Insomnia | Reviews

Yuusha no Kuse ni Namaiki Da.


By Alex Kierkegaard / September 2, 2008

I am on the fence about this game and it's getting on my nerves (it always does when I can't decide if I should recommend a game or not), so I figured I might as well start writing and see how it goes. Truth is I played it on and off for several days, had some good moments with it and enjoyed figuring out how it works, but I am not so sure I feel like putting much more time in it. It's fresh, it's different, it's got what my friend Tim Rogers would grandiloquently call a "self-assured graphical and sonic presentation" and is all the better for it, but there's something about it that keeps bugging me -- the very low degree of control it gives you over the action. Perhaps it might be more enjoyable to those who are less of a control freak than me, but then again aren't videogames really all about control?

Acquire's Yuusha no Kuse ni Namaiki Da. (They're Audacious Even for Warriors. -- the period is part of the title, eccentrically enough) is basically a dungeon management game crossed with one of the main ideas behind Lemmings and shaped in the arcade form. "Dungeon management", "Lemmings" and "arcade": these are the three key concepts necessary to understanding this game. Bullfrog's Dungeon Keeper was basically an RTS whilst Chronicle of Dungeon Maker a peculiar dungeon crawler, but Yuusha no Kuse is an arcade game through and through, whence its uniqueness. There's really only a single mode, called story mode (read: arcade mode), in which you build up your dungeon and try to vanquish the groups of heroes that periodically attempt to invade. The goal is to survive long enough to clear the game (read: 1CC it, though it's not like you have another choice, since the game is smart enough to not even give you the option to continue, forcing even credit-feeding weaboos to play it the way it was designed to be played), whereas a typical play will at first last the arcade-standard ten to fifteen minutes and extend from there depending on how good you manage to get. Aside from the excellently-designed (and refreshingly challenging) training missions and rather pointless "versus" mode (which is not really a versus mode at all but simply a "design your own story mode" mode), that's all there is to do here.

The reason I bring up Lemmings is because Yuusha no Kuse restricts the player's control over his units in a similar manner to DMA Design's puzzle game of legend, only even more so. You shape the environment, and the environment in turn shapes the nature and behaviour of your units, and thus the outcome of the game. Only in Lemmings you acted on the environment through some of your units (by assigning them the various skills: digging, building, bombing, etc.), whereas all your interaction with the environment here is through your little pickaxe cursor, with which you'll be shaping your dungeon by digging passageways, or creating monsters by digging nutrient-rich or magic-rich soil (as opposed to plain soil). The lowest-level creatures (slimes and wisps) feed off the soil and then act on it by enriching it further, allowing you to create more powerful monsters, which then generally begin feeding on the lower ones, creating the need for constant regulation of the ecosystem in order to produce and sustain the higher level monsters -- which is the essence of what you do in this game. Then when heroes invade you hide yourself in some far-flung corner of the dungeon, and basically hope your evil minions will take care of them.

This can eventually get, if not slightly frustrating, then somewhat tiresome. I mean yes, the game has much more depth than you'd initially assume, since the low degree of direct interaction magnifies the importance of even the tiniest decision you make, but then again its format does not support the possibility of decisions that are NOT "tiny" in a sense, which is why I say it can get tiresome. While you are still learning though it's lots of fun, figuring out ways to keep your burgeoning ecosystem vertically integrated and appropriately balanced, and devising dungeon layouts that will inhibit the progress of the stronger heroes (especially the fireball-wielding, room-clearing wizards) who attack you in later stages.

And, seriously, the game is a rare joy to experience. Watch your miniature dragons fart little piles of yellow dragon-poop all over the place; hear the hilariously high-pitched voices of the neurotic heroes as they wreak havoc on your subterranean lair's painstakingly-cultivated ecology; and wince with annoyance as they bind you head and foot and begin dragging you all the way back up to the surface (though your monsters can still attack them and free you, and you can still act with your pickaxe, leading to a final -- and usually futile -- frenzied burst of activity as you sacrifice all your resources to try and stop their escape).

The way I am describing it now kind of makes me want to go back and give it another go. That's the thing with this game: there's really nothing quite like it, and despite its limitations it can still infect you with the "one more go" syndrome: to get a little further, see a little more of whatever it is the game has to show you, or achieve a higher score. Very well, then. One more go it is.

There are currently no plans to release this game outside Japan.