In the meantime, I'm just a guy who writes about videogame theory and how the medium can achieve better cinematic emulation (while keeping its own indentity). Though, if that's too boring, you can always find something delightfully fluffy in the following:
Out of all the irritations I deplore in life, one main offender has to be Valentineís Day. A pointless non-holiday designed to shift more cards on a seemingly regular low point during Hallmarkís fiscal year. What a strange board meeting that must have been.
Not that the restaurants have any problem with the one-off increase of business. They capitalise on this nonsense as your date, nay ordeal, involves being surrounded by other couples forcing themselves to be more romantic than usual; gorging on up-market pizza and guzzling overpriced beer in the process. You uncomfortably remain in your dining chair, wondering if the wrinkled greys are just faking it in public after twenty years of drudgery or if that young connoisseur of swarthiness is getting off with someone more forgettable than memory loss.
Itís a horrible day that ends up being more stressful than it really is. Usually, I just buy a card and hide away until midnight. Sure, all this cynicism might be connected to the trauma of being rejected on Valentineís Day, but I last heard sheís a mother now and living in destitution. So in fairness, I dodged a bullet there.
Well, at least animals donít have to worry about Valentineís Day.
They eat, shit and fuck.
Unless youíre a cartoon hamster named Hamtaro. Heís a shut-inís wet dream, teaching the world about teamwork and relationships by having cute adventures. Itís the anti-Watership Down. Usually, I despise such clap-trap, but by God, did he feature in an awesome videogame that made me re-evaluate a theory that animals have souls and faced problems unlike our own.
Can you tell Iím trying to kill the dying hours of this glorious day yet?
Release Info: Third game in a series based on an anime and released on the GBA in 2003. Easily found on eBay if you donít want to go down the emulation route.
No doubt, some obsessed sad sack with a penchant for all things Japanese, despite never setting foot on foreign soil, will tell you that Ham-Ham Heartbreak is set during Season 46B, but you could easily pick up and play through the story without prior knowledge.
One day, a mischievous bat-hamster-thing named Spat comes along and casts a break-up spell on all the loving couples in town. So itís up to the renowned bachelor Hamtaro and his meddlesome female companion Bjiou to mend all the broken hearts, then give Spat a good kicking for destroying love itself (for about a day).
Itís a story that 80% of the Destructoid staff would lose their shit over.
That sly synopsis might write off Ham-Ham Heartbreak as mindless tat for kids and weirdoes alike, but if you put your pretentions aside, itís actually a refreshingly innocent videogame thatís quite charming through itís use of characters and situation comedy.
Ham-Ham Heartbreak is a forgotten gem, solely because itís based on a cute anime aimed at young children and nobody ever listens to babies for purchase decisions; unless youíre Steven Spielberg. Itís not your standard point and click adventure either. You progress by learning words from several scenarios and then use your expanding vocabulary on others. Itís a twist on the whole Ďfind a key and open a doorí puzzle, but with dialogue menus instead.
Every relationship woe is a linear progression; a messy ball of yarn with knots at every unravelling. Usually, one problem cannot be fixed without going off elsewhere and talking to another hamster about his/her predicament.
For such a childish and naive looking videogame, thereís much emphasis on characters and the fairly human obstacles put upon them. There are loversí tiffs that lead to one guy being locked out of his home, children upset that their parents are separating, miscommunication between a loving couple, anxiety worries and so forth.
It would be easy to claim that itís a dark videogame, but itís clearly not. Ham-Ham Heartbreak is more akin to an Archie comic than an episode of EastEnders. Yet, thereís a voyeuristic sympathy in the way it puts preposterously cute animals into relatable domestic situations. From that kind of emotional manipulation, you canít help but be charmed by Hamtaroís constant bemusement towards the overwrought pitfalls of love.
Thereís much slapstick to be had and it surprisingly makes you chuckle on occasion despite the simplicity of seeing hamsters in dance competitions or being chased around by malfunctioning robots. All in all, thereís a great eye for pantomime timing.
Ham-Ham Heartbreak doesnít deviate from the formula until the end, where you end up in an action-orientated boss fight. Thereís something particularly jarring about it, especially since itís all about reflexes that you havenít been conditioned to. While Ham-Ham Heartbreakís plot is wafer thin and contains repetitive puzzles, it does provide endless entertainment for the minimal hours involved. Itís actually a great feeling to play an adventure that doesnít involve ripping someoneís head off in an act of desperate survival too, which is strange because Iím not particularly a fan of Animal Crossing either.
Hamtaro and company will likely make you understand that animals as dead-eyed as hamsters are no different to us in a tenuous way. So the next time Iím in a pet store and see a mother eat one of her young, Iíll look at the horrified sales assistant and tell them not to worry.