In the words of that one awful green Canadian bank commercial
“Buy, buy, buy, sell, sell, sell”… and then make a montage of buys and sells.
That’s the experience I’ve had recently playing STONKS-9800.
I can honestly say that I get the appeal now after my latest playthrough, where I’ve turned ¥2,500 into ¥560 million in just three years.
Currently, in Early Access, you have the keys to a 1980s Japanese stock market sandbox that is bursting with cozy CRT art, charming interactions with a lovely assistant who may have the hots for you, less charming interactions with Yakuza bosses and CEOs and the constant pressure of taking care of your health.
STONKS-9800 is utterly addicting and effortlessly charming… It’s also a little broken right now.
CRT – Comfort Radiates Through
STONKS-9800 is gorgeous. Right from the old-school DOS startup that serves as the loading screen to the radiant Akihabara alley image that serves as a background for your walks with your secretary, Amy, this game nails the vibes of its period.
Another thing that STONKS-9800 handles with excellent care is UI.
It can be hard to focus on stock charts when you have nine or ten companies all grouped, so hovering over a company name and having their line on the graph light up is super handy.
Updates relating to your relationships or stats come with large illustrations that make it easy to understand updates on the fly quickly.
When researching companies, there’s a clear hierarchy tree with clickable submenus that keep everything organized, even if they currently have a habit of freezing, but more later.
Finally, the home screen also offers a miniature Amy with various animated expressions to convey how you are doing, which is a welcomed touch.
The Market Is Your Playground
Like I said above, while there are plans to have a story mode in full launch, Early Access provides a sandbox market with up to 14 companies, four preset difficulties and a custom mode offering the ability to set however much money you chose and higher or lower amounts of return and dividends.
If you are new to investing, this one will take some time. There’s no tutorial aside from what you can derive from asking a few questions of your assistant Amy. So it’s best to come at this with an understanding of shorting, calculating commission and tax, buying in bulk and how to calculate dividends.
For an overall rating, your player character is judged on their public image, financial success, ethical conduct, market knowledge, philanthropy, networking, and innovation. As these numbers go down or up, you get buffed or nerfed through the random occurrences.
Along the way, several random occurrences will either give you money or take it away from you. These occurrences also include a couple of minigames: Pachinko and horse racing. The earlier you drop balls to try to land the correct targets to maximize the number of balls you sell. The latter is simply betting the odds.
A handful of these will bar you from completing trades, like getting arrested for insider trading or other unethical things that damage your reputation. Or being forced to work a job and thus unable to trade because your financial success is low.
You can also invest in a home and care for yourself, which come with helpful comfort and stress reduction buffs, but they are also extremely costly for those with less money, so they may not always be the best thing to invest in.
STONKS-9800 can break your heart as fast as it makes you fall in love with it. I had one instance where I had invested ¥100,000 in a cat food company, promising me a ¥300,000 return at the end of the year. Their business took off, and I was given an 11 million yen return instead.
Flush with cash; I decided to buy a larger apartment and invest the rest in shorting stocks. But when it came time to settle up my shorts, I quickly found myself bankrupt, and my house sold.
In my latest game, an investment in a video game company netted me a return of ¥560 million, and I am currently living the good life!
It would appear the story mode will have more to do with your bond with Amy, where currently, you can go on a walk with her and learn more about her as you improve your relationship with her. But there will also be further interaction with some of the game’s business people and criminals.
Stonks — A Market Of Bugs
I will not go too hard on STONKS-9800 because it’s still in Early Access, but there are a few painful bugs.
The largest is that time freezes on the “Exchange” page even if you aren’t on pause. This can help you to make trades, but it feels like a bug. I’ve had instances where I’ve found myself stuck on screens, and the only way to fix things is to exit back to the main menu.
The places I’ve experienced most of my issues are in the company profile and purchasable extras menus. Often, interacting with these menus leads to an inability to get back to the home page or interact with the game, aside from quitting and starting the game back up.
I find myself trapped in the world of buying and selling! STONKS-9800 has me hooked and enjoying every trade and every minute. There are a few issues here with performance, but that’s what Early Access is for. And there’s a clear indication of a lot of care going into the game, so expect it to be an experience that’s trading up.
[This impression article is based on a preview-build offered by the publisher.]