Oukoku Shoutengai is a 2010 simulation game made by Japanese indie developers inutoneko. I’ve had a blast playing their earlier games and was really looking forward to this one, but it wasn’t quite what I was hoping for. A marathon 5 hour session yesterday was enough for me. I’ll explain why in a second, but first the story/premise:
The city-state of Ishwald is in dire economic straits. Sister Sophia and her superior at the church of Ishwald decide to revitalize the rundown local shopping district in order to create jobs, generate funds and raise public morale. Unfortunately her superior has to leave almost immediately on official business. It’s all up to Sister Sophia to save the district, with a little help from her friends and a lot of bribery.
The reason I didn’t enjoy Oukoku Shoutengai as much as the others is because it requires much less micromanaging. There’s always something to do every day when you’re farming or running a restaurant or a shop. Managing a shopping district is a lot less labor-intensive and thus a lot less fun.
At the beginning of the season you have two main jobs to do. The first is to lease shops to interested businesses. In selecting the best fit for the spaces, you must consider a number of factors. Can you afford to pay them to set up shop? You pay them a signing fee and make it back with a cut of their profits, so you’ll be looking for profitable shops with a high demand for their services.
The percentage sign shows the level of demand. You also have to think about store quality, target demographic (young, old, male female), seasonal popularity (e.g. a swimsuit store will do better in the summer) and a few other things along those lines. You want a good mix to keep different people coming in. But in the end it’s all stuff you get out of the way on day one of the season.
After that you just kind of sit there and watch the customers roll in for the next 30 days. Morning to evening, morning to evening, just sitting and watching customers going in and out and slowly making money. Morning to evening, sitting and watching, sitting and watching, sitting and watching, sitting and watching, sitting and watching… If you don’t get the picture I can repeat “sitting and watching” another hundred times until you do, feel free to ask. It will be more interesting than actually playing Oukoku Shoutengai, I guarantee it.
The other thing you do at the start of the season is meet the newest members of the City Council and try to establish friendly relations with them. That’s a euphemism for “bribe the hell out of them so they’ll pass the legislation you want.” Oh wait, it’s only called bribery when it’s done in third world countries right? Lobbying, that’s the word. You lobby the fine upstanding ladies and gentlemen of the Council once a month.
The star next to a member’s name means you’ve already “taken good care” of them that month. The percentage shows how much they like you, which goes up faster if you get them stuff they prefer. Some of them want money (err “political donations”), some of them want land, some want free labor, others want your hard-earned Guild points. It’s not really optional either, since you have to go through the Council to get a lot of things done. Want a grant? Pay us. Want more land? Pay us. Better security? Pay us. They’re like the Mafia but even more blatant.
The higher a council member’s level (D > E > F etc.) the more weight they carry at council meetings, so you want to lobby them first and foremost. You can pass legislation to raise the level of the members, but this is a bad idea if you do it too soon. I learned that the hard way. More powerful members can give you bigger benefits, but they also have outrageous appetites. Stick to the petty criminals at the start.
Council meetings take place on the 14th and 28th of the month and you can see above that they rejected my humble appeal for more GP because they didn’t like me enough. No refunds for the money I spent wining and dining them either. Plus the council gets shuffled every season, presumably to prevent corruption, so you have to work with a largely new council every season. The good news is that affection is cumulative AND the pool of members is limited. Keep up the bribery long enough and eventually everyone will hit 100%. Phew!
So those are the two main activities Oukoku Shoutengai offers. I’ll admit that
bribery lobbying is kinda fun, but it only takes a few seconds here and there. Same with picking shops. The other 95% of the game is just sitting and watching and sitting and watching. Oh sure, there are a few more things you can do like:
Play mini-games and chat with people who stop by. The characters have made a bit of progress in their relationships (Eve is finally getting the message that Fill doesn’t like her) but the story moves so slowly that it’s not worth reading.
- Expand your stores using forage materials like sticks, stones and water.
- Buy maps and send adventurers to forage for items. This is an extremely dreary process you have 0 control over. Adventurers will pick up very little at the start and will frequently die to bosses, resetting exploration progress to zero.
- Occasionally assign extra staff to stores to cope with demand.
- Research forage items so you can make your own via a magical garden.
- Do a little meaningless alchemy with items you have lying around.
- Do a little shopping for items to expand your store.
But all these still take up only a tiny fraction of your time. The rest of the game is spent sitting and watching. And I don’t play games just to sit and watch. The developers should have added the option to skip up to a whole season at a time and give you a rundown of your profits. They could also have added more things to manage like sanitation, inspections, advertising, hiring assistants, charity work, active participation in festivals, taxes, etc etc etc.
This is one of Inutoneko’s lazier efforts and barely qualifies as a game. I’m happy to cut them a lot of slack in recognition of past achievements though. After all even the late great Imageepoch of Time and Eternity fame made the occasional dud. Besides, meager as it was, Oukoku Shoutengai did scratch my simulation game itch. I’m ready to get back to more robust game systems now.
Next up: We’re into the last quarter of the year, which means it’s time to clean up loose ends. Time to take another look at games I stopped playing but haven’t definitively dropped yet. Off the top of the head I can think of Final Fantasy XIII, Legend of Legacy, Summon Night 5 and Operation Abyss. The point is not necessarily to finish them but to arrive at some sort of conclusion with each one. First up is FFXIII.