I love puzzle games, if that was not already evident.
However, I particularly love late ’90s arcade puzzlers such as those put out by Taito, Data East and their peers, for one reason in particular: as well as providing solid, addictive gameplay, they also had a tendency to have a cast of wonderful characters to accompany the action.
While you may want to debate whether or not Taito’s 1997 block-breaker Puchi Carat is truly a puzzle game or not, one thing we can hopefully agree on is that it features a spectacular cast of waifus.
And Queen of the Puchi Carat Waifus, so far as I’m concerned anyway, is Peridot.
For those less familiar with late ’90s Japanese puzzle games, it may surprise you to learn that many of them feature extensive background story and lore in the same way as fighting games from over the years. And much like in fighting games, the story and lore has little bearing on the game itself; it simply helps you feel a bit more attached to the characters and the world in which the game is taking place.
Puchi Carat has a particularly complex web of intertwining narrative threads weaving around one another, with much of it concerning the Corundum family.
Wealthy merchant couple Ogust and Ribin Corundum were not very nice people. Having let their wealth go to their heads, they had become rather greedy and domineering, and this led to them rather neglecting their two children Thyst and Sapphire. But while Thyst remained largely apathetic towards her parents, Sapphire decided to take matters into her own hands, seeking the counsel of statesman Shelito Berylmarine, better known as Paz.
Paz was a powerful sorcerer as well as an advocate for the use of magic as the dominant force in the Gemstone Kingdom, even going so far as to desire the abolition of science and other forms of mysticism to realise his ambitions. Sapphire saw him as the ideal means of achieving the freedom and vengeance she desired.
The power she obtained by learning magic caused her arrogance and sense of pride to grow, and she eventually exacted her revenge on her parents by transforming them into beasts; her father Ogust into the rabbit-like creature By, and mother Ribin into the half-beast, half-human, all-slut Peridot.
Both By and Peridot had their memories as well as their bodies affected by Sapphire’s magic. By forgot his own name as well as how to communicate in the human language, while Peridot regressed in age to an apparent 26, forgot everyone in her family except Sapphire and promptly became something of a sexual predator, her primary motivation in Puchi Carat’s story being to make all men in the world into her pets.
Peridot in her new form is still not exactly what you’d call a “nice” person, but she is irresistibly appealing. Her provocative outfit leaves little of her curvaceous body to the imagination, and her body language consistently leaves us under no illusions as to who is in charge when Peridot walks into a room. She knows she looks good, and she knows this aspect of her affords her a great deal of power over others.
Her background animations during gameplay in Puchi Carat express her personality perfectly. She has a defiant idle animation where she shakes her head and taunts her opponent, inviting them to do their worst with an implied confidence that she will shrug off whatever is thrown at her. Particularly impressive moves tend to be accompanied by some sort of provocative pose, either emphasising her formidable breasts or finely sculpted butt. The images that pop up when you clear the screen (a “Perfect”) emphasise her flamboyant love of performing by dressing her up as a magician, also offering a play on the game’s recurring “rabbit” motif. And her loss animation sees her at her most explicitly bestial, completely losing her composure as she does not, for once, get what she wants.
Puchi Carat limits its in-game narrative content to a few snippets of dialogue before matches against the CPU, but even in these questionably translated nuggets we get a further idea of what sort of person Peridot is. She’s vain and obsessed with her own beauty, though she’s not above complimenting someone else if she thinks it might help her get what she wants. And she has a playful side in a non-sexual sense, too; she takes great delight in teasing young science enthusiast Rald, who absolutely does not know how to deal with a curvaceous older woman apparently putting the moves on him.
I miss the concept of the “waifu puzzler”. It wasn’t something that every game of this type did in the late ’90s, of course, but some of the best games did — and it helped make them a lot more memorable as a result. Rather than presenting the experience as a dry, mechanics-focused experience as many typical Western puzzlers do, games like Puchi Carat are bursting with personality and allow players to express themselves through the characters they choose as much as how they play the game itself.
The idea isn’t completely dead, mind you. Games such as Purino Party, Huniepop and Hell Girls all feature appealing, attractive characters who don’t necessarily add anything to the gameplay but help provide the whole experience with a lot more character. And even Puyo Puyo Tetris, a blend of Eastern and Western approaches to puzzling, features colourful and appealing characters, though in that case, the emphasis is very much on cuteness rather than sexiness.
There’s something very special about the late ’90s approach to the “waifu puzzler”, though, and Peridot, for me, represents one of the best examples of why they’re so appealing — and why they tend to stick in my mind much longer than more abstract experiences. There’s a lot to be said for injecting a degree of personality into mechanics-focused experiences; those personalities can often make the difference between a game you forget about for months at a time, and one you regularly make the effort to revisit purely to spend a bit of time with (or ogle at) a favourite character.
Also, y’know, if Peridot came around and decided to make me her slave, I’m not sure I’d have the willpower to resist…
More about Puchi Carat
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