If numerous anime and manga series are to be believed, bad things will happen in 20XX. In Ichigeki Sacchuu!! HoiHoi-san, bad things take the form of roaches and other bugs — but mostly roaches — that have grown resistant to traditional pesticides. To combat these super-bugs, those crazy Japanese started manufacturing tiny “HoiHoi” maid robots armed with miniature swords, rifles, battlemaces, and bazookas.
In this PS2 game — Kunihiko Tanaka’s parody of Gunslinger Girl that later became a full-fledged manga — players assume the role of HoiHoi’s owner, purchasing sweet outfits and weaponry for the cute-but-expressionless robot. During the battle scenes, players control HoiHoi directly, running across tabletops and bookshelves, slaughtering bugs and trying not to break household items. That mostly means slicing up roaches and not gunning down glassware. Every now and then, HoiHoi fights angry bees or a rampaging centipede.
The bug-blasting stages are set up as missions that can be repeated to achieve better ranks and earn more money. These missions are really, really short — sure, a crappy player may spend six or seven minutes hunting down that last bug to squash with a hammer, but good players can blow through each one in two minutes or less. HoiHoi enters each fight with two weapons. I found myself relying on melee weapons like katanas, because I got tired of heading back to the shop between missions to purchase ammo for the machineguns and rocket launchers. Melee weapons are more powerful, anyway.
Cutscenes pop up between missions, developing the strained relationship between the obsessed otaku player and the cute store clerk Kimiko. I say “strained” because she isn’t terribly attracted to geeky otaku who obsess over dressing their robot maids in girlish clothing (although she personally longs to dress HoiHoi in girlish clothing — THE IRONY). Kimiko also wears really short shorts. When she stands there with her legs close together, you can see the “sacred diamond” — that feminine gap between the thighs that drives men wild.
Spoiler: the geek never gets the girl. Not the flesh-and-blood cartoon girl, anyway. He does show a manly spark when his precious HoiHoi is threatened. Late in the game, while the lonely protagonist watches TV in his pest-free apartment (thanks to HoiHoi), he sees a commercial for the militaristic Combat-san. Combat-san is advertised as being technologically superior to HoiHoi-san, and this sends our otaku avatar into a ramen-eating rage. Nothing could be better than HoiHoi-san!
Ichigeki Sacchuu!! HoiHoi-san expects gamers to share his excitement at the prospect of replaying three handfuls of missions to earn money and buy weapons, dresses, and accessories.
“What dress will unlock if I beat this mission?”
“The miko outfit comes with an equippable shide!”
“How many more punches do I need on my frequent shopper card to get a free item?”
Game companies are perceptive; they noticed that people like to collect things. Most companies unfortunately assume that virtual collection is its own reward. For gamers who seek stimulation and challenging experiences (i.e., the best gamers), it’s not. Konami doles out the attire like a drug dealer — cheap to get you hooked, but then they ramp up the prices so that you have to A-rank the same missions five times over to buy the next dress. Most of the dresses can be worn during battle, but a few cannot. What’s the point in buying expensive outfits that can’t even be worn during the game? Thank goodness I eventually saw through the gimmick and gave up. I played through every mission at least once to see the anime ending (it was disappointing), but I refuse to “collect ‘em all”. Better games — complex, challenging games with just as much or more cuteness — are waiting for me.
Grind for money and spend that money to build a collection; this is the kind of game that makes players stupid. If it were released during the PS3 era, I bet Konami would charge for new DLC dresses, and I bet addicted gamers would foolishly pay. No one can play Master of Orion or Bayonetta every hour, but this isn’t an acceptable alternative. What makes HoiHoi-san different from relaxing videogames like Dead or Alive Xtreme 2? On Team Ninja’s island paradise, gift-giving requires some measure of thought, and jet-ski races tax the reflexes even while the mind feels relaxed by soothing colors and tropical scenery. There’s no thought behind simply buying out the local drugstore and there’s no escape in staid apartment furnishings.
Ichigeki Sacchuu!! HoiHoi-san isn’t a virtual vacation; it’s busywork. It’s cute but it’s dumb, and hanging around HoiHoi-san will make you dumb, too.