Friday, November 11, 2011

Review: Harvest Moon: Tale of Two Towns (3DS)

Title: Harvest Moon: Tale of Two Towns
System: Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS
ESRB Rating: E
Number of Players: 1
Buy It:
Before we start off, let me say this: for all intents and purposes, this review is for the 3DS version of Harvest Moon: A Tale of Two Towns. Other than 3D effects, an animal-petting minigame, and the 3DS region-locking, I know of no differences between the two versions. Now, with that out of the way, let's get to talking about HM:ToTT!

The Harvest Moon games have remained mostly unchanged since the franchise started in 1996 on the SNES. As much a dating simulation as it is a farming simulation, it has a niche following in the United States, making it a small - but successful - franchise. Other than some graphic re-hauling over the years, the main HM franchise has always been about two things: rising up to create a successful farm, and finding yourself a spouse. In that regard, HM: Two Towns does nothing new. But the new things it does bring has kept me interested and occupied.

The most interesting part of Two Towns is that you can choose which town you want to live in at the beginning of the game. The first choice is the farming village Konohana, a tranquil and pretty Japanese-inspired town that centers around raising crops over livestock. On the other side of the mountain, you have your second option: the town of Bluebell, a more European-looking town that centers its income on raising livestock. No matter which town you choose, you can utilize the land on both farms. (This makes it easy to live in Bluebell and raise a lot of livestock and still use the fields in Konohana to raise long-lasting crops like soybeans, corn, tomatoes, etc.) Living in Bluebell is almost like cheating. Living in Konohana is a lot more typical of other Harvest Moon games: being broke all the time and struggling to get the money needed for important things like seeds, fertilizer, and pet food.

Other activities - fishing, bug gathering, and foraging - are back from other games and work just as well as they ever have. Fishing has a new option, though: you can now wade into shallow water and catch fish with your hands by walking up to them and hitting the "A" button. These tiny fish can't be used in cooking, but they can be sold for ten to thirty gold and be used to fulfill requests for villagers.

The 3D graphics add a cute shadow effect to the game, but overall isn't worth the ten dollars extra you have to plunk down for it. The 3DS-exclusive animal petting minigame, however, makes your animals friendlier faster, and is an interesting benefit to getting the enhanced version.

In spite of everything that Two Towns is doing right, though, classic HM bugs are still present. The game freezes periodically and at random times, and when your only option for saving is before you go to bed, a lot of things can be lost. Additionally, the game lags when there's a lot of things going on: riding your horse while other livestock roams around in their pens will cause the game to slow a little bit. In 3D mode, it's motion-sick inducing. In 2D, it's just annoying. The last thing that this game has wrong with it - really, really wrong - is that the weather system only kind of works. Listen to the radio before you go to bed, and it will tell you what the weather for the present day and the next day will be. There's about a 45% chance that the weather forecast for the next day will be wrong, making it confusing and difficult to plan ahead for the next day, especially for weather-specific events like flower events and figuring out what to do with your livestock for the day.

Overall, Harvest Moon: The Tale of Two Towns is fun and addicting. The typical bugs are still present, but are as much a part of the Harvest Moon experience as courting a villager.

Bottom Line: Mostly the same Harvest Moon, but with an interesting addition of choosing where you can specialize. It's a welcome - and interesting - change. Typical HM bugs are still present and more annoying than ever.

Final Score: 8/10

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Topic: Gaming - Pokemon

Gaming is an important part of my lifestyle. What little time I have left between chillaxin' with friends, writing, homework, and life screwing me over, I dedicate to gaming. It's something that was in the house before I got there, and I'll be taking with me to my own household, when I finally decide to strike it out on my own.And one of the franchises that's been in my house since I was a small child was Pokemon. It's a staple in the house, along with Mario, Zelda, Ratchet and Clank, Spyro the Dragon (the original Insomniac games), and Crash Bandicoot (the Naughty Dog games.)

But lately, I've been catching shit for the whole Pokemon thing. No one can give me a reason why, but I'll suspect that it's "Hurrr, you still play Pokemon. You should grow up." But you know what? I loves me some Pokemon games, even now.

Above left: What someone who makes fun of
my Pokemon habit looks like.
There's a mix of reasons for that. One, Pokemon Blue was the first game that was ever truly mine. I didn't have to share it with anyone. I got to play my game, on my GameBoy Color. And the feeling was amazing. Two, I like seeing the games evolve into what they've become today (inb4 sellout.) Three, I still enjoy the hell out of them for what they are - a solid strategy RPG. And four, the spinoffs are fun too.

Now, before you go jumping down my throat about being in my 20s and still playing games designed for children, take a second to stop and think for a second: if you do, you'll look like that guy up there. Do you really want to look like that guy up there? Nah, didn't think so.

The main games in the Pokemon franchise are, whether you like it or not, solid tactical RPGs that're pretty damn customizable. And if you're really into it, it opens a whole new set of doors into the mechanics of the whole thing. Essentially, there's two tiers to everything in a Pokemon game: a casual tier, where you can just play through the story, get your badges, and battle your friends over local wi-fi. And then there's the hardcore tier, where you can specially train your Pokemon for their best stats (IV and EV training,) competitively battle with others, or set special rules that you have to follow throughout the course of your journey. (Go watch a Nuzlocke challenge on YouTube or read the comic on to get a better idea of what it is and to see how srs bns Pokemon can get.)

And it's not just the mainstream games that get that treatment, it's spinoffs as well. And everyone knows that when it comes to spinoffs, Pokemon is pretty damn successful. (Just off the top of my head, there's the Pinball franchise, Mystery Dungeon, Ranger, Stadium/Colosseum, PokePark, the upcoming Rumble Blast and more that I know I'm blanking on.) And when Pokemon does a spinoff, they do it right. PMD (Pokemon Mystery Dungeon) is one of the best mystery dungeon games I've ever played. (Keep an eye out for a post on those in the coming couple weeks.) Pokemon Stadium entertained me for literal months when I was a kid, and still does. There's a few horrible games in the franchise, sure, but every franchise has their weak spots.

Any way you slice it, Pokemon's not just for kids anymore. As long as adults can have fun too, Pokemon will continue being everyone's game.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Announcing a spin-off blog!

So, as we all know, I'm young and insane.

And as you may not know, I've got severe wanderlust.

With one more semester ahead of me before I get my Associate's in Creative Writing, I've been thinking more and more seriously about something I've thought about since I first got my car: a road trip. Not just any road trip, mind you: this would be a road trip for the ages. To go out and see what you've never seen, to do what you've never done, to live like you've never lived.

That's my goal, after I graduate. To go out on an epic road trip and do, see, eat, and experience things I've never done/seen/eaten/experienced before. You can check out the new blog, Smart Across America, and see what my plans are. And when I finally get going on my trip, it'll be everyone's main way to creep on what I'm doing, where I'm going, where I've been, and where I'll be going next.

In the meantime, during pre-trip, feel free to suggest places for me to go/eat/see/do. I'll admit, while I've been doing research myself, sometimes the best things to do are the ones that you learn about from other people. The blog is empty and sad right now, but check back. I'll start putting things up soon!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Power Outages and Lacks of Updates

So, you might have heard about the recent snowstorm that pummelled the Northeast. We're out of power here, and that means a lack of updates. I have a few scheduled for the coming days, but unfortunately, until powe is restored, there won't be anything new from here after the last few post. Hang tight, I'll be back soon!