A common complaint about modern gaming is that the once-great Japanese role-playing game genre is not the all-conquering behemoth it once was, and that modern JRPGs simply don't compare to the greats of the past. These days, the argument goes, it's all about floppy-haired androgynous heroes with too many zippers on their clothes angsting their way around the world while some white-haired bishounen threatens all of existence for some questionable reason.
And, okay, while Square's Final Fantasy series - the franchise at which this ire is usually directed - may arguably not be quite as good as it used to be, if you look beneath the surface of the mainstream industry it becomes abundantly clear the JRPG genre remains one of the most creative niches.
A good example of that creativity comes in the form of the recently-released 99 Spirits, a PC game developed by Japanese doujin circle TORaIKI and localized by Fruitbat Factory.
99 Spirits revolves around the Japanese legend of the Tsukomogami, where everyday objects come alive on their hundredth birthday. Cast in the role of the pickle-obsessed swordswoman Hanabusa, it's your job to hunt down and destroy the evil spirits that killed our heroine's mother, leaving her understandably somewhat distressed.
Okay, so the premise may not be all that original, but the implementation of how you fight against the Tsukomogami certainly is. You can't hurt a spirit until you successfully identify what it is - a process which involves using the gems in Hanabusa's sword. The first gem pulls out some letters or a word from the Tsukomogami's name, while the second allows Hanabusa to draw out the spirit's true form by successfully identifying it from these clues. Once you've done this, you can either defeat it or try to capture it - the latter option allows you to make use of its special abilities in combat, and with nearly a hundred different Tsukomogami to capture, there's plenty for completionists to get their teeth into.
You can find out more about 99 Spirits on Fruitbat Factory's official site. The game is available in standard and deluxe versions, with the latter including the soundtrack and the original Japanese version bundled in.