I believe I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating that you really can strike gold on the Nintendo E-shop for a fiver if you look hard enough. Hidden amongst every 40 hentai puzzle games you may stumble upon a masterpiece of deep sea combat, fish, and fury. It also depends on what you’re looking for. Initially, I had stumbled upon developer Regista when I found their recent release “Japanese NEKOSAMA Escape -The Old Inn”. They say a picture is worth a thousand words but I’m not fluent in nightmares. Try for yourself! Here’s two!

Screenshot via Nintendo Switch
Screenshot via Nintendo Switch

Intrigued, I checked the developer for other releases and found this gem. I cannot stress how bitterly I would be robbing you of something special if I didn’t show you the story unaltered. So please, strap in and enjoy the tragic lore of….The Demon Crystal.

Once upon a time, there was a rich country “Fareis country” in a certain place. However, as the peace and prosperity continued, the people of the kingdom were corrupted and the power of the nation declined.

Princess Chris chooses outstanding people from the citizens to make the country a lively thing like the old days, We appointed the Royal Guards’ Director Ares Niser as the Governor.But the time of trial has come to this peaceful and happy country.

From the dark storm far away from”Fareis country”. An evil devil called “Sharud” attacked the “Fareis country”.
Princess Chris organized a corps group ‘Justice ? Troop ‘ with the guards, and directed the confrontation with “Sharud”.

But ‘Justice Troop ‘ was annihilated by the power of the evil incarnations,
Tarantula, “Warrior”, “Ghosts’,”Dark Warrior”, “Copper” brought up by the magical power of ‘Sharud’. After “Justice trooper” annihilated, Farris country has been in the control ‘Shard
Eventually, Shard attached the royal palace so that they wilt not fight back again,
Shardo took Prince Chris as a hostage to Monster Town.

In order to save King King Lady Chris,
Ares ? Nizer Collect balls (BOMB OF FIRE)is located in various parts of “Fareis country” that are said to have been dispelled from God, And head to MonsterTown alone…

The game is okay. Its a 1987 arcade game where you go through levels, climb ladders and throw bombs at weird, pissed off looking enemies with completely random design choices. So, like, every game coming out in 87. Dat lore tho. I was most invested in Princess Chris’ rise to power; beginning as a princess and ending up commanding the armies of her nation as double King. However, games like this can only hold your attention for so long without harming the brain with trauma or vapors or scissors, so I went in search yet again for something new. Something exciting! Something 99 cents!

Screenshot via Nintendo Switch

Moving on but going with a game only comically less retro than The Demon Crystal, I got Bit Orchard: Animal Valley. It looks like a legit first generation Gameboy farming game. Like a super lo-fi Harvest Moon. It was around a dollar and had ghosts, crows and rabbits with no skin from the neck down for whatever reason.

Image Property of RedDeerGames

So I decided to take Gameboy Harvest Moon with closet Goth complex for a spin and…well. It’s kinda mind melting, in an “overtaken by purgatory and all it’s vast, intense and crushing nothingness” kinda way. I mean, I absolutely understand what they were getting at, but when reducing a recipe in quantity, the ingredients must decrease to scale. This shit did not happen.

Screenshot via Nintendo Switch

You’re limited in what you can do. You can use a sickle to get fiber from the eight or so respawning bushes in your yard. You are permitted to run at birds so they leave your yard for the implied outside world that I will get to in a moment. You can buy seeds on the phone(?) in your house and plant trees from which apples grow. You sell apples and so forth and buy upgrades and run at birds. Also the Pinhead rabbit doesn’t like me and our friendship is mandatory, says game. I bought two seeds and planted them. I watered em, just like in any modern farming/life sim, only tiny and retro. For a moment it worked.

Screenshot via Nintendo Switch

But the “however” came when I realized that these goddamn trees were going to grow at the pace of a modern farming/life sim, which consequently have literally anything else to do with your time. Oh, well there is one thing aside from watering your plants. You are tasked to harvest one hundred and fffffffuckin fifty fiber from the immortal bushes in your yard. This takes a really long time, is super repetitive, and rewards you with the mandatory task of crafting a scarecrow. Now I don’t get to run at birds and have found myself looking out from the points where they escaped my yard. Gazing out into the presumably vast almost assured but only implied outside world. There is no escape from my property, not for me. This game is like a tiny encapsulation of 2020 isolation. This one had me kinda existentially bummed out, so once again, with a tiny gilded sliver of hope, I hit up the virtual bargain bin…

Screenshot via Nintendo Switch

And I found Pathway! The description alone had me. It plays almost like a tabletop noir horror game a la Arkham Horror and stuff like that. The cast is almost entirely unlockable, which is a little hardcore, but it really looked interesting, so I saw that as more an incentive. Characters are (usually) better than loot!

You start out with some exposition and the chance to gear up. Next you’re dropped into the exploration part of Pathway. Your party moves about a map through interconnected points, each with some narrative, many with events.

Often, these events initiate the combat part of the game and I have to admit, it’s kicking my ass in a very efficient and embarrassing manner.

Screenshot via Nintendo Switch

Its strategy RPG combat, but in a strange mix that’s like an unholy union between Japanese SRPGs like Fire Emblem and western stuff like Baldur’s Gate. Most everything has a gun or projectile, which adds a layer of chaos. It is really easy to get killed if you aren’t careful, but it’s not an unwelcome challenge. I’m looking forward to playing more of this one. It’s got a lot of characters, so the possibilities on how each effects the story you get is pretty robust. It’s neat. I like it. I feel that this ended on a good note.

Not that it didn’t a begin with on a good note. The rise of King King Lady Chris is my feel-good story of 2022.

Nintendo E-Shop is property of Nintendo, Pathway is property of Robotality and Chucklefish, Bit Orchard is property of RedDeerGames, The Demon Crystal is property of Regista. Article photos are screenshots via Nintendo Switch.