and challenging game that I was recently introduced to. So I should note that this isn’t a full review–more like an impressions post, really. This is a deck-building card game, which is a pretty different style from most of what I’ve played before, since you build your playing deck as you go. Once you get used to the concept (or for those of you who are already familiar with this style of game), it’s not too difficult though. The challenge is to build the best deck to win, and this is a challenge that is constantly changing. As in games like Sushi Go, your set of cards that you’re working with can change based on what you choose at the beginning of the game. And different sets require different strategies. To add to the strategizing, each princess provides unique bonuses that affect you’re gameplay. And of course, the other players you’re working with will change how you have to play as well. With the base set, you can have 2-4 players, and that number seems to work well with the flow of the game. Basically, I found this game to be challenging but in a good, interesting way. There’s clearly been a lot of thought put into each card and into the system as a whole, and it all works well together to provide a good challenge for players. On a side note, this game has some of the cutest anime-style art I have ever seen in a card game. I really love it! So yeah, Heart of Crown is a lot of fun and I would recommend it for basically anyone who likes deck-building games, strategy-dependent games, or just plain cute stuff.
Note: You can find out more about this game at https://japanimegames.com/pages/heart-of-crown-resources.
By EasyGameStation & Carpe Fulgur
My rating: 4.5 of 5
Ditzy and warm-hearted Recette finds herself left with her father’s enormous debt and no way to pay it off. But in the interests of protecting their investment, the creditors contract the straitlaced fairy Tear to help Recette pull her act together and open an items shop in order to pay off her debts. A shop with Recette immediately names “Recettear,” a combination of their names, with a huge grin on her face. Excited to face this new adventure, Recette begins the process of acquiring items, building relationships with customers, and honing her haggling skills. Poor Tear’s got an uphill battle to make this thing work!
If I had to boil Recettear down to one word, “cute” would definitely be it. The anime-like art style, the character designs, the music, it’s all basically adorable. The premise draws on the concept from your typical RPG of the ubiquitous items shop. But while in most games, these shops are pretty generic, this story takes it from the shop owners’ perspective, selling to adventurers and townsfolk alike. It definitely plays like an RPG, but the majority of the focus is on resource management in the shop. Not that you can’t go dungeon crawling if you want to–and sometimes the variety is nice. While the whole buying and selling thing can be a bit repetitive, you are faced with time-management challenges and an increasingly complex market as time goes by. Plus, there are some fun character interactions mixed in, especially between Recette and Tear. I think the adorable relationship between these two–and the stark contrast in their personalities–is what truly makes this game. It’s certainly what I enjoyed the most. As for sound, the music is simple but cute. There is some minimal character voicing, mostly just set phrases, which is all in Japanese but is quite well done; the timing and quality of the actors really does add to the overall flavor of the game, although none of the actual words will make sense unless you have at least a basic understanding of Japanese. All the written text has been translated to English, though, so it’s completely playable–also, the translation is actually quite good. So yeah, it you’re looking for cute RPG that’s a bit different from the norm, I think Recettear is a fun option to try.
Note: You can find Recettear on Steam at http://store.steampowered.com/app/70400/Recettear_An_Item_Shops_Tale/.
Author: Jasper Fforde
The Chronicles of Kazam, vol. 3
As usual, Jennifer Strange has her work cut out for her. As though being the under-age leader of a successful guild of magic-workers (all older than herself) weren’t enough, now she’s got a flesh-eating monster that they accidentally set loose on the town to catch. And one of her best workers managed to get herself held for ransom in the neighboring kingdom–a kingdom known for being intentionally dangerous. Oh, and she’s got a bratty princess to babysit, AND the most powerful wizard of the past few centuries (he’s lived that long) is threatening war against Kazam unless she finds a mystic jewel that may or may not exist! Time to declare a quest, for sure. Why is life never simple?
Ever since I first discovered Fforde’s Chronicles of Kazam, I have consistently been delighted beyond all possible expectations, and I must say that in The Eye of Zoltar he outdid himself. The combination of humor, quirk, and thrilling adventure is balanced perfectly, making this a quest tale with something for everyone. Added to that, you have all the fun and amusing details and satire that so characterize Fforde’s writing, and the Chronicles in particular. The characters as well make this a tale to remember, and even the ones who start out being annoying rather grow on you. (And then you’ve got the characters who start out annoying, grow ever more annoying, and eventually get their just desserts to universal cheers.) Because (spoilers) a large portion of this volume takes place out of country, a number of the characters from the previous volumes don’t show up much–I really missed Tiger’s constant presence, for instance. And I will warn that this volume is kind of dark–not that the previous volumes were all sunshine and rainbows, but you know. . . . In spite of that, I think The Eye of Zoltar is an excellent fantasy, and I would highly recommend it. And hey, it comes with a promise of a follow-up volume which is bound to be more cheerful, right?
Author: Paolo Bacigalupi
Anderson Lake, foreign company man seeking the secrets of Thailand’s genetic wealth. Emiko, genetically modified not-quite-human, abandoned by her Japanese patron to struggle to survive illegally in a country that scorns and fears her people. Tan Hock Seng, Malaysian evacuee striving against the odds to not only survive in an unwelcoming land but to rebuild the wealth and influence he once held in his homeland. Jaidee Rojjanasukchai, captain in the Environment Ministry and folk hero, protecting the nation from the ravages of genetic mutations, plagues, and foreign influence. As these individuals and the powers they represent are thrown together in the city of Krung Thep, Thailand, loyalties are tested, boundaries are tried, and revolution stirs on the horizon.
The Windup Girl was not at all what I expected, but it was a fascinating read. The futuristic setting is unique, dealing more with genetic manipulation and diversity than with weapons and such, but handling the genetic factor in a way I’ve never seen before. It’s thought provoking in itself. The way in which Bacigalupi intertwines various characters and perspectives is integral to the story and adds great depth–and though I can’t say I actually like any of the characters, they are all well written and full of interesting complexities. I think the author’s choice to set this is Thailand is intriguing; it brings quite a clash of various cultures and ideals into the mix and is well executed. Speaking from a literary standpoint, one of the most interesting features of The Windup Girl was Bacigalupi’s use of present tense. Usually, this is extremely awkward to read; I have set aside several otherwise-excellent books in the past simply because I could not bear the awkwardness of the tense. However, in this book, the use of present tense seems completely natural and flows almost unnoticeably. I will note that in terms of sexual content, language, and wanton violence, this book is definitely adult audience only–I would say 21+. Still, in terms of creative, original, and thought-provoking science fiction, The Windup Girl is quite excellent.
Author: Isuna Hasekura
Illustrator: Jyuu Ayakura
My rating: 4.5 of 5
As the old gods are forgotten or driven away by the church and more modern ways of life, Holo, the wolf god of the harvest, quietly slips from the fields she has watched for centuries . . . into the cart and life of the lonely merchant traveler Kraft Lawrence. Usually a cunning and successful man, Lawrence is, frankly, baffled by this capricious, wolf-eared girl. As Lawrence and Holo travel, bargain, and survive incredible danger together, they develop a friendship that is truly a pleasure to watch grow.
Spice & Wolf is a delightful light novel, and I am looking forward to reading the sequel volumes in the series. I admit that the beginning is a bit difficult to get into, but it’s well worth the effort to push through the first chapter to the point where Holo and Lawrence meet. From that point, the story (not to mention Lawrence’s life) is dramatically altered. Holo is such a fun character to read–precocious child one moment, wise ancient the next, but all fitting together like a multifaceted gemstone. The storyline itself is well-written also, a nice blend of intrigue, action, and character development that takes place in a well-realized world perched on the brink between ancient paganism and the age of exploration and commerce. This is definitely a recommended read, particularly to those who like stories involving the careful barter and gamble of political intrigue.