Monday, February 1, 2016

Black Cat: Kuroneko no Concerto comments

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used for review purposes only.)

Back when I got the Chameleon game, I'd been looking over the shelves of the Book Off nearest me, and there really wasn't anything I wanted to get. Either the prices were too high for a used game issued 8-10 years ago, or the game itself didn't look interesting. I got Chameleon just to have it in my collection because of the weird green-lizard character art on the cover (and it was only 250 yen). I didn't see any RPGs that looked interesting at any price, but there were two other really cheap games that I considered getting at the time mainly because of the names. First was a Rockman spin-off for 250 yen, which I put down because the description on the back of the box seemed completely unrelated to the original Rockman concept. The second was Black Cat.

(Cafeteria menu. The cheapest meal - bread crusts for 500 coins - restores 30% health but decreases strength by 10%. The 6000 coin lunch set gives you 50% health and 5% strength. The 20,000 coin full course restores 80% health and 20% strength. According to the only existing English FAQ, this meal is the only way to bring your strength back up following battles, and strength seriously affects the damage you deal to enemies. So, spending money on the lunch set or full course is necessary to ensure survival, but kills your chances of buying better cards.)

Black Cat: Kuroneko no Concerto (2007, Compile Heart)
After finishing Chameleon so quickly, I went back to Book Off to consider getting Black Cat. I'd read the original manga when I was in the U.S., and I'd liked the character designs and most of the first half of the story. Unfortunately, the ending got stupid and left me feeling very disappointed. So, I kind of wanted to get the game because I wanted it in the collection, but I also didn't want it because it was 500 yen and is basically just a rock-paper-scissors form of card game battle. In the end, I broke down and got it just to be able to write about it here.

(Eve's stats screen following a card test. After you eat your meal, you can choose to either let one of the characters go shopping for random items that can raise or lower Eve's stats, go bounty hunting, or do a card test. For the test, you pick one of the cards given to you by the game, which has good and bad effects on each of Eve's stats. Then, you get a short matching game (Eve thinks of a dessert, book, or doll, and you have to click on the right item from a display of 6 things. Doing this correctly 6 times gives you the maximum stat changes.)

What may be telling is that the loaded games from the previous owners are dated "2008", "2009", and "2014." I'm guessing that whoever had it before didn't play it much, or didn't feel the need to have multiple save games. Anyway, the idea is that the female character, Eve, has helped Sven rescue the hero, Train, following some attack on him by the Chronos Numbers gang. Train has amnesia and thinks that Eve is the one that tried to kill him. Eve runs away and gets captured by Chronos, and Train arrives to save her. But, rather than this being a real-time combat, or adventure RPG, the fight consists of playing 1 to 4 cards against the enemy. You get dealt 6 cards from your deck, and only receive 1 more card per round. The cards have the faces of characters from the manga, along with rock, paper or scissors alignments. If there's a clear winner, the loser takes full damage based on your character's strength and the number of cards you played of the same type. For a tie, you both take 10% of the damage. You can also choose to activate the attributes of a card, or do nothing, in which case you take full damage. Starting out, the attributes are very weak and just boost stats a bit. Doing nothing lets you receive two extra cards.

(Choosing to bounty hunt, and encountering your bounty.)

(In the actual rock-paper-scissors card game. Both sides used paper, so it's a tie, with the enemy (using the one card at the right) taking 4 hits and Train (using the two cards at the left) taking 9.)

When you start, you're in the daily menu, where you choose to spend money to recover health and strength for 500, 6,000 or 20,000 coins. Then, you can pick 1 activity for the day, which can be to either go shopping for something that boosts or drops Eve's stats; do the card test with Sven or Train (for Eve, she can change clothes if she has more than one outfit); or, go bounty hunting. Shopping costs money, and the card test costs a turn. Bounty hunting is the only way to make money, but the initial bounties are only in the 10,000 to 20,000 coins range, which is pretty paltry, and the fights are, again, card games. You start out on day 364, and every turn drops you down by one day.

(Starting the next round, with the enemy's cards face down at the upper right section of the lower screen, and Train's cards at the lower left, face up.)

Trying to amass money by taking higher bounties runs the greater risk of losing the battle, which only costs you a few hundred coins (that is, you don't lose the game) and one day from the calendar, without giving you the bounty. But, you really need money for one specific purpose - buying more cards. Every 7 days, you have the option of doing a "main event". If you accept it, you can buy cards (see below) but then you might get some story and have to fight a Chronos Number gang member. The first fight of the of the game is against a weaker Number, and after that I had enough money to get 3 packets of three cards each, one packet each for rock, scissors and paper cards. (One packet of 3 cards of one type is 20,000 coins. 6 cards for 38,000 coins. A 9-card packet of one type is 56,000 coins.) Cards are random, and you can get the same card more than once. After that, I had enough money for one 20,000 coin meal in the cafeteria. I missed the significance of the "main event option" a few times. Instead, I struggled to make enough money bounty hunting in order to buy 6,000 coin lunch sets every day to bring my strength up from 0, and save a little to get a few cards. I'm not even bothering with the Sven and Train shopping events. But, having beat the second Numbers gang member, I did receive an outfit for Eve.

(End of the battle. If you win, you get the bounty (17,500 coins) minus "expenses" incurred in the fight (that is, the costs of using the cards you played = 1,900), for some total (15,600) added to your current savings (45,900). If you lose, there's no bounty, but you still have to pay your expenses. It is possible for your savings to go negative, in which case you aren't allowed to shop for items for Eve, or buy cards.)

Summary: The artwork is ok, as are the character designs and the music. I didn't listen to the voice acting. There's no real animation in the game, just stills being shaken around when you attack or defend. The game play is pretty much just pure luck because you don't have control of what cards you get from the deck, and even if you knew what kind of card your opponent will play, if your hand doesn't include the winning card type, you're going to take damage. I don't like card battle games to begin with, and the idea of having to play 365 rounds to play out the story seems a bit silly. I bought this game just to have it, but it's not something that I'd really recommend to anyone that doesn't like Yu-gi-oh or Pokemon.

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