An anime girl with purple hair stands in front of a stock market background with an up arrow. The logo for Stonks 9800 sits in front of the image.

STONKS-9800: Stock Market Simulator Early Access Review

Game: STONKS-9800: Stock Market Simulator
Genre: Simulation
System: Steam (Windows, macOS, Linux); will be available for consoles after Early Access (Switch, Xbox One, Series S/X, PS4, PS5)
Developer|Publisher: TERNOX
Controller Support: None
Price: UK £7.65 | US $8.99 | EU € 8,77
Release Date: July 17, 2023

Review code provided with many thanks to GTP Media

STONKS-9800: Stock Market Simulator is a weird little stock market simulation that takes place in the 1980s and 1990s. Players are a young professional, buying and selling stocks to make money.

The First Hour of STONKS 9800 Gameplay

How To Win At the Japanese Stock Market in 1980

STONKS-9800: Stock Market Simulator is currently in Early Access, but there is a lot to do. Players can buy and trade stocks, buy real estate to rent out, donate money, and connect with companies to upgrade your stats. Players start with stats of all 0, and they earn points based on choosing good deals, staying away from shady deals and the Yakuza, donating to charity, and making that sweet, sweet dough.

An anime girl with purple hair, an 80's style outfit, and a clipboard tells the player about a potential deal.
Sometimes, Amy will let you know if a deal looks shady, or if it looks good, but most of the time she leaves you to try to figure it out.

Players also have to keep track of their stress levels, which are raised by losing money, not having enough cash to live on, going to shareholders’ meetings, and making speeches. If players are stressed for too long, they can end up in the hospital. To keep those stress levels low, make sure to have some relaxing time out on the town, and take every opportunity to go on vacation.

Players should also invest wisely, buy themselves a comfortable car, and live in a comfortable house to raise their happiness levels and lower their stress.

One side of the screen is a pixelated photo of a Japanese-style bar. The other side of the screen has three graphs that chart the player's happiness, comfort, and stress levels. A popup asks if you want to stay at the bar or go home.
I can’t leave the bar yet, I’m still too stressed out.

STONKS-9800: Stock Market Simulator is Very Silly

STONKS-9800 is a silly game; it doesn’t take itself very seriously. There are some references and little jokes hidden in the game; people familiar with internet meme culture can probably already pick one of these little jokes out just from the feature image; “Stonks” is a reference to a meme. It’s all about mocking bad financial decisions; people can say “Stonks” in reply to any bad financial news. This meme is usually used in reply to those who have lost a lot of money in a very high risk environment, such as crypto or meme stocks.

A mannequin in a business suit with its arms crossed, standing in front of a stock photo of the stock market. An arrow points upward, and the word "stonks" is below it.
The original Stonks in all its glory.

An example of this might be if you spent $300 on lottery tickets and won $20. That would be a classic case of stonks.

There are tons of other little fun bits in this game, like a reference to Animal Crossing‘s Nook, but I don’t want to spoil anymore of them. Needless to say, I chuckled along several times as the years chugged by and I built my massive stock of stocks.

A pixelated pachinko board has spinning and moving obstacles that the balls must make it through to get into the numbered slots at the bottom.
You can play Pachinko, bet on races, and other luck-bases gambling games.

The Look and Feel of Stonks-9800 is the 1980s Vibe I Wanted

Stonks-9800 takes place in the 1980s, and players get the full 1980s vibe from the second they turn the game on. From the CRT look of the graphics, the colors, and the soundtrack, everything reads like it’s really some day back in the 1990s, and you are forced to do all your stock trading on 5 bites of ram and a color pallet that consisted the massive pixels being either black or green.

I felt like I was back gaming on my Commodore 64 from way back in the day, but with a much, much better soundtrack. Everything in this game is vibrant, colorful, and interesting.

Amy stands in front of a sunset in a revealing red dress, asking the player about what life could have been like.
I’m not sure that’s an appropriate dress for work, Amy, but you look stunning!

There’s a subplot that runs through STONKS-9800, and it focuses on your assistant, Amy. She’s a very pretty girl that works for you, and you can take her out on walks together, chat with her, and upgrade your friendship with her. She is a pretty anime girl that helps you with annual reports and keeping track of the news of the day. I just want to say that Amy has the most 1980s and 1990s outfits I have ever seen, and I love them. Amy is great; we love Amy and her killer dresses. She’s like a hip 1980s Barbie.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be an end goal with Amy in the game. A recent update has made it so Amy will ask you to go on walks instead of you having to remember to go to her screen and chat with her to maybe get a walk prompt, but you stay friends. I’ve managed to level Amy’s friendship level very, very high, but you never get the opportunity to take her on a date or anything. I hope this changes in the full game; I think it would add an interesting new aspect to STONKS-9800 that would make it even more interesting.

The Downsides of STONKS-9800

It’s really hard to be too tough with any aspect of games that are in Early Development, but STONKS-9800 feels mostly done; it just needs a little bit of clean up and the promised added Story Mode, and it will be amazing. But to briefly stat the some handful of issues I had:

  • There were a handful of times that the colors of the graphs on the background were difficult for me to see. Here’s an example:
Colored lines show the ups and downs of the market; each color of line is for a different company. One line is a very dark blue on a black background, making it hard to see.
That Blue line is so hard for me to read.
  • I never once won the racing game, and I played hours of STONKS-9800. I stopped even going to the race track because the horse I bet on literally never won. Maybe I’m unlucky, but it sure felt weighted. Was that on purpose?
  • The music was all a bop, but it did get a little repetitive.
  • There didn’t seem to be anything I myself could do if I was stressed out. Like, I could sell bad investments, but that didn’t seem to bring down the stress level. I mostly just had to wait until a vacation event, relaxing event, or a bar event happened so I could kick the stress. I ended up in the hospital several times.
  • I got arrested once for insider trading, which was frustrating, but also really funny. So like, don’t do what I did.
  • As mentioned above, I wish there was more interacts possible with Amy.
  • STONKS-9800 is challenging, especially on higher levels. I have played through on Easy, Normal, and Hard, but not Realistic. I found that the game really rewards you for selling all your stocks and relying on rent income instead, because nothing can ever go wrong with your houses. No broken AC or bad tennats. Everyone pays their rent on time and each house makes you money forever. There needs to be something that forces players to stay in the stock market to keep the end game from being “get out of stocks asap.”

The Pros of STONKS-9800

A character sheet of attributes is filled with different numbers for each stat.
Me and Amy are gonna be the best of friends.
  • This game is super addictive, colorful, fun, and has killer music.
  • STONKS-9800 has the Barbie vibe everyone is into right now.
  • You can adjust all the CRT settings to your liking! Every game should have adjustment settings like this.
  • There are several difficulty levels, so you can pick your poison.
  • Did I mention how adorable Amy is?
  • You can buy new houses and cars basically whenever you feel like it.
  • Each season of the year has its own color palette, music, and holidays.
  • A recent update added color blind helpers for the charts; if you hover over any stock name, it will highlight the line on the graph for you.
Amy lists off why players should take care of their health and lower their stress.
I will take better care of myself for you, Best Friend Forever Amy!

Conclusion

I love this game! I wasn’t sure if STONKS-9800 would be my jam, but it was everything I didn’t know I wanted. It’s beautiful, weird, unique, and so fun. I cannot recommend this title enough!

Final Verdict: Two Thumbs Up
Two thumbs up

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