Review of Harvest Moon: Light of Hope

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Harvest Moon: Light of Hope is technically not a Harvest Moon game. The team responsible for producing the classic Harvest Moon games of yore is currently releasing titles under the Story of Seasons banner. Natsume, the publisher who holds the rights to the Harvest Moon name, has meanwhile decided to continue the franchise by hiring lesser skilled developers to make new sequels. The situation reminds me of the time when Eidos and Sports Interactive parted ways. After the split, developer Sports Interactive lost ownership of the Championship Manager brand. This forced them to release new games under the guise of Football Manager. Eidos went off to make Championship Manager games in house and ultimately run the series into the ground.

OVERVIEW

When I say that Harvest Moon is now in the hands of less talented developers I am not kidding. Just look at this game’s graphics. The characters may look cute, but there is no disputing that these visuals are below the standard one would expect from a PS4 release. In particular the low-res buildings look especially bad on a big screen. Gameplay wise things aren’t much better. The farming on offer hasn’t advanced much from the rather basic Harvest Moon GBA game I enjoyed many moons ago. In order to grow crops one simply needs to plant seeds and water the soil on a daily basis. Fertilizer is only required if you elect to grow something out of season. Seems easy enough. I wonder why Zimbabwe had so much trouble with farming when Mugabe kicked out all of the white farmers.

Still, who cares about farming? In this game I didn’t find agriculture to be particularly profitable. Rather than sell produce I just gifted my veggies to the local townsfolk or cooked them into stamina replenishing meals. If you seek riches I would recommend foraging for seashells at the beach. Those things sell for a surprisingly high price. I also hear that mining for ore can be lucrative, although that venture requires some investment. To crack open the rocks that house gems one needs to first upgrade their trusty hammer. Later in the game you can also trade eggs, wool and milk by populating your barn with livestock. I like how you can name the animals you buy. My cow, lamb and chicken were christened Mooris, Baary and Hen-Tai.

VERDICT

My rating for Harvest Moon: Light of Hope is a three out of five. The game is inferior to rivals Stardew Valley and Story of Seasons in terms of content. Without too much trouble I was able to complete the four-chapter story within a couple of in-game months. Despite its faults I must however say that I appreciate the relaxing experience it offers. Rather than start the morning with fifteen minutes of meditation, I can instead turn off my brain by doing chores for quarter of an hour on Harvest Moon’s virtual island. Even if I have already saved the land, by repairing the isle’s mystical lighthouse, I still intend to continue playing the game for the foreseeable future in short bursts. There are plenty of trophies yet to earn and a mailbox worth of villager requests to complete.

Other activities I can look forward to are the monthly festivals. These events allow the player to partake in various mini-games, which include fishing contests and dog races. Thus far my pooch has managed to scoop the top prize, but I have fared less well in the angling tournaments. Most important of all I cannot conclude my Harvest Moon adventure without first getting hitched. From the five available bachelorettes I have my eyes set on the bespectacled doctor. She may not be the most attractive of the bunch, but she won my heart during the tutorial by generously gifting me tons of free cabbage seeds. When it comes to romance the ladies don’t have to do much to make me swoon. I’ll settle for any girl, providing that she doesn’t carry much emotional cabbage… um baggage.

Review of Trigun: Badlands Rumble

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It’s great to see Full Metal Panic return to our screens after a lengthy hiatus. The gap between FMP content reminds me of the time when Badlands Rumble first hit the scene. This ninety minute animated film was released in the year 2010… over a decade after the Trigun series aired in Japan! You certainly cannot accuse studio Madhouse of rushing out a product to capitalize on the popularity of a show. This story takes place sometime during the events of the Trigun series (so it isn’t a sequel) and sees Vash tangle with a robber named Gasback, whose life he spared twenty years prior.

OVERVIEW

Badlands Rumble takes place in Macca City, a settlement where Gasback’s former lackey Cain is the incumbent mayor. Years ago, the pair had a falling out after Cain betrayed Gasback during a heist. You cannot trust anyone named Cain it seems… just ask Abel! Gasback has decided to pay back his ex-henchman by riding into Macca and stealing a pricey bronze statue that is situated there. As luck would have it, Vash the Stampede arrives in town just before Gasback’s raid is due to go down. Talk about bad timing. Vash has a sixty billion double dollar price on his head. That could well attract the attention of the multitude of bounty hunters, who are presently in Macca hoping to nab Gasback.

Vash isn’t the only one suffering from ill fortune. Insurance girls Milly and Meryl are back and this time round their employer has tasked them with protecting the abovementioned statue. If said sculpture is damaged their company will be out of pocket. Guarding the statue will be no easy task, as wherever Vash goes destruction usually follows. Upping the ante is the appearance of wandering priest Nicholas D. Wolfwood. This man of the cloth, who carries a rocket launcher fashioned after a cross, has been hired to be Gasback’s bodyguard. Wolfwood’s church services will be required, as a redhead named Amelia is currently pursuing Gasback with the aims of avenging her late mother.

VERDICT

My rating for Trigun: Badlands Rumble is a three out of five. Fans of the Trigun series are sure to enjoy this new Vash adventure. It’s an enjoyable space western that delivers in terms of cool gunfights and humorous slapstick, courtesy of its needle noggin protagonist. Viewers of the old show are sure to appreciate the movie’s upgraded visuals. Thanks to the higher production values, both the animation and artwork have received a substantial facelift. It’s especially noticeable, as Trigun never pushed the envelope when it came to spectacle. Compared to something like Cowboy Bebop, which came out at around the same time, the series lacked polish and has therefore aged less well.

I remember loving Badlands Rumble, back when I first bought the DVD, but have to say that I liked it less on a recent viewing. This second screening helped me identify how the script rehashes ideas from the series. A criminal who desires revenge on his old gang is reminiscent of the episode titled Love & Peace for example. Amelia also reminded me of Elizabeth, who appeared in episode six, as they are both beauties who seek vengeance against an outlaw. Given the movie’s place in the Trigun timeline there isn’t much tension, as we all know Vash will escape from this trial unscathed. I did however dig the moments that question Vash’s no-kill philosophy. Not murdering may sound noble, but as Batman has learnt, is it ethical to pardon those who will just go off to do more harm?

One thing I can say about watching Badlands Rumble is that it rekindled my dream of seeing a Trigun remake that sticks more faithfully to the manga. Full Metal Alchemist and Hellsing have proven that such a project could work. Given the time it took for this movie to get made though, I suspect that the wait for a new Trigun show would be longer than Vash’s full name. For those of you who don’t know, his complete moniker is – Valentinez Alkalinella Xifax Sicidabohertz Gumbigobilla Blue Stradivari Talentrent Pierre Andry Charton-Haymoss Ivanovici Baldeus George Doitzel Kaiser the Third.

Thirty Day Anime Challenge – Days Three to Five

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The time has come to answer more questions from the Thirty Day Two Year Anime Challenge. If you happen to be a reader who isn’t interested in this type of post, as you are subscribed exclusively for reviews, I recommend that you check out these critiques from other bloggers instead…

Manga Review: Komomo Confiserie
Movie Review: Valley of the White Birds
Video Game Review: The Legend of Zelda – Skyward Sword

Okay, let’s jump to it. In this instalment I will be tackling posers three to five.

DAY THREE: Favourite Male Anime Character

Vash the Stampede is a character that won me over, after a shaky start. My first impression of the Trigun protagonist was that he is an annoying clown. He resembled an Inspector Gadget like buffoon who saves the day through sheer luck. Later on however it’s revealed that Vash’s antics are an act. The humanoid typhoon is a skilled marksman who deserves the sixty billion bounty on his head. Despite his fearsome reputation Vash is actually a pacifist who refuses to kill, no matter how much his targets deserve execution. His merciful creed often places him in perilous situations were he suffers harm, and yet he sticks to his peaceful ways. I respect his steadfast determination… and badass style. That big gun, yellow specs and red coat are so cool that even Alucard ripped off the look.

DAY FOUR: Favourite Female Anime Character

Anime is filled with amazing women. There are ladies who have been born with supermodel bodies; girls who can singlehandedly take down armies and geniuses that put Einstein to shame. My pick for best anime female however goes to someone who possesses none of those prodigious traits – Hana from Wolf Children. She is a prime example of why mothers should be cherished. I especially admire how she faces challenges with a smile. Her partner dies, social services threaten to take her kids and the crops meant to feed her family wither away. None of those hardships are able to crush her spirit. How she is able to remain positive when disaster strikes is beyond me. I’m the sort of person who plummets into a deep depression when an anticipated video game gets delayed!

DAY FIVE: Anime I’m Ashamed I Enjoy

I’m not ashamed of my viewing habits in the slightest. As my embarrassed friends and family will attest to, I have no qualms about broadcasting my love of wacky cartoons on social media. If push comes to shove though, I suppose Burn Up Excess is a show that I wouldn’t admit to liking during a job interview. This futuristic law enforcement series actually played a part in reigniting my passion for anime, back when it aired on the Sci-Fi Channel (I refuse to call it Syfy). Burn Up Excess is a delightful mishmash of cheesy nineties action and funny characters. Why would anyone be ashamed of such a show? Well, the DVD has a feature called “Jiggle Counter” that keeps tally of how often the heroines’ chest bounce. I’m not ashamed, but my progressive friends probably are on my behalf.

Review of The Lost Child

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I love the Persona role-playing games. Shame then that it takes so long for new instalments to come out. How I wish the franchise would release new stuff on an annual basis. Then again, I suppose that the series would feel far less special if it appeared in stores with the regularity of an Assassin’s Creed sequel. Rarity builds anticipation and shorter development cycles tend to harm a title’s quality. Some people have suggested that I play the other Shin Megami offerings, whilst I wait for a new Persona. The problem is that those RPGs are bloody hard. I’ll try The Lost Child instead. This game may be a shameless Megami clone, but at least it caters to my lack of skill by providing an easy mode.

OVERVIEW

Hayato Ibuki is a reporter for one of those trashy occult magazines. Not a glamorous career, but hey it could be worse. Writing for a tabloid publication is still more respectable than being a games journalist! When the story begins Hayato acquires a weapon that is capable of bending demons to his will. A big-breasted angel named Lua (who dresses like a witch for some reason) informs Hayato that he must use the gun to defeat Cthulhu, who is presently plotting to take over Heaven. A weird and somewhat blasphemous plot… although that should be expected given that the game is affiliated to the equally bizarre El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron.

The Lost Child is broken up into eight chapters. Each level has you battling through puzzle filled dungeons that are made up of multiple floors. Players explore the stages through a first person view. Every step you take has the potential of triggering a random turn based battle. When in combat, Hayato and Lua are accompanied by a party made up of previously captured demons. Like in most RPGs the heroes grow stronger by accruing experience points. The demonic entities they recruit are meanwhile strengthened via karma. Killing creatures is the main source of karma, although it is also possible to acquire it by making dialogue choices during certain story events.

VERDICT

My rating for The Lost Child is a three out of five. The game is a decent, albeit unoriginal, dungeon crawler. I recommend it to anyone who has an interest in the genre. The story may be forgettable but I didn’t mind, as the thrill of navigating labyrinths was enough to keep my interest for the forty hours it lasted. Compared to other RPGs, there isn’t much in the way of character customisation. You can however tweak Hayato and Lua’s attributes by distributing stat points upon levelling up. Ally demons meanwhile can be taught new skills and evolved, akin to a Pokémon. Just be aware that instead of cute critters, in this game, you evolve fallen angels and topless Succubi.

Overall I had fun with The Lost Child. I must however say that I have some grievances with the game. First up was a glitch that prevented me from earning one of the optional characters. Another complaint is that some of the puzzles can be annoying. Examples include invisible walls, sandy currents that drag you back to a dungeon’s entrance and pitfalls that drop you to a lower floor. The latter especially blows, as transferring to a new zone is preceded by lengthy load times. Not sure what causes the Vita to process for so long. The floors aren’t huge and the graphics comprise of still pictures. Oh well, no matter how slow the loading is the wait for them to finish is still shorter than waiting for a new Persona.

SAO Alternative: Gun Gale Online Review

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Sword Art Online is a bit like Marmite. You either love or hate it. There’s no disputing that the anime adaptation of Reki Kawahara’s novels is insanely popular. We recently got a movie and a third season is due out later this year. Despite all that, many of the bloggers I follow detest SAO with a passion. They dislike how the second half of season one played out and how protagonist Kirito is a Gary Stu of Rey (Star Wars) proportions. If you are a Kirito hater you’ll be pleased to hear that this spin-off series stars a completely new cast of characters. Viewers of season two will recognize the setting though – it’s Gun Gale Online.

OVERVIEW

Karen Kohiruimaki hates being tall, which I can understand. Height may be a desirable trait for males, but that isn’t the case for members of the opposite sex. Lanky girls can have a tough time finding a boyfriend, as guys are sensitive about size… and no, I am not talking about their junk. Asking your partner to crouch down, for a kiss, can be a tad embarrassing for us blokes. Although there is nothing Karen can do about her stature in the real world, she can at least experience being petite in VR games. The main reason why she elects to play GGO is because it permits her to control an undersized avatar named LLENN.

LLENN begins life in Gun Gale Online hunting down NPC monsters. Due to her terrible aim, LLENN’s weapon of choice is a close range submachine gun that she christens P-chan. The pink firearm occasionally sprouts cute eyes and utters words of encouragement to her. Weird. Anyways, one day during her wasteland hunts she bumps into a fellow gunslinger named Pitohui. The pair become friends and begin grouping together to partake in PVP action. After proving her prowess, in taking down players, Pitohui suggests that LLENN register for the upcoming Squad Jam contest. Little did LLENN know that Squad Jam would live up to its name, by placing her in a sticky situation where Pitohui’s life is on the line.

VERDICT

My rating for Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online is a three out of five. The series is entertaining enough, but overall I would rank it as the weakest SAO title to date. My chief complaint with the show is its lack of story. The script tries to resurrect the SAO idea of “potentially fatal online game” with its finale, but for the most part the thirteen episodes simply chronicle LLENN’s performance in two battle royale tournaments. Due to the focus on competition, GGO feels like a sports anime. This sport however features brutal takedowns and inappropriate flirting, where opponents hit on a protagonist that looks underage.

Best girl without a doubt is Pitohui. She reminds me a little of Revy from Black Lagoon, as she excels at killing and is bat shit crazy. This bloodthirsty chick doesn’t respect truces and has a reputation for slaying her own teammates. LLENN is a far less interesting character. Just like Kirito, she comes across as plain and unbeatable. Despite being an MMO newbie she is able to defeat professional marksmen with a combination of agility and serendipity. Karen is the type of girl I would gladly group with in Overwatch. Would I date her? Nah. Climbing up a stepladder, every time I want a smooch, would get tiresome.