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Rune Factory: Frontier First Impressions

Rune Factory: Frontier

If you took video game fans, and divided them up into different groups you might feel reminiscent of high school. You’d have the jocks who love sports games, or the Ogres (Revenge of the Nerds Reference) who love their FPS’s, then you’d have the agriculture club who simply loves to farm (Harvest Moon). Ogre Revenge of the NerdsI’d be hanging out with everyone because I love all genres of gaming, but for some reason I’ve always had this strange attraction to Harvest Moon. My first foray into this sub-genre of gaming took place on the Nintendo 64. Once I planted my first turnip seed, I was addicted. Getting married to Karen, and having her gather eggs in the morning. Greatest moment of gaming material.

Next to Super Punch-Out, which I have close to 700-800 hours of game time I’d say Harvest Moon 64 is my most played game of all time. Since, I’ve played numerous iterations of HM, even the original on the SNES. None have quite captured what HM 64 was able to. It was simple, yet demanding, and the gameplay was very smooth. I had heard about Rune Factory on the DS, and thought that it was very interesting concept. Integrating dungeon crawling into the farming-sim aspect seemed cool enough. My initial thought is that they’d trade in the laid back, go at it your own pace feeling by adding combat so I never played the DS titles.

Kind of disappointed that I didn’t.

After playing Rune Factory: Frontier, I can safely say that it’s on par with Harvest Moon 64. As I dive deeper into everything the game has to offer, it could have the potential to surpass HM 64’s greatness. I’ve only played through my first season (Spring), and it’s already hard to begin explaining everything the game has to offer.

At the very beginning, you’re treated to an anime inspired intro movie. Which is very well animated. The story is quite simple: Raguna (you) is following a long time friend by the name of Mist as she left her home for unknown reasons. You end up tracking her down to the small village of Trampoli. Instead of bringing her back, you decide to stay yourself and raise a farm. After the first season, not much has come from the main story yet. Only that Mist hears some voices throughout the village. Schizo, or something sinister afoot? Only time will tell.

If I had to describe Rune Factory: Frontier in one word, it would be ‘depth’. With only one season completed, there’s already more to do than in most HM games I’ve played. You of course have your farm, which starts out a bit small. The reason being is more of the obstacles you have to clear requires tools you don’t have yet. So the amount of land you have to work with is minimal. Not complaining yet though, because there’s much more to the game than farming. Everything works just like in previous Harvest Moons. You clear out a patch of land, you till it, plant your seeds, water them, wait for them to grow, and then sell them for money or give them to your neighbors. Or use the to create recipes for cooking.

Rune Factory: Frontier Screenshot 1
Even with all the additions to the game, farming is still the main crutch of the gameplay.

The second element of the game that is introduced to you is interacting with the villagers, and heroines. The heroines are the main part of your social life in Trampoli. These are the bachelorettes you’ll have to woo into loving you, then eventually marrying you. I stated in the title of the post that this is a ‘first impression’. I really haven’t decided who I’m courting yet, but I can say it will be hard decision. I actually like all of the bachelorettes I’ve run into so far. Which is strange because Karen in HM 64 is the only candidate I could stand in that game.

The final aspect of the game that I find so rewarding is the sense of exploration. The game highly rewards those who are curious and seek out everything there is to find in Trampoli. I’ve found a numerous amounts of things to do, just by seeking things out. Nothing is handed to you in this game, so if you get stuck you’ll have to discover what you need to progress.

One of the game’s first discoveries is Whale Island. This is the main dungeon of the game, and is where most of my time has been spent when I’m not working my farm. The main section of dungeon exploring is combat. Like most things in Harvest Moon games, it’s simple, yet addictive. It’s an action based gameplay, that relies on stats, but also on your maneuverability. Once you get good at dodging, and attacking it becomes easy to go through some parts of the dungeon without taking damage. A cool aspect of the dungeons is being able to grow crops in them. Your options for what to do with the crops increases in dungeons. You can sell them, eat them, or leave them there to grow Rune crystals. These items will help replenish your RP, which is the energy bar that is found in other HM games.

There are certain parts of the game I’ve just now started, or haven’t tried yet. Runey harvesting is probably the most intriguing aspect of the game, and most complicated. Each area of the world has ‘runey’s attached to them. They’re collection of spirits that have manifested themselves into different forms. There’s rock runeys, tree runeys, grass runeys, and water runeys. They all have different effects, and will do certain things to the land. For example having an abundance of grass runeys will help grow your crops faster. I haven’t truly dived into the runey harvesting yet, but it has the potential to be deep and rewarding.

My largest gripe with the game so far, is how fast everything flies at you. I’m only a season in, and I feel as though most of the major aspects of the game are already available to me. You still have to earn certain portions of the game, it all just seems to happen really fast. For example, I’ve built my barn and it didn’t even take a hour of my day. It just happened automatically. Which goes against the slow, methodical spirit of HM. This is but a small gripe though, as I’m sure there’s still a lot of surprises yet to come.

Graphically, this is probably the most beautiful game I’ve played on the Wii. Easily the most impressive game since Super Mario Galaxy. The world is so dense with flora, that it really feels alive. Even when you till land, and plant crops, it all feels so cohesive and blends nicely. The water is the most impressive graphical feat. I believe that the water effects, and animations rival some that have been seen in Xbox 360, PS3, and PC games. I love the anime inspired cutouts that are used when characters are talking. It adds a wonderful sense of style to the overall design of Rune Factory.

Rune Factory: Frontier Screenshot
This Screenshot doesn’t do the water justice. You have to see it in action to appreciate it.

The music provides a great backdrop to the easy going nature of Rune Factory. I’ve been surprised by the amount of tracks that are available in different areas. It seems like there’s a different song for every building I walk into. The tracks seem to fit the mood with the places I’m visiting. The voice acting is ‘blah’, but luckily it isn’t overused, and you can skip over it if they annoy you too much.

After reading my first impressions, they’re about as long as some reviews. That just shows everything that Rune Factory: Frontier has to offer in such a short time. If even more aspects of gameplay pop up on top of what already is available, then I highly recommend buying this game. You of course have to enjoy farming-sim games (Harvest Moon), but if you do then Rune Factory: Frontier is one you shouldn’t miss.

Onslaught First Impressions

Onslaught

Since first hearing about Onslaught, I had a cautiously optimistic approach to the WiiWare FPS. While I was glad that a developer was willing to take a chance to release a shooter on the downloadable service, it left some doubts floating in my head. After playing the game for myself last night, most of those can be put to rest.

Onslaught is a FPS (First Person Shooter), the first of its kind to release on WiiWare. It cost 1,000 Wii points ($10), and will take up 307 blocks of memory. So be sure and clean house before trying to download.

Before getting into my impressions, I’ll let you know that I played through stage 4, so I put in about 45 minutes into the game. Which is why this is an impressions post, and not a review.

Going off my first impression, I’d say that Onslaught has been my best 1,000 Wii point purchase so far. When you first load up Onslaught, you’re given the option of playing single player or getting together with others online through Nintendo’s WiFi connection. Like I said earlier, I played through the 4th stage, and unfortunately I wasn’t able to connect to the online modes of the game. My internet was working, but for some reason it wasn’t wanting to connect. Not a great first demonstration.

Luckily, my single player experience made up for the lack of a connection. Unfortunately the first aspect of the game to show up is the story that Onslaught tries to tell to setup the action. It involves cyborg insects, and mankind colonization. I’ve setup everything you need to know about the story, so do yourself a favor and skip over the narrative sequences.

I’m usually a big fan of adding epic storytelling to a game, but in Onslaught’s case it hurts more than helps. The reason being, is that the story is completely setup through boring text. Not that reading shouldn’t be involved in a game, but the presentation of the text and lack of any visual stimulation really drags down the setup. I actually think the game would have fared better without a story at all.

It sounds like I’ve been harsh on the game so far. Once the gameplay starts, all the problems with the connection and story fizzle away. Onslaught is a very tight, and fun experience that has a great deal of polish for something you see on WiiWare.

The most important aspect of the game is the controls. The weapon aiming is spot-on, and feels very fluid. It rivals the aiming that was seen in Metroid Prime 3, which is definitely an impressive feat. The mapping of the weapons to the d-pad makes for seamless weapon changing. To reload, you snap your controller to the right which has worked spot-on so far. The motion controls that I’ve utilized so far have been great additions. If a cyborg insect jumps on and bites you, drumming the nunchuk and Wii remote slams it off you. Also, if bug slime gets on your suit, you swipe with the nunchuk to slide it off. The motion controls have been very responsive and have added to the experience instead of detracting it.

Playing through level 4, the game has a very even balance of difficulty. Right now, I’m playing on normal and Onslaught has provided enough of a challenge to keep me on my toes. So far there have been only three kinds of generic enemies, and a boss fight. Although the enemies are repetitive in design, the game sends a massive amount of them at you. You’ll have to maneuver around to stay alive, and you’re always blasting away. The boss fight was very entertaining and provided a decent challenge, and the bug had a massive scale that added great atmosphere.

The graphics of Onslaught are quite impressive for a WiiWare game. The textures aren’t anything that will blow you away, but are crisp enough not to hurt your eyes. The enemies are stylized well enough, and their animations are very fluid. The music, and sound department comes up a bit short though. The music that plays during the story filled parts of the game will put you to sleep. And the gameplay portions aren’t that much better. So far, the only voice acting I’ve heard has come from one line. It’s uttered repeatedly from a squad mate on your team, “That’s why you’re still a kid”. You’ll hear this enough to want to drill a hole in your brain. Like the story, I’m puzzled as to why they included this in the game.

Onslaught so far has been great, but at the same time has left me wanting more. I wish that Hudson would have invested more resources to make the game a retail release. With some higher production values given to the story, and expanding the multiplayer this game could have really been something. As it stands, I can easily recommend you drop down the 1,000 Wii points to play Onslaught. If the rest of the game is anything like the four levels, then I’m in for a treat. Just be prepared to be annoyed by some aspects of the game.

House of the Dead: Overkill First Impressions

House of the Dead: Overkill

I’m not sure why video games and zombies go hand and hand together. Is it the feeling of shooting something in the head to kill it that appeals to gamers? Or is it easier to code AI for the undead that attracts developers? Well, the monsters in House of the Dead: Overkill are apparently mutants, so this discussion of zombies doesn’t matter anyway.

I don’t think I’ve ever played a game that was more deserving of its ‘M’ rated status than House of the Dead: Overkill. During its intro, which has a scantily clad stripper working a pole, you’ll find that House of the Dead: Overkill tries to go over the top and succeeds on nearly every level. On a side note, kudos to Headstrong Games for making the intro credits play in front of a hot stripper. I think it’s the only time I’ve never skipped a credit screen if given the option.

If you’ve seen any of the HotD: Overkill trailers then you know that Headstrong was going after the 70’s B movie horror feel when creating the game. After playing through the first three stages, it’s safe to say they pulled it off well. Everything in the game oozes with campy, horror movie flare. The menus have that gritty, old movie reel look with some hilarious music playing in the background. During my look around all of the menus, I found the aim calibration a little off. I had to move my sensor bar around, and make sure my Wii Zapper was at the right level to get my aim right. Kind of a nuisance.

So, the presentation, music, and stripper intro is nice, but what about the parts that really matter? As I mentioned before, I’ve played through the first three stages. Each stage starts with a cut scene, which all three have nearly went the same. Showing Detective Washington, and Agent G arguing about something, and throwing around f-bombs, like its going out of style. Actually in just the first three stages, I think House of the Dead: Overkill has set a record for most uses of the word f**k in a video game. It’s almost overused, even in the sense that the game is trying to be over the top. There’s a difference between being extreme and just being repetitive.

The story is simple so far, Agent G, and Detective Washington are after a sinister villain named Papa Caesar, who is turning all of Bayou City into crazed mutants. Not ‘zombies’, which Agent G refers to as the “z word”. The story is rather funny, and Papa Caesar fits in wonderfully as a crazed southerner villain.

The meat of the gameplay in House of the Dead: Overkill is a treat to play through. If you’re a fan of earlier installments of HotD, then you should know that Headstrong carries the torch very well. The on-rails experience provides an intense, fast paced gun show that will keep you well entertained. I’ve only played with the Wii Zapper control configuration, which works for the most part. The reload button, which is the ‘A’ button can feel a bit akward at first. You have to slide your finger up and around the zapper to reload, but becomes second nature after awhile. The difficulty has been balanced so far, as you can play a level with minimal mutants or add in more, for a greater challenge.

The levels have been varied so far, along with the mutants themselves. They repeat some, but keeps a good enough variety that it doesn’t repeat too often. The game is beautiful when it’s in motion, but during cutscenes and slower parts of the game some of the edges appear rough and not as polished as it could have been. The old school movie reel look makes its way from the menu into the actual gameplay which is a nice effect. My only gripe is that there have been a few glitches through my play through so far. During parts of the game when the camera has to swing around quickly, there’s hitches that slow the pace of the game down. I’m not sure if its the game just not being able to handle the speed, or if its my disc.

The audio, and voice acting so far has been a delight. I love the menu music, and the tracks for the stages have kept up well with the fast paced arcade gameplay. Detective Washington, and Agent G are voiced well, but I noticed that certain parts of cut scenes that Agent G slows down when talking. I’m not sure if this was on purpose, or if there’s a reason Agent G starts having to sound out his words.

HofD: Overkill looks to have a great amount of extras, and unlockables as you progress. There’s a Gun Shop where you can purchase up to 6 different weapons, if I remember correctly. On top of that you can upgrade your equipment, with cash you’ve earned by playing through the game. There are extras to look out for in the stages as well, with the golden brain, and slo-mo icon. The golden brain is just something to shoot for extra points, but the slo-mo cap is a nice feature. If you shoot the green icons that appear in the stage, everything slows down. It’s not an original element, but is pulled off really well. Everything from the stage’s music, mutants, even the dialogue slows to a crawl. Then, when it speeds back up is pulled off tightly.

From what I’ve played so far, I’d say that House of the Dead: Overkill is definitely worth a look. You have to enjoy arcade style on-rail shooters, and if you do then at least rent this game. The over the top style, is shown off with great flare and you can tell was handled with extra special care. The cursing might get old, not that I’m offended, it’s just overused even in the silly sense they’re shooting for. Beyond the small hitches in the framerate, HotD: Overkill runs smooth, and I’ve definitely been pleased with the purchase. Plus, did I mention there’s a stripper with a pole in the intro?

LIT First Impressions (Spooky, and Challenging)

LIT

LIT, is one game that I’ve been looking forward to since I first heard about it. Last night I took a chance, and decided to download the game to see what it was all about. I only got to play about 20-30 minutes of it, but I’m definitely glad I did.

The idea of mixing horror, and puzzle elements is something traditionally reserved for pre-Resident Evil 4, and in the Silent Hill games. LIT differentiates itself from those games for many reasons I’ve noticed so far. First, LIT is a pure puzzler, atleast from what I’ve played so far. If you’re looking for any kind of high octane action you won’t find it here. LIT trades in gunfire, and explosions for atmosphere and mood. Which it has in spades.
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World Of Goo Is A Freakin Blast – First Impression

I think you can tell by the title of my post how I feel about World Of Goo. If the game keeps going like it is the in the first chapter, then you can expect a full review sometime this week. This is easily the most fun I’ve had with a Nintendo Wii, or any system for that matter in along time. Which is quite impressive as the game was created by two developers (dudes) out in San Francisco. You can visit their site here, for more info on their indie studio.

World Of Goo at its heart is a puzzle themed game, which has more soul and pizazz then you’ll see in any game of its genre. After you first load up World Of Goo, you’ll find the game is broken up into 5 chapters which encompass a loose but charming story for the ‘goo balls’. I’ve only gotten through the first chapter of the game so the story might grow on me even further when I write my full review.

Summarizing the gameplay of World Of Goo is a tricky undertaking. At its heart, World Of Goo is a pretty standard puzzler where you’re building your way from one point in the level to another. A standard level in World Of Goo will have you take your goo balls and connect them to one another to construct an apparatus that can be used to exit the stage. The ‘exit’ point for most of the stages is a pipe where all of the goo balls are trying to be sucked into. It might not sound interesting yet, but that’s because I haven’t talked about the physics engine that gives World Of Goo its life, and fun.

The physics engine that 2D Boy has been able to create for their charming puzzler is nothing short of extraordinary. I can say without doubt that World Of Goo has the best physics I’ve seen since Half Life 2. That’s saying a lot because HL2 is pretty much all about manipulating the environment and having it react accordingly. In World Of Goo this same concept is used but at much simpler level, but is still very engaging.
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First Impression – Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo’s Dungeon

I recently re-subscribed to Gamefly because of all the great single player games that would be coming out. One of the games, de Blob is on its way after a short waiting period. During this time, I’ve had time to play one of my ‘filler’ spots on my Gamefly GameQ, Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo’s Dungeon. Little did I know this filler game would be one that I’d come to appreciate these past few days.

Let me preface this impression/review by saying that Chocobo’s Dungeon is definitely not a game for everyone. If you can look past its shortcomings, you’ll find a fun, and entertaining story to get involved in.

Chocobo
How Can You Not Try A Game Starring The Huggable Chocobo?
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