February 5th, 2004 | PlayStation 2 | Preview
Koufuku Sousakan
All we'll say is, we tried to explain this.

BY SONY, 2004

25 WORDS OR LESS:
Rescue a colorful cast of characters from their daily routines in VR hell.

Hopeless bleak despair

In Sony’s never-ending quest to astound and confound us with wild experiments in entertainment that are thrust upon the public, they have announced Koufuku Sousakan, a game that looks to take the best of The Sims and mix it with the craziest of Japanese gaming, plus a retro-90’s graphical style to make its presence known.

It’s the year 21XX, and a remarkable piece of technology known as "CLOVER" allows people to transfer their consciousness into a computer system and live their lives in an advanced virtual world. 100 people are selected to test out the system and be evaluated. Unfortunately, an unexpected malfunction occurs and traps the users inside CLOVER. As the manager of the project, it’s your job to make sure the people inside lead a decent, unaffected life and work toward the goal of freeing them from their cybernetic prison. This includes getting them to comunicate and establish good relationships as well. With so many different characters and personalities, this doesn’t sound like an easy task.

You begin by choosing one out of the 100 virtual citizens and follow them through a day in their lives (around 20 minutes game time). The O button is the main tool in Koufuku Sousakan, as it will help your subjects out of tricky situations. When interacting with another person, a heart may appear over your subject. Mashing the O button enough will allow you to capture the heart and improve the person’s mood. Hearts are stored in individual "tanks," and if a skull appears it has the ability to suck hearts away unless, again, you hit the O button repeatedly. The more hearts that are saved per person, the more happiness is shared and the better a chance for freedom.

Any game needs an overbearing evil, and in Koufuku Sousakan it’s the mysterious 101st subject, a bearded rasta-like guy who is intent on messing up your progress and appears each time a person stores 71 or more hearts. How does he enact his deviousness? With challenging minigames, of course! You duel with him on a special grid stage where the object is to hit him as he bounces around while making sure to protect the subjects that randomly appear on the board. Defeat him and you get to keep your hearts and go on playing happily — until next time.

Communication sims are nothing new, but Koufuku Sousakan is one of those games that seem to demand your attention. And while we’re interested in the graphics and interface in the manner one looks at a train wreck, we can’t help but wonder what the final product will be like. Sony’s had their hits and their misses for sure, but hey, maybe the world is ready for a crazy-ass Japanese game that looks like a Dire Straits video. Only April knows for sure. Ray Barnholt

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