Review of Outbreak Company

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I sometimes wonder why anime isn’t more popular with mainstream audiences. Shows like Outbreak Company pretty much satisfy any kinky fetish a prospective viewer could have. This twelve-episode anime series (based on Ichiro Sakaki’s light novels) features elves, maids, bespectacled babes with big hooters and adorable lolis for those of you who prefer washboard chests. The author has even tossed the furry demographic a bone by including a canine gal. Perhaps the modest sales of anime can be attributed to western viewers not finding sleazy entertainment to be palatable. That could explain why films based on BDSM or shirtless werewolves perform so poorly at the box office (woo Team Jacob – tosses panties at the screen.)

OVERVIEW

Shinichi Kano is a character whose origins mirror my own. The protagonist of Outbreak Company has led a solitary life after being rejected by a girl. Heartbroken he retreated to his bedroom seeking comfort in video games, manga and anime. Unlike myself, the lucky tosser ended his hermit existence by snagging a sweet government job, whilst I waste away my years doing customer service. To be precise, Shinichi has been appointed an ambassador and sent to a fantasy kingdom accessible via a recently discovered inter-dimensional portal. The nation of Japan wishes to establish trade relations with the medieval Eldant Empire and have asked Shinichi to use his geeky expertise to peddle otaku culture. Really Japan? You prioritize selling cartoons over something useful like electronics? No wonder your economy is in the doldrums.

To help propagate the joys of anime a school is established where Shinichi teaches the locals Japanese, in addition to regaling them with examples of his favourite manga and games. Assisting with the tutoring duties is Shinichi’s well-endowed bodyguard Minori Koganuma – a fellow geek whose passion lies in comics depicting tales of all boy love. Shinichi is also provided with servants in the form of a draconic gardener and a half elf maid. Said maid (who answers to the name Myucel Foaran) becomes enamoured with her master, as he is the first person not to look down on her mixed race roots. Myucel isn’t the only girl to get smitten with Shinichi however. Bratty crown princess Petralka Anne Eldant falls for the Japanese ambassador too. She admires Shinichi’s lack of tact and uses the excuse of attending his classes to escape her humdrum royal duties.

VERDICT

My rating for Outbreak Company is three stars. It’s not the deepest show MVM have released this year, but I still had a lot of fun watching the humorous episodic tales contained in this two-disc DVD set. Whether it’s the tale of a dog girl in heat or a soccer match between magic users and halflings there is seldom a dull moment. The series delivers lashings of gags and thanks to the curriculum taught at Shinichi’s academy there are anime/manga references aplenty. Spotting all the nods to other animated shows was almost as enjoyable as observing the wacky adventures Shinichi and chums get embroiled in. If you don’t catch all the niche references fear not as the localisation team have done a swell job of peppering the screen with handy captions identifying the jokes inspired by lesser known shows.

Despite being a light-hearted series, I applaud Outbreak Company for tackling some serious issues in its narrative. The two-part finale in particular highlights the seedier side of international diplomacy and capitalism. Author Ichiro Sakaki is also fair in presenting the impact of otaku culture on society. On one hand we see how a mutual passion for dating sims can bring rival dwarves and elves together. On the flip side the dangers of anime addiction are highlighted in an episode that sees princess Petralka become a shut in. Beware of doing anything to excess or it will affect your life and work. Speaking of work, I am off to update my CV. I have had enough of dealing with disgruntled customers. If the UK government advertises a vacancy for Narnia ambassador I am so applying!

Review of Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse (Part Two)

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Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse returns, roughly two months after the first installment appeared in UK retail stores, courtesy of a DVD set containing the show’s remaining twelve episodes. MVM Entertainment’s release coincides with news that the visual novels, which the anime is based on, are finally getting a western localization thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign. The project secured the necessary funding after a mere eight hours and at the time of writing has accrued over $780k worth of pledges (the developers originally only asked for $250k.) Great news for readers who love romance and mechs, but is this sort of thing really within the spirit of Kickstarter? The service was concocted to bring niche products to life, these days however established companies are exploiting the site to generate capital and produce popular games with zero financial risk.

OVERVIEW

Part two of Muv-Luv Alternative begins by wrapping up the last DVD’s cliffhanger. Test pilot Yuuya Bridges flies off to a military base, which is being assaulted by alien invaders, with the aims of rescuing love interest Yui Takamura. After saving Yui and successfully securing a top-secret weapon that the Ruskies wanted to nab, Yuuya is treated to some well deserved leisure time. Despite being nicknamed Top Gun, Yuuya uses the break to visit a local hot springs rather than engage in homoerotic volleyball at the beach. Perverts who were left unsatisfied by part one’s obligatory swimsuit episode are sure to enjoy the trip to the springs. It delivers several topless shots of the female cast (and the blokes too if you are into that sort of thing.)

The remainder of the series features test pilots of various nations partaking in a robot-fighting tournament, to determine which country produces the finest mechs. Holding a sporting competition during times of war seems a bit frivolous, but I can sort of understand why the studio would want to focus more on bot versus bot battles. The visual effects used for the mechanical Tactical Surface Fighters are decent whilst the CG aliens look hideous. Alas the contest is interrupted when terrorists attack the base hosting the event. The surprise assault leads to a chaotic finale were Yuuya finds himself squaring off against religious fanatics and a swarm of BETA invaders who could potentially destroy the North American continent.

VERDICT

My rating for Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse (Part 2) is three stars. It’s not a series I would emphatically recommend, but if you were entertained by part one there is no harm in checking out this second collection. Back when I watched the first part I commented that the series had some cool ideas, which were let down by disjointed storytelling. Part two is sadly more of the same. Rather than build upon what has previously been established the anime continues to introduce more and more plot threads into the mix, oblivious to the fact that the series is rapidly running out of episodes. Perhaps the writers were under the assumption that they had more time to play with? Episode twenty’s change in opening credits seems to suggest that a second season may have been planned, but was subsequently aborted.

I think Muv-Luv would have worked better had it stuck to one genre. The series skirts between political skulduggery, visceral action and comedic harem moments akin to what Code Geass does. Muv-Luv is however no Code Geass – heck it’s not even on the level of Cross Ange. The script is particularly weak when it comes to romance. None of the relationships develop significantly, so all we get are skits showing the female support cast go weak at the knees whenever Yuuya appears onscreen. In his presence, a trio of ice queens inexplicably transform into a bashful brunette, an emotionless beauty who questions the meaning of love and a psychotic wannabe fiancĂ©e. Who Yuuya will end up with is left up in the air, as is mankind’s conflict with the BETA. What happens next? We shall never know… unless someone starts a Kickstarter to make more episodes.

Review of Kung Fu Rabbit

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Martial arts seem to be very popular among members of the animal kingdom. Back in the eighties, turtles were known to dabble in ninjutsu and 2008 showed us that husky pandas are no slouches when it comes to practicing Kung Fu. Next up for a trip to the dojo are the bunnies, courtesy of Kung Fu Rabbit. This adorable platformer has been doing the rounds on the mobile phone circuit for a number of years and is now available to purchase on the PS Vita. Sounds good to me. I much prefer buttons and a D-Pad, to touch screen controls, in games that demand precise jumping. The Vita version is also a buy once and your done deal, free of annoying micro transactions. No, I don’t want to spend a month’s wage on more energy or a tacky sombrero for my character. Let me game in peace!

OVERVIEW

Peckish aliens have landed on Earth and kidnapped all the baby hares, which they intend to devour once they figure out how to operate a microwave (and how to open doors if the movie Signs is to be believed.) Thankfully, for the sequestered cottontails, Kung Fu Rabbit has hopped into action – determined to save the long eared toddlers from becoming an extra terrestrial appetizer. To rescue his kin Kung Fu Rabbit will have to clear a multitude of levels that are protected by space invaders, traps and pits bubbling with toxic goo. Circumventing the aforementioned dangers will require the scaling of walls in addition to meticulous leaping (good thing then that the titular hero is a rabbit and not an elephant.)

Despite his name, Kung Fu Rabbit isn’t proficient at unarmed combat. Impacting with an enemy normally results in instantaneous death, unless you are fortunate enough to strike the foe’s weak spot (normally situated on their back.) With this in mind it is advisable to nab all the carrots found strewn across each stage. Not only are the orange vegetables a good source of vitamin A, but they can also be used to purchase a plethora of power-ups. The beneficial items on offer endow Mr Rabbit with enhanced speed, the ability to glide or go on the offensive with the “death from above” manoeuvre. Said skill allows our hero to vanquish hostiles by jumping on their noggins. Hmmm. Perhaps the protagonist should be renamed from Kung Fu Rabbit to Moustached Plumber Rabbit?

VERDICT

Kung Fu Rabbit is the type of game that justifies my monthly expenditure on a PS Plus subscription. Were it not for that service, offering the game in their October bundle of free downloads, I would have never discovered this gem (as I seldom buy platformers.) Why can’t all subscription services be this good? YouTube has just announced a Red membership that allows you to download clips and hide adverts for ten dollars. Um… I think I will pass. I can already do those things for free. The offer is ill thought out, just like branding the service YouTube Red. The name immediately conjures images of Redtube – a site I would not advise browsing at work.

Moving back on topic, Kung Fu Rabbit is a download I can highly recommend. The gameplay is fun, the controls are responsive and the level designs are creative. I also dug the cutesy graphics and square shaped design of the main character – a nod perhaps to Super Meat Boy, which the game somewhat resembles. Much like Super Meat Boy, Kung Fu Rabbit can be challenging at times but the difficulty never caused me to pull my “hare” out in frustration. The levels are rather short so restarting a stage isn’t a big deal. In terms of length the game contains eighty levels with replay value coming in the form of a hidden hard mode. Completionists will also strive to collect all the carrots on offer, which is what I am currently doing. I need 100 more root vegetables to buy (yes you guessed it) the tacky Mexican sombrero.

FINAL RATING: FOUR STARS

Review of A Certain Scientific Railgun

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A Certain Scientific Railgun is an anime series set in the same universe as A Certain Magical Index. The show takes place in the technologically advanced Academy City, which is predominately populated by students. It’s a bit like Cambridge then, with the only difference being that Academy City’s undergraduates are blessed with supernatural powers whilst Cambridgeshire is packed with bicycle riding tax dodgers. Protagonist Mikoto Misaka is a mighty esper who can turn loose change into a deadly weapon, courtesy of her ability to manipulate electrical currents. Despite being a pupil at Tokiwadai Middle School, Mikoto sometimes assists law enforcement with their criminal investigations.

OVERVIEW

One thing that shocked me (and I am not commenting on Mikoto’s aptitude for controlling electricity) about this series is the lack of action featured in season one’s twenty-four episodes. The storylines are more skewed towards slice of life comedy rather than Mikoto zapping evildoers, which is a little disappointing. Scientific Railgun excels when the heroine is allowed to unleash her might upon a worthy adversary – pity then that viewers have to wade through a lot of goofy filler to reach those moments. The adolescent antics of the cast can be amusing at times, but for the most part they pale in comparison to other funnier animes.

Perhaps the humour failed to make an impression on me, as I found the show’s characters to be a little bland. Writer Kazuma Kamachi’s idea of injecting personality into his creations is limited to giving each person one distinctive quirk. Mikoto for example is a generic tomboy who has an embarrassing admiration for anything cute (be it floral PJs or amphibian mascots.) The same applies to the likes of Ruiko Saten and Kuroko Shirai. Ruiko is little more than a plain schoolgirl. How can we spice her up? I know! Make her tease classmate Kazari Uiharu by lifting up her skirt at inopportune times! The sexual harassment doesn’t stop there however. Kuroko, the pigtailed teleporter, has an unhealthy infatuation on Mikoto. She gropes Mikoto’s breasts on several occasions and even tries drugging her with an aphrodisiac in one episode!

VERDICT

My rating for A Certain Scientific Railgun is three stars. It’s a mildly entertaining show that never manages to live up to its potential. The highlight of the series, for me, was the story arc that runs between episodes six to twelve. The tale revolves around an MP3 tune that can augment the power of any esper that listens to it. The catch? Prolonged use can put listeners into a coma (much like what happens to me when I hear Justin Bieber sing) The story did a good job of developing Ruiko’s character and concluded with an exhilarating showdown. When the scheme’s mastermind is eventually revealed I couldn’t help but sympathize with their motivations… so much so that I wanted them to triumph over Mikoto’s banal band of do-gooders.

It’s a shame that the series didn’t have more moments of brilliance like that. The best we get is a finale that recycles many ideas from the story arc I previously praised (they even copy the twist of Mikoto getting betrayed by an attractive female ally.) The highway-based battle we are treated to in episode twenty-four is visually impressive so kudos to JC Staff for their quality animation. What a pity then that the show’s high production values are mostly wasted on story light episodes that only register mild chortles. Humour is a subjective thing, but you know something is amiss when a lesbian turns me off. Seriously, Kuroko’s yuri desires get really tiresome. Her actions would earn most people jail time, yet we are expected to believe that she is an officer of the law. Mikoto probably wears shorts under her skirt to protect her nether regions from Kuroko’s amorous advances.

Supposedly A Certain Scientific Railgun is superior to the series it spawned from. Based on this mediocre showing, if anyone asks me to watch Railgun’s predecessor I will simply respond by waving my “index” finger at them.

Review of Transformers: Devastation

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Transformers: Devastation is a third person brawler based on my favourite animated series from the nineteen eighties (in your face Thundercats and G.I Joe!) Back when I was a youngster I was a huge fan of the Transformers cartoon and the toy line it was based off. Although I was never brainy enough to solve a Rubix Cube, I could at least impress relatives by sussing out how to change my robotic birthday gifts into miniature cars. These days I am an old fogey, with thirty-five birthdays under my belt, but my passion for Transformers remains strong. It should therefore come as no surprise that I snapped up Devastation shortly after it appeared on the PSN Store. Let’s hope the Platinum Games developed PS4 title doesn’t end up raping my childhood… much like Michael Bay did with his god-awful movies.

OVERVIEW

The evil Decepticons are once again up to no good. Megatron has acquired the means to terraform Earth into a Death Star like mechanical planet, which just won’t do as humanity is already doing a swell enough job of destroying the globe. Thankfully for mankind five heroic Autobots (Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Sideswipe, Grimlock and Wheeljack) are rolling out to foil the unsanctioned planetary redecoration. Wait a sec… five Autobots? Why so few? Megatron has an army of warriors under his command. Where are the likes of Jazz, Ironhide and Prowl? Oh yeah, I forgot. It’s Cliffjumper’s birthday so the rest of the Cybertron crew are off celebrating at a strip club, watching Arcee pole dance.

As mentioned in the introductory paragraph, Transformers: Devastation is a third person fighting game were players turn Decepticons into scrap metal by utilizing their steel lined fists. The combat system reminds me a little of Senran Kagura, only that this title replaces the boobs with bots. Aside from melee conflict players are also able to attack enemies from afar by equipping projectile weapons. Fisticuffs are more effective than guns, but the blasters do at least help in downing aerial adversaries. Even on the easiest difficulty button bashing will only get you so far. In order to triumph over Megatron’s forces players will need to hone in on their combo skills. Counter attacks are an effective strategy as evading an enemy strike triggers a “bullet time” effect, which temporarily slows down all enemies in the vicinity. Use this time wisely to wail on your decelerated foes – just like Neo taught us.

It’s good to see that Platinum Games didn’t neglect the transforming aspect the titular droids are renowned for. Shifting from a clunking bipedal bot to a speedy vehicle comes in handy for traversing the levels and is mandatory for zooming past the gigantic turbines that block certain routes. Adopting the guise of a car also allows the Autobots to ram into enemies, which is invaluable for shattering the energy barriers some cowardly Decepticons cower behind. When it comes to transforming I must say that Grimlock drew the short straw. Being able to morph into a dinosaur may sound cool, but he looks ever so silly wobbling behind his chums who all transform into swifter wheeled automobiles. I wouldn’t tell Grimlock that he looks daft to his face though. That one time when I tangled with Mecha Godzilla has taught me never to upset a metal T-Rex.

VERDICT

My rating for Transformers: Devastation is four stars. If you grew up watching the original Transformers show I am sure you will love this game. Devastation isn’t perfect however. The lacklustre environments are limited to cityscapes and futuristic bases, which left me longing for more varied backdrops to explore. The roster of five playable characters is also a tad disappointing. Even if Platinum Games didn’t have the budget to make more Autobots I would have liked to see an option to unlock control of the numerous Decepticons who appear in the story. Devastation’s biggest flaw is without a doubt its length. The main campaign can be completed in six hours, which makes the title feel over priced. If you are not the type of person who replays games, or likes to tackle optional challenges, paying full price for Devastation may feel almost as wasteful as buying a Gobots DVD.

Even if Transformers: Devastation climaxes way to soon (no comment on it mirroring my bedroom escapades) I still think it is worth picking up. The fast paced combat is a lot of fun and if cost is a factor you always have the option of waiting for a sale. On the visual side of things the cell-shaded graphics succeed in making the game feel like a 3D version of the cartoon. Adding to the title’s nostalgic qualities is the voice cast, which includes many of the original show’s actors. The only notable omission from the credits is the departed Chris Latta (best known for playing Starscream and Cobra Commander.) Much like Ducktales, Transformers: Devastation proves that eighties cartoons can be adapted into successful games. I wonder what series from yesteryear will get the gaming treatment next? Visionaires? Centurions? Maybe the Jurassic Park craze will lead to Denver the Last Dinosaur making a return.

Review of Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F

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I used to think that Marvel and DC held the monopoly on reviving deceased fictional characters, but the release of Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F reminded me that this isn’t the case. This latest movie from the hugely popular DBZ franchise once again sees the Dragon Balls (mystical wish granting orbs, not to be confused with lizard testicles) being used to reanimate a fallen character. The Dragon Balls are usually employed in the resurrection of dead heroes, but on this occasion the bad guys have decided to make use of their power instead. The recipient of the Dragon Balls’ necromancy properties is none other than Frieza – an extra terrestrial overlord who has a thing for detonating planets. After securing a second lease on life the effeminate villain sets his sights on Earth and getting revenge on the spikey haired chap responsible for his demise.

OVERVIEW

Technology is a marvellous thing. Back in my day hunting down the Dragon Balls took a season’s worth of episodes and completing homework required hours of research at the library. These days, thanks to modern scanners, the Dragon Balls can be unearthed in a quick movie prologue and school assignments can be finished promptly via the wonders of Wikipedia. Resurrection F wastes no time in concisely explaining how Frieza’s minions attained the Dragon Balls and revived their leader, which makes a welcome change given that DBZ is infamous for stringing things along with bloated filler. The script doesn’t even pause to explain how Frieza could pose a challenge to Goku (who in the last film attained god like strength thanks to the power of holding hands.) We are simply told that the antagonist beefed up by training for a few months.

Resurrection F’s main event is without a doubt the rematch between Frieza and Goku. After languishing in hell for many years, where he was forced to listen to a constant stream of obnoxious Telly Tubby ditties, Frieza is thirsting for blood. The alien destroyer of worlds is no push over, as he has unlocked a new Golden form that rivals the might of blue haired Super Saiyan Gods. Does anyone know why hairdo colour is used to denote the potency of Saiyan warriors? I think I preferred the traditional blonde Super Saiyan locks over the new azure style – although both are preferable to the goofy looking Super Saiyan 3 hair extensions Goku once sported.

Before the main bout commences viewers are treated to an undercard featuring Frieza’s weedy army and Earth’s second-string of superhuman protectors. The likes of Piccolo, Gohan, Tien and Krillin get to strut their stuff, although the mighty Majin Buu is mysteriously absent from the encounter. Oh well, who needs Buu? The battle is only determining the fate of the world after all. Let’s give his spot on the roster to a decrepit bald pervert (aka Master Roshi) instead. Jaco the Galactic Patrolman, who has previously appeared in a spin-off manga, also makes a cameo appearance in the film. He’s there mostly for comic relief and to prove that Akira Toriyama’s artistic career isn’t limited only to DBZ/Dragon Quest sketches.

VERDICT

Given that my fondness for Dragon Ball has waned over the years I wasn’t looking forward to Resurrection F. The last DBZ film I watched (Battle of Gods) wasn’t to my liking due to the heavy emphasis on comedy. That’s a bad idea as I find DBZ’s humour to be only one power level higher than the gags found in an Adam Sandler feature. Thankfully Resurrection F’s script focuses on what the series does best, namely action, resulting in an entertaining popcorn flick. Is the movie perfect? No, the crude looking CG effects for example need work, but overall what I watched was good enough to earn four stars. I do however wish that badass Vegeta would get more to do in this second coming of Dragon Ball. Once again the prince of Saiyans is reduced to a bit part player and worst of all his sole moment of glory is usurped at the eleventh hour by a deus ex machina.

Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F is an essential purchase for DBZ fans everywhere. Those looking to add the DVD to their collection are in for a bit of a wait however, as the UK home video release has been postponed to prevent it from clashing with current cinematic screenings. Manga Entertainment’s decision to delay DVD sales will annoy some anime collectors, but the company will feel vindicated by the movie’s good performance at the box office. If it’s any consolation, watching Resurrection F on a big screen is probably an awesome experience. It’s something I wouldn’t mind partaking in, were it not for the fact that I loathe stepping outdoors. Besides, knowing my luck I would end up in a theatre packed with screeching kids. The only thing worse than that is being stuck in the underworld listening to Telly Tubby tunes ad nauseam.

Review of Rune Factory 4

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Harvest Moon may be fun for Farmville fans seeking a more substantive cultivation centric game, but it is a little too tranquil for my tastes. Hardcore gamers such as myself (the kind that is one game over screen away from a rage fuelled rampage, if the mainstream media are to be believed) demand video games with a little more action. Thankfully the folks at XSEED Games have us covered with Rune Factory 4. This 3DS release sees budding farmers make an income by selling off the phallic shaped vegetables they grow. Once your harvest of cucumbers and carrots has been sold you can purchase a sword to penetrate the nasty creatures that guard the various dungeons you need to clear.

OVERVIEW

My Rune Factory 4 adventure began with a couple of unsavoury characters tossing me off an airship. From there I plummeted down to the countryside town of Selphia – the homosexual chef who resides there must have been overjoyed to see that it was literally raining men (hallelujah.) After miraculously surviving the descent, I was appointed Selphia’s monarch by the mouthy dragon that protects the settlement. Hurrah I thought… I can now spend my days playing Polo and amassing a large collection of Welsh Corgis. Alas, it was not meant to be. My princely duties demanded that I aid Selphia’s populace with their humdrum lives in addition to saving the region from a hostile foreign kingdom.

A good chunk of Rune Factory 4’s early game is spent planting seeds, watering soil and selling off the crops you grow. By abducting the cute critters that roam the nearby forests it is also possible to acquire egg laying chickens and milk producing cows. If farming chores are not your thing fear not, as the animal slave labour you procure can be ordered to till the land in your stead (somehow I don’t think that PETA would approve of this game.) Once enough coinage has been accrued players can purchase tools allowing them to dabble in other activities. Pacifists for example could learn how to fish or become a blacksmith, whilst those with a more violent disposition can buy weapons or learn how to cook the veggies they have grown. Cooking isn’t a violent career? Just watch Gordon Ramsey work in the kitchen.

In addition to advancing Rune Factory 4’s story, which is accomplished by clearing the world’s numerous dungeons, players are also encouraged to interact with Selphia’s citizens. Much like in the Harvest Moon series, it is possible to wed one of the town’s eligible bachelorettes/bachelors. Sadly, due to my inept flirting skills, I was unable to date anyone during my play through. Looks like my virtual love life is eerily similar to my real life one. I spent many months showering Forte with tasty chocolate bars only for the blonde knight to continually reject my advances. Perhaps I should have tried courting the underage butterfly girl instead? She is partial to fruit so I could easily lure her into the bedroom with an orange… although I fear doing so would place my name on a sex offender’s list.

VERDICT

Heartbroken and on the cusp of weeping into my anime body pillow, after being spurned by Selphia’s ladies, the time has come for me to wrap up this review. My final rating is four stars, which is rather poetic given that this is the fourth mainline title in the Rune Factory franchise. Hopefully it will not prove to be the final game in the series, as Rune Factory seems to get better with each passing sequel. The future is uncertain however due to the status of developer Neverland. Said gaming studio may be based in Japan, but when it comes to finances they feel like a Greek outfit. Neverland was declared bankrupt back in 2013, which may explain why Rune Factory 4 never got a physical release in Europe. UK players looking to enjoy this title will have to download it off the Nintendo e-shop.

And download it you should, as the game is a lot of fun. I especially liked the combat system, which is reminiscent to the classic Zelda games. There’s a good selection of weapons/magic to use in battle and from a design point of view I admired the synergistic relationship between the game’s action/farming sections. Cooking up the produce you grow rewards you with meals that restore any health lost whenever an enemy smacks you. Befriending townsfolk allows you to group with them during the spelunking expeditions in monster filled caves. Chopping up wood increases your stamina, allowing you to swing a sword with greater ease. Everything you do in Rune Factory 4 is beneficial so nothing feels like a waste of time. Well, almost nothing. I wasted a lot of Mars bars on that ungrateful Forte. The frigid cow didn’t even give me a thank you kiss… I hope the chocolate gives her diabetes!