Treasures of Steam’s Secret Comiket Sale, Part IV

And so we come to the final part of our exploration of Steam’s Comiket sale — a well-hidden set of discounts on a wide selection of Japanese doujin titles in celebration of the biannual Comiket doujinshi fair.

The games available in the sale run the gamut from danmaku (“bullet hell”) shooters to visual novels and represent a fine selection of what the growing Japanese indie scene has to offer. Thanks to partnerships with publishers such as Nyu Media and Playism, Japanese games are a growing market on Valve’s platform — it’s a shame that this sale was not given wider visibility through a front-page promo slot, however, meaning that it may well have passed more than a few people by, and missed a great opportunity to introduce more Western-centric gamers to the cultural output of our friends in the Far East.

Never fear, though, as you’ve got until August 18 to discover some new favourites from among the available titles. Today’s selection presents the last few titles we haven’t covered as yet. You can check out the previous three posts here on MoeGamer to find out more about the titles we haven’t covered today.

Let’s get started!

War of the Human Tanks

The title pretty much explains it all: this is a game in which you wage war using tanks that are also cute young girls. Offering a lightweight yet ruthless strategic wargame coupled with an enjoyable storyline filled with endearing characters, what initially might seem like somewhat lightweight fluff soon proves itself to be a worthy strategy game in its own right.

Some players have complained that they find the inter-mission story sequences to be too long, but for those impatient it’s possible to skip over the dialogue and get straight back into the action. A free battle mode allows you to indulge in skirmishes in order to collect resources without having to worry about that pesky narrative, too.

Harsh.
Harsh.

War of the Human Tanks is just the first in a series of games; localiser and Western publisher Fruitbat Factory has noted that the subsequent two games — Human Tanks ALTeR and Human Tanks Limited Operations — are both on their way, so if you enjoy this first installment, you’ll be pleased to note that there’s more coming down the pipeline.

Grab it here: War of the Human Tanks

eXceed

This three-game series provides you with all the danmaku action you could possibly need outside of the legendary Touhou series, and shows a pleasing amount of development and advancement as it progresses.

The first game in the series, the wonderfully named Gun Bullet Children, sees you selecting one of several different characters — vampire-hunting children trained by the Catholic church, no less — and then making use of their unique abilities to blast your way through hordes of enemies and dodge all the bullets you can. Those who enjoy a bit of daredevil play will be rewarded with a special attack charged up by “grazing” bullets — colliding your character sprite with them without the bullet actually hitting the much smaller hitbox within the sprite. Gun Bullet Children is the weakest of the three eXceed games — and doesn’t have an official English translation — but it’s still worth a, if you’ll pardon the pun, shot.

Here's Vampire, with one of many "oh, shit" moments.
Here’s Vampire, with one of many “oh, shit” moments.

Second game Vampire proved a lot more popular than the original game. This time around, you play a half-human, half-vampire hybrid as the vampire race attempts to avoid genocide. Notably, the game features a “polarity” mechanic similar to that found in Treasure’s classic shmup Ikaruga, so those who enjoyed the unique challenges brought about by that particular game system will doubtless have a lot of fun with Vampire.

Third game Jade Penetrate Black Package was put together by a different developer after the creator of the first two games — doujin circle Flat — closed down after the release of a remake of Vampire and an initial release of Jade Penetrate. With development subsequently taken over by Tennen-Sozai, Jade Penetrate Black Package features a very different story to the previous two games, revolving not around the conflict between humans and vampires, but instead the efforts of a young dragon-demon hybrid to rule the Underworld. Gameplay is similar to the first title in the series, with special attacks once again charged by bullet-grazing, but this is a much more polished affair than the earlier titles.

Grab it here: eXceed Collection

World End Economica

World End Economica is the first episode of a three-part series by Spice and Wolf author Isuna Hasekura, and proves that visual novels really can take a pop at pretty much any kind of subject matter and produce an interesting, intriguing experience.

The game is set in the far future on the moon, and the protagonist is a young man named Haru. Haru has an impossible dream, and in order to even attempt to realise it, he’s going to need money — lots of it. How is he going to get it? By playing the stock market, of course.

Because of course there's a mysterious girl involved along the way.
Because of course there’s a mysterious girl involved along the way.

World End Economica’s first episode is a kinetic novel as opposed to a multi-path visual novel. As such, this is an experience that is pure storytelling, with player interaction pretty much kept to a minimum. Whether or not this is to your taste is a matter of opinion, but if you’re the sort of player who enjoys “gaming” conventions used to enhance traditional text-based storytelling, there’s a lot to like here — and more to come in the future following a successful Kickstarter campaign from growing localisation outfit Sekai Project.

Sekai Project aims to have the remaining two episodes translated and available by May of 2015, but in the meantime you can see how the story starts with the first episode.

Grab it here: World End Economica

RefleX

Part two of a three-part series known as Alltynex, RefleX is a highly polished bullet hell shoot ’em up from Siter Skain, featuring arcade-style presentation somewhat akin to Cave’s DoDonPachi series, huge bosses, ridiculous weapons and the usual thumping soundtrack that goes with this sort of thing.

RefleX’s unique twist on the conventions of danmaku is its reflective shield mechanic, which allows you to defend against enemy attacks and even reflect shots back at your opponents. Weighing in at 8 stages, it’s one of the meatier, longer examples of a danmaku shooter, and will keep you busy for a good while as you pursue that elusive one-credit clear.

In true bullet hell tradition, the weapons and attacks in RefleX are far from what you'd call "understated".
In true bullet hell tradition, the weapons and attacks in RefleX are far from what you’d call “understated”.

Although RefleX is the second installment in the trilogy, localiser and publisher Nyu Media is working hard on bringing the first and third games — Alltynex Second and Kamui respectively — to Steam also. In the meantime, like most danmaku games, the actual narrative very much takes a back-seat to the frantic, stressful gameplay, so don’t be afraid to jump in with this installment. Unless you’re scared of all the bullets, of course…

Grab it here: RefleX

Satazius

And finally, one more shoot ’em up, this time from renowned independent developers Astro Port, who have also brought us the excellent Gigantic Army, Armed Seven and Supercharged Robot Vulkaiser — all games worth checking out in their own right if you get the chance.

Satazius is an unabashedly old-school side-scrolling shmup, replete with homages to classics of the genre throughout the game. Featuring 13 upgradeable weapons, selectable loadouts and authentically “old-school” boss encounters, Satazius is an immensely satisfying game for those of us who grew up playing titles like Gradius in arcades and on home consoles. And it all fits into just 50MB.

Kaboom!
Kaboom!

Interestingly, Satazius is one of several small-scale Japanese indie titles brought to the west by publishing giant Capcom rather than doujin specialists such as Nyu Media and Playism, though it’s not a game they tend to shout about all that much. That’s not to say it’s not worth your time, however, and at this price there’s really very little risk involved. If you have the slightest interest in old-school side-scrollers, then grab this now!

Grab it here: Satazius


That’s the lot! Check out the full sale page here, and I’d love to hear what you think of the various titles on offer — drop a comment on one of this week’s pieces and share some thoughts.

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