It’s been a few... months since the last first hour review, but that’s okay, I’m happy with everything else I’ve been doing with my extra time, and you’re probably happy because you’re reading this and not the comment section of my Persona 3: FES review.
So while I have your attention, let’s talk quickly about Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny. Rune Factory is a shoot-off series of Harvest Moon, and I’ve talked about both sets of games quite a bit here. I’ve never really enjoyed console Harvest Moon games since the Nintendo 64, and never played the previous console Rune Factory game, so I decided to take a chance and try out Tides of Destiny for the PlayStation 3 (also available on the Wii). Honestly, part of me just wanted a game I could play in front of the kids since Uncharted 2 and Metal Gear Solid 4 don’t go over very well.
This will be an incredibly informal first hour, as I didn’t even bother to take notes, but I suppose if you’re looking for a formal first hour review you would have gone somewhere else a long time ago.
Last year I cobbled together a list of multiplayer games I was thankful for during the United States' Thanksgiving holiday season. From Chip 'n Dale to Halo, playing great games with friends is undoubtedly one of the best things about video gaming. This year, I'd like to call out the game that reminds me as much about Thanksgiving as turkey and stuffing: Harvest Moon.
Even the name conjures up the best autumnal memories, and while the game doesn't really have anything to do with giving thanks, I still strongly associate this time of year with Harvest Moon. Undoubtedly, it has to do with the game's central objective of running a farm and harvesting basic crops that are found during most Thanksgiving meals, and maybe the themes of starting a family ring true in my life, too.
I still return to the original Harvest Moon sometimes, though it's been out nearly 15 years and surpassed by a few other titles in the series, the game is still very fun to play. The formula hasn't changed greatly over the years, but even at the beginning it feels polished. It's amazing how much Natsume got right the first time around and how fans and critics have stuck with the series for so long. It's a testament to Harvest Moon's simple yet deep design that it so successfully established a niche. The series has evolved and gone off the rail a few times, but some things never change.
Here's to Harvest Moon, hope my American readers had a great Thanksgiving holiday.
Like many, I was first introduced to the concept of farming simulation via an obscure Facebook title called Farmville. Not sure if that game flopped or not, but I didn't stick around too long to find out as the idea of caring for crops day in, day out did little to excite me. Sure, I like managing and being organized and earning faux money, but in the end, there wasn't really much to do with Farmville other than pester friends with countless requests and click on the same things over and over. After some time passed, I got the hankering again to water some crops and decided to give Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon a try; unfortunately, despite being a farming simulator with bonus RPG dungeon-crawling elements, I still wasn't entertained.
Scanning the shelves of my local GameStop recently, I noticed a bunch of other Harvest Moon games on the DS. Like, a ton. There were at least three sitting eye-level, staring me in the face, begging to be watered. And I got that itch again. I decided to give the most newest title a chance. Let's see if Harvest Moon: Grand Bazaar is different enough to grow into something fun, something edible.
Harvest Moon has been one of my favorite video games series, but with as many Harvest Moon titles that have been released, there are bound to be a few that just don't click with me. This has been happening more often than I would like of late with my favorite farming simulator, and I blame that on essentially the two different series Harvest Moon has become. Ignoring all the spinoffs such as Rune Factory, Frantic Farming, and Innocent Life, the series essentially split at the Back To Nature/Friends of Mineral Town point about ten years ago.
Back to Nature for the PS1 was the first non-Nintendo Harvest Moon game and expanded on the previous console release, Harvest Moon 64. An enhanced remake/port was released for the GBA titled Friends of Mineral Town which I consider to be the quintessential Harvest Moon title. But at this point, the PS2 and GameCube were out, and the developers started going down the road of fancier 3D graphics on the conoles while basically every portable iteration has been based on the Friends of Mineral Town structure.
So what I call the portable Harvest Moon series is built on a very solid set of gameplay elements: farming, foraging, mining, and relationships. All aspects of the game are well-tuned and are balanced decently. On the consoles, it's a completely different story: we get a mish-mash of unbalanced, poorly tuned gameplay elements planted in a boring looking 3D world. The console "series" has suffered like this since Save the Homeland on the PS2, but I mostly blame A Wonderful Life, the first Harvest Moon game I ever played that I really, truly hated.
Magical Melody, of course, falls into the console series. Released on the GameCube in 2006 and then re-released on the Wii in 2008, Magical Melody continues the sorry Harvest Moon console tradition of not being very much fun. Whoops, did I spoil the first hour for you?
I've actually been sitting on this first hour review for an entire year, I had it completely written except for this introduction. I'm not really sure what I was waiting for; I think through a combination of Magical Melody being an older, quite unexciting game combined with the fact that it's a sorry game from one of my favorite series made me hold off. But I really need to get it off my to-do list, so here you go, the first hour of Harvest Moon: Magical Melody for the GameCube.
I began playing Rune Factory 2 almost 14 months ago, I enjoyed the original Rune Factory but thought there were quite a few flaws that needed to be dealt with. With the inevitable Harvest Moon sequel, I knew that I would have a chance to play their next iterations of the "fantasy Harvest Moon" series.
Rune Factory 2 was released in late 2008 but I didn't bother picking it up until a year later, the Nintendo DS is probably my most played platform so there are a lot of games to get to. I played pretty hardcore for a month, which ultimately, probably is what did me in. I was making cash hand over fist and it wasn't even the end of the first Spring; my farming was so profitable but time-consuming that I burned myself out.
I picked up the game again a few months later and managed pretty successfully to continue where I left off: making lots of money and not actually having a lot of fun. I hate to blame myself for this though as the game readily enabled me every step of the way, but my extensive Harvest Moon knowledge and wealth of strategies certainly didn't help either.
My notes on the game have been languishing for months though, so I'd like to get my thoughts on the game out there in the wild. I'm horribly late to the party as Rune Factory 3 was released in November, but to not comment on a game I played for tens of hours seems like a travesty when I write a thousand words on games I beat in eight hours. So please note that this is not a review, but merely an observation of my experiences, there will be no score awarded for obvious reasons.
Once a series becomes too large for its own good, spin-offs and genre breaking games are inevitable. The success of these tangents rests on many factors, including the potential new genre and charisma of side characters now carrying their own game (Wario did this particularly well). When someone thinks Harvest Moon, their mind is probably drawn to the obvious farming or dating aspects. The pace of the games are slow and require hours upon hours of playing for the player to feel immersed in their new agriculture world. When the series is focused on this, the games can be very good. They even managed to spin off the Rune Factory series successfully after injecting some action RPG elements into the somewhat stale formula.
What you can't imagine them spinning off though is a fast-paced puzzle game set in the Harvest Moon world, but they've tried twice already. Natsume's first attempt was Puzzle de Harvest Moon in 2007, a game I played for about 20 minutes before getting bored. The game was received poorly, I guess there just aren't a lot of gamers begging for a mediocre puzzle game based on crops.
Well, they tried again in 2009, this time with Harvest Moon: Frantic Farming. From what I can tell, it seems to be almost the exact same puzzle game as we played a few years prior, but this time wrapped in a text heavy story featuring the brain dead characters of Sunshine Islands. Yay... Here's my full review of Harvest Moon: Frantic Farming on the Nintendo DS.
I buy a lot of my games used, most of them, in fact. I can't even remember the last game before Mass Effect 2 that I purchased brand new in a box, it's just something I've decided is both out of my budget and totally unnecessary. I've already beaten 13 games this year and have enjoyed most of them, and through a combination of buying used on Amazon, borrowing from friends, presents, spending money on deals for digital games, and a few lucky review copies from publishers, I calculated I've spent less that $100 on games this year, and that was with the $70 Mass Effect 2 Collector's Edition!
So when confronted with the idea of spending $60 on a new game that will be available for $40 in three weeks, $25 in three months, or $10 in three years, I generally think twice. The used game market is my friend, and I play both sides of it. However, sometimes an older game suddenly strikes my attention and I'm quickly making what seems like a steal of a deal, only to be burned later when I find out the game I received is actually a fake, a bootleg, a counterfeit cartridge or disc.
I've determined over the years that there are warning signs for bootleg games, so I'd like to share them with you. These are just general warnings, and even if you follow all of them you might receive something fake. I'm also not discouraging anyone from buying used games online, as I think they're extremely valuable resources that save gamers tons of money.
This was originally going to be part of my Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap review from yesterday, but I decided to break it into its own post as I believe the information stands on its own.
I've been going through my large collections of games lately, which numbers in the hundreds, deciding if I can pass any of them off to gamers who can actually appreciate them for what they are. Not only do I have tons of games, but for 95% of them, I also still have their original box and manual. This makes some of them rather valuable for the collector, and hopefully I can provide.
However, there are a few games which I simply can not give up, some are worth quite a bit, others... well, they're mostly just meaningful to me. Let's take a nostalgic walk through some of the rare, obscure, and classic games I own that I could never give up.
Rune Factory is the "Harvest Moon with swords." This is still the craziest thing I have ever heard and I just beat the stinking game! If you would have told me 10 years ago that the Harvest Moon game I loved would one day feature swords and magic and monsters and bosses, I would have thought that was pretty crazy. Of course, the series has evolved a lot since that first game and Rune Factory is just the latest one off that Natsume has been experimenting with the last few years. I think they were successful with a fantasy Harvest Moon though, but there are some problems. Let's just get right into the good and the bad.
Harvest Moon was a Super Nintendo sleeper that proved to be unique combination of gameplay and originality that received a small, but devoted following. Natsume released numerous sequels over the last 10 years trying a few different formulas, but the original has always worked the best. Harvest Moon is definitely not for everyone, however. The game moves very slow, and does not introduce the player to the core concepts very well. The player has to conduct much trial and error to figure out many things, and the weak translation doesn't help either. Let's see how the first hour of Harvest Moon progresses.