Steamlog was never intended to just be about the games, but about the experience of playing them. This entry in particular exemplifies that, as a game reminds me just how much they're capable of....
Title: 99 Spirits
The week has been difficult. Usually under these circumstances, I rely on my "fallback" games as an escape. Not so much this time. Final Fantasy XIV:A Realm Reborn? Well, let's just say that I've possibly created the most tolerant Link Shell on my server. Some of the members went through a particularly tedious dungeon for me so I could get a promotion in my Grand Company, only to have me die over and over—and I was the party's healer. Okay, clearly online gaming is not a thing right now, at least not unless I'm willing to forgo any interaction beyond conversation. What about Skyrim? Oh... I was trying to finish that quest. The one based upon X number of radiant quests. That I'm still not pinging the right combination for. Okay, fine. How about Dragon Age: Origins? Wait. This time around is meant to be my "perfect game", which means I need to pay close attention to what I'm doing. If I had any kind of attention span, I wouldn't be trying to sort all of this out. I know, what about Tales of Vesperia? ...My 360 isn't hooked up, and I don't have the energy required to fix that right now. Never mind.
Next, I started bargaining with myself. I never said that Steamlog would be a weekly column. In fact, once I get to some of the longer games, that might not even be possible. I didn't really have to write this week, did I? Honestly, the answer is "no", but I knew if I didn't, I'd just feel worse than I already did. Time to look at the next game in the series: 99 Spirits. I had vague memories of perhaps voting for it in Steam's Greenlight program, had seen it mentioned recently on Twitter, but that was about it. I didn't particularly feel up to a puzzle game, but given that I didn't feel up to much of anything, what was there to lose?
The beginning of 99 Spirits gives you the option of whether or not to view the prologue. After selecting "yes", I'm thrust into something that feels like a visual novel. I'd chosen the Japanese voiceover, but there are English subtitles over simple animation. Narration gives way to action, but I'm unable to do anything about the events that are unfolding. I can only watch in frustration as the slayer of what I thought would be the main character, proceeds to lie about what happened to her surviving husband. Then time moves forward. Finding out that I'll be playing as the daughter who escaped all those years ago feels a little tropeish, but there's also something comforting about the familiarity of the idea.
The mechanics are fairly simple. At all times, a gridded board is present in the centre of your screen. You move around by clicking on the square that you want to go to; enemies nearby called tsukumogami can intercept you. If they do, you fight! Luckily, you're equipped with a sword possessed of special powers. The first orb on the sword will give you the type of the tsukumogami, and two letters that make up part of its name. The second orb will allow you to "shout out" (type) its name, which then breaks the shroud surrounding it, enabling you to destroy it. You're also able to acquire an item called the "Spirit Index", which lists the names of the tsukumogami. If you're stuck on how the hints come together, this can be an invaluable resource for inputting the correct name. The power metres in the orbs are filled by using a combination of attack, defence, and countering. As you move around the board, you can also find various items like gemstones (which can be sold) or obstacles, like trees, which require the powers of yet another orb on your sword.
I don't think I've ever played a game like 99 Spirits before. Despite my initial reservations, I found it quite fun! The story is interesting enough to keep me engaged and moving forward. I'd wrongly assumed that the puzzles would feel like work, as much as any of the games that I was trying to avoid. Instead, solving them gave me an immediate sense of satisfaction. Best of all, the game can be played in small bits. If all you have is five-ten minutes, you can still generally accomplish something in that time. If you feel like sitting down and binging for an hour, there's enough progression and variety to do that, too. Best of all, it reminded me that there are different things that make games worth playing, and different kinds of fun.