The last Kariosoft game we looked at was Grand Prix Story, a delightful motor racing simulator built on the success of the breakout Game Dev Story. Oh! Edo Towns is another ‘stick-to-the-formula’ title from the same Japanese developers keen to simulate every single activity known to man. We’ve had mega malls, video game development, hot springs, but we’ve never had towns. It’s an interesting area to avoid until now – after all, Sim City showed us just how popular virtual urban management can be. Surely Kariosoft can add its own unique charm to the subject?
That’s what Oh! Edo Towns attempts to do – remove the infrastructure planning and budgeting to instead focus on nurturing a town itself. As with every Kariosoft title, you start at the bottom.
There’s a plot of land, two residents and a blank canvas for you to fill. How you choose to paint your picture is entirely up to you. You might look to agriculture and religious praising as the foundation of your great city. How about commerce and retail? Surely that’d produce a larger output figure? Who knows – details are always slim with Kariosoft games and Oh! Edo Towns is no different.
Hidden beneath the fantastic Japanese visualisation (having fallen in love with the country, it’s something particularly appealing to me) is the usual hard working mechanics that keep a Kariosoft game ticking away. Every resident has a specific set of values, as do your buildings. How they interact with each other depends on their specifics. With previous man management led titles like Game Dev Story, it was how you trained and utilised your staff.
Oh! Edo Towns is more about the buildings themselves – they’re the real stars of the show. It’s up to you to make sure that your town is not only attractive, but functioning to its full potential. The way the buildings relate to each other is kept blind to the player when you start, and it’s only through experimentation that it becomes apparent just what effect everything has on each other. Unlockable combos (i.e. mix a farm, forest, and lake to receive increased yield) keep you guessing.
This time around it’s as much of a puzzle game as it is a simulation. Micromanagement exists for those interested in looking after every civilian, but most will be completely content building to their vision as opposed to its economic outlook. As your town begins to expand, it reshapes and rebuilds accordingly. It’s constantly reimaging itself like a trendsetting teenager. It’s a living being, one that grows in front of you.
Its simulative qualities might struggle when it’s put up against Maxis’ classic city building series, but Oh! Edo Towns is much more. It’s a Japanese microcosm. It’s not meant to possess the scope of its inspiration – rather, it latches onto a specific time period and style before squeezing out everything that can be eked.
The only concern is how long Kariosoft can maintain its formula. At the moment the settings and interactive elements are shifting enough for it to come across as novel and exciting. After we’ve had Lemonade Stall Story and Canteen Manager, it might be wise for the developer to call it a day. Only time will tell.