Treasures of Steam’s Secret Comiket Sale, Part II

If you’ve just joined us, it seems that Steam is holding a sale in celebration of Japan’s biannual Comiket event, during which the prices of various Japanese doujin (indie) titles are considerably reduced — yet, bizarrely, there is absolutely no mention of this sale anywhere on the platform’s front page.

Never fear, though, because even if Valve isn’t going to shout about this extremely generous sale on a selection of great games, that doesn’t stop us celebrating it.

Yesterday, we took a look at a selection of some of the games available in the sale. Today, we continue our exploration with another group of fine titles, all of which are well worth your time and money — particularly at these ridiculous prices.

Check out the full sale selection at this link, and hit the jump for further thoughts.

Cherry Tree High Comedy Club

This interesting little game is what would happen if you took Atlus’ wonderful Persona series, stripped out all the combat and… well, did nothing else to it, really. It’s a game about social interactions in which you take control of a high school girl as she attempts to fulfil that classic anime premise: saving her favourite club from disbanding by ensuring she finds enough members to make it work.

Gameplay involves building up protagonist Miley’s interest levels in various topics, then using these interests to interact with her classmates and friends, with the eventual aim being for her to recruit them into her comedy club and show mean ol’ Octavia who’s boss. Narrative-wise, the game is lightweight, slice-of-life fluff, but the characters are interesting enough to keep you playing even though, like any good slice-of-life work, nothing of any great import really happens over the course of the whole adventure.

Tezuka slips in a not-so-subtle Ace Attorney reference.
Tezuka slips in a not-so-subtle Ace Attorney reference.

Of particular note about Cherry Tree High Comedy Club is the fact that it was localised by Tezuka Productions, whom you may know from the Ace Attorney localisations. Like Ace Attorney, Tezuka took a few liberties with the game’s original script by transplanting it from Japan to America, changing some character names and even making a character who was Canadian in the original into a Swede in the English translation. (A Canadian is a member of a very “foreign” culture to a Japanese audience, but less so to English-speaking Westerners, hence the change; the character’s blonde hair made her a good fit for a somewhat stereotypical Scandinavian background.) Despite these changes — and like Ace Attorney — the game maintains the character and personality of the Japanese original, while simultaneously being more accessible to those less immersed in Japanese culture. Winner.

Grab it here: Cherry Tree High Comedy Club

100% Orange Juice!

This is a weird game, even by the standards of Japanese entertainment in general, but it’s a surprising amount of fun. A peculiar fusion between a board game and a collectible card game, 100% Orange Juice! features characters from doujin circle Orange Juice’s previous works, including Acceleration of Suguri, Flying Red Barrel and QP Shooting. Don’t worry if you’ve never played any of these games, however; the characters have plenty of charm in their own right, even if you’re unfamiliar with where they originally hail from.

As with any good card-based game, the cards have plenty of cool artwork and little Easter eggs on them.
As with any good card-based game, the cards have plenty of cool artwork and little Easter eggs on them.

The game is a four-player affair in which players take it in turns to move around a board and play cards that they’ve collected. Unusually, rather than each player having their own deck of cards, all players choose a selection of cards to put into a central pile, and these are drawn communally throughout the game. This means that an awesome attack card you’ve added to your deck could potentially end up in the hands of your opponent — but you might just get it yourself, too. Are you willing to take that risk?

The game is simple, fairly shallow and heavily dependent on the random number generator, but there’s little denying that it’s a lot of satisfying fun, particularly when playing against human opponents. It’s a game high on interaction and screwing one another over, so if you enjoy that kind of gameplay in a tabletop setting, you may wish to give 100% Orange Juice! a go.

Grab it here: 100% Orange Juice!

Croixleur Sigma

Croixleur Sigma is an enhanced version of the equally unpronounceable Croixleur, which originally came to the West in early 2013. It’s an arena-based arcade hack-and-slash game that initially appears simple, but as you progress and develop your own skills, demonstrates that it has a lot more depth than you might think at first glance.

The story is some throwaway fluff about two young girls fighting their way through a trial to see whose faction will enjoy political power for the next few years, but ultimately it doesn’t matter all that much: this is a game about chopping up monsters, and doing it as stylishly and quickly as possible. Each stage is made up of learnable waves of enemies, and in order to attain the highest scores and most efficient clear times, you’ll have to make use of your chosen character’s various moves effectively. You can attack, jump, slide, make use of different weapons, unleash special moves and cancel moves into one another, with highly skilled players able to chain entire stages of enemies together into one coherent combo.

Hiyaaaaaaa!
Hiyaaaaaaa!

The story mode is short and replayable, with multiple endings available for the two playable characters, but the real attraction here comes in the arcade-style modes where you take aim for a high score against a strict time limit. While simple to pick up and lacking somewhat in enemy variety — stronger enemies tend to be palette-swaps of weaker ones — Croixleur Sigma has an undeniably addictive quality, and will keep you busy hacking and slashing until the small hours.

Grab it here: Croixleur Sigma

Fairy Bloom Freesia

What’s the first thing you think of when someone mentions fairies? Perhaps a hyperkinetic, adorable little forest sprite? One that’s punching everything that gets in her way in the face? Maybe just the first bit?

The hilarious disconnect between Fairy Bloom Freesia’s adorable appearance and her frantic bouts of extreme violence on anyone or anything that crosses her is what makes this game so appealing. This is a ridiculously fast-paced, enjoyable platform brawler in which you’ll unleash devastating combos, juggle enemies, fling them around and love every minute. There’s a story to motivate you to play through once, and after that there’s plenty of other ways to enjoy the game, making this a great “pick up and play” title for when you just want to punch a ton of stuff in the face.

Don't be deceived by our heroine's small stature -- she is nothing short of a certified badass.
Don’t be deceived by our heroine’s small stature — she is nothing short of a certified badass.

Running at a gorgeously slick 60 frames per second with smooth animation and some very nice visuals, Fairy Bloom Freesia is a whole lot of fun, and well worth your time — and it’s a great example of developer Edelweiss’ mastery of high-speed arcade action on PC. Which brings us nicely on to Astebreed, which we’ll talk about next.

Grab it here: Fairy Bloom Freesia

Astebreed

Developer Edelweiss has several games on Steam to date, including the aforementioned Fairy Bloom Freesia, but its most recent Western release Astebreed is by far the company’s most impressive, spectacular output to date. Boasting 60 frames per second visuals easily up to the standard of triple-A titles, Astebreed is a slick, cinematic shoot ’em up that provides a white-knuckle thrill ride from start to finish.

Astebreed features a strong degree of depth to its gameplay thanks to its variety of means of dealing out death and destruction. The titular mecha can attack enemies with a sword, lock onto them or hit them with rapid-fire shots from a distance — and like any good shoot ’em up worth its salt, you’ll need to learn the best situations in which to use all these techniques in order to attain victory. A score attack mode allows you to test your skills with Astebreed’s weaponry, while for those who prefer a more narrative-led experience, the game’s story mode tells an ambitious but well-paced sci-fi tale that wouldn’t feel out of place in one of the big-name animes of the season.

Astebreed's story is thrilling and enjoyable, but score attack purists can switch off the dialogue if they so desire.
Astebreed’s story is thrilling and enjoyable, but score attack purists can switch off the dialogue if they so desire.

Astebreed’s design is astonishing. The 3D models are packed with detail — and, mecha fans will be pleased to note, may be drooled over at your leisure in a special gallery mode — while the story is punctuated by some beautiful 2D artwork of the characters involved. Even the gameplay itself feels like it’s been properly directed and choreographed rather than simply flinging wave after wave of enemies at you; as levels progress, the game will seamlessly glide from a side-on perspective to a top-down perspective to an into-the-screen rail shooter and back again, making the whole experience into quite a spectacle almost as much fun to watch as it is to play.

Grab it here: Astebreed


More to come tomorrow; in the meantime, be sure to check out the sale page here.

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