The Digi-Cult

A New Religion for a Digital Age

Posts Tagged ‘Wii’

Shannon’s Latest Addiction: Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquillity

Posted by Shannon O'Grady on October 29, 2008

Yup, another videogame review.  I know it’s not my normal gig, but it’s been taking up so much of my time lately that I’ve got little else to write on!  XD  Oh well!

Harvest Moons first game on the Wii

Harvest Moon's first game on the Wii

Basics:

System: Nintendo Wii
Publisher: Natsume
Rating: Everyone

Concept:

Your character has a farm or a ranch and must grow crops and raise animals to make money.  Using this money you build a bigger and better home and woo a mate to start your family.  In addition to this “life simulation” aspect of the game there is a plot/subplot that adds a more magical element to the game play.  Your goal is to restore the rainbows to your new island home and help return the Harvest Goddess to her rightful home in the island’s sacred tree.  The major theme is persevering nature and restoring economic prosperity and happiness to the island residents.

Controls:

There aren’t many games designed to be played with either the Wiimote and the Nunchuck or the Classic Controller, thus the motion sensing aspects of the game are limited.  There are a few place in the game where you can optionally use motion sensitive controls, but it’s never necessary.

New character design is cute, but gives a new maturity to the game

New character design is cute, but gives a new maturity to the game

Graphics:

Graphically this game is a tough one to describe.  From a technical standpoint this game suffers from low end graphics.  The Wii just isn’t a graphics friendly machine.  However, the designers have once again made the best of things.

This installment of the Harvest Moon franchise brings in a new character designer who keeps the very cute look of the past game but gives the characters distinct ages (you’re not a 12 year old running a farm anymore), races and personalities.  That’s an amazing feat when your working with low end detail and Mii inspired character models, but it works.  This is mostly due to distinct and colorful costume and hair design.  Realism is out the window on this one (lime green hair on a 40 year old grocer anyone?) but who cares!  It’s CUTE!

Background trees and shrubs blend with cartoony characters in beautiful harmony

Background trees and shrubs blend with cartoony characters in beautiful harmony

The biggest improvement in the graphics has come from more natural looking environments.  Items you can interact with remain somewhat cartoony but the texture foliage is far more realistic.  It’s quiet nice.  The background blends in but at the same time, is a distinct entity all it’s own.

Sound:

Sound isn’t a big element in any of the Harvest Moon games, and this is no exception.  Fluffy, wispy music plays in the background and changes based on both the season and the location you’re in.  The music and most of the sound effects are unobtrusive.  I swear that Harvest Moon designers want their game to be the kind you can play with the sound off.  And you can.  No gameplay elements are cued by sound.  However, the sound is nice filler.  I don’t like it, and I don’t hate it.  It works well and that’s cool by me.

Gameplay:

Time is the main reference point in this game and everything you do changes bases on the day of the week and the season.  All characters in the game keep a weekly schedule that the player must be aware of to effectivly interact with story characters as well as with the townies they may wish to someday marry.  By the same token shops in the game have days that they close and festival days require the player to keep a mental

Yes, that IS an Ostrtrich and yes, you can have one!

Yes, that IS an Ostrtrich and yes, you can have one!

tally similar to the one they keep for their real life activities. Thus, organizational skills are a must to get full enjoyment of this game.

With everything you do in this game you can do the bare minimum to survive or you can go out and try to raise every crop, every kind of animal, catch each type of fish and cook every possible dish.  Neither way will change the story but changes the game play based on player tastes.

This version of Harvest Moon brings in new animals, and new crops, as well as a new cooking implements and a few other things miscellaneous things.  All in all this game is great and super addictive.

There are many roads to saving the Harvest Goddess

There are many roads to saving the Harvest Goddess

Replayability:

That’s really where this game makes it’s money.  There are so many small day to day interactions that can change how the game is played that there are infinite outcomes and experiences.  Obviously, you can play as either gender, and then marry several different spouses to get different endings, but there are so many more ways the game can change that there is no end to the fun in this game.

Overall:

A+ Wicked game and I love it.  This is the most in depth Harvest Moon game yet.  If you played one of the previous games and felt it was silly to spend so many hours farming this game will rekindle your interest with more acitivities to do in your character’s free time as well as optional ways of earning money.  More characters to meet in this game provides a ton of virety and incremental additions of characters and items keeps the game interesting for hours.

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Samba de Amigo: A Positive review

Posted by Shannon O'Grady on October 16, 2008

Normally this is where I start talking about the social implication of some new piece of technology or internet craze, but not today!

Samba de Amigo is bright and colorfull even in the box!

May I present to you:  Shannon’s First Game Review (on this site)!

So what game am I reviewing?  Well if you happened to read the title you know that I’m reviewing Samba de Amigo and if you didn’t read the title, you should know now.  If you failed to read all of this, get out.  Seriously.

Ok now that we’re rid of any hangers on I’d like to start by saying that Samba de Amigo is not a good game.  It’s a great game!  XD  Now on to the rest!

Basics:

System: Nintendo Wii

Publisher: Gearbox Software/Sega
Rating: Everyone

It's like a children's cereal mated with a box of crayons...

It's like children's cereal mated with a box of crayons...

Graphics:

Standard Wii graphics here.  Failry last gen, but polished and cool looking.  Character and enviornmental design suit the game perfectly with lots of bright colors and cute (sometimes gender ambigious) characters.  Backgrounds range from stages, to street parades to “floating in space” psychedelic moments.  It’s a great mix that doesn’t take away from the one screen instructions.

Sound effects:

Annoying!  Turn down your Wiimote volume on this one or you won’t be able to hear the music from the TV over the stupid noises coming out of the controls!

Music:

Gender is totally subjective with the Rio character (until you read the manual, then he's male).

Nice arrangement of music, lots of choice.  Some tracks are covers, but some are licenced.  There are a lot of remixes in this game, but they’re generally not bad and all serve the purpose of taking the original song and giving it a Samaba flair.

Gameplay:

There are a handful of different modes to choose from but all of them use the same “flail to the beat” interface that makes you love and hate the game at the same time.  The “Dance” commands give you a heck of a work out as you wave your arms around in longer fluid motions rather than the short maraca shaking moves, and the “Pose” commands give you a break… where you can stand and look silly.

But it’s soooo much fun!

Multiplayer co-op and vs modes make it fun to play with friends.  There are two single player modes that offer a lot of pick up and play action that gets you shaking it to the beat far more than you’d care to admit to your friends.

You place the Wiimote in one and the nunchuck in the other

Controls:

Yes, there are 3 ways to play this game!

1) Nunchuck and Wiimote:  This is pretty standard and aside from occasionally batting yourself with the cable between the two controllers it works very well.  If you really love this game it could be worth getting a wireless nunchuck, or you can opt for option 2.

2) Wiimote X2:  You can use two wiimotes to shake your booty without any cords in the way.  This game maxes out at two players because of this (the system can only support up to 4 wiimotes) but it really is the best way to play.

3) Maraca add ons:  Jam you nunchuck and your Wiimote in to the giant red plastic maracas and break your arms with the added weight!  These things are huge and heavy!  But they make the game a great work out and you feel like a real musician…. kinda.  I’m not sold on these things yet, but they’re cute.  I like that you can remove the beads in them if you don’t like the shaker noise, though to be honest, it’s not that loud.

Creepy Monkey...

Creepy Monkey...

Complaints:

I want character selection!  I do not want to play as the small creepy monkey, I want to play as the butterfly girl!

Please make more Downloadable Content!  XD

Compliments:

Hurray for reviving an under appreciated Dreamcast came!

Great job including Mii’s from the player’s Wii in the game backgrounds.  Super cute!

Overall:

Buy it if you love rhythm games and don’t mind looking a little silly with friends.  It really is fun, despite what you think.  Put this in the closet next to you DDR mat and indulge in your secret shame!  (Or in my case, not so secret!)

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The Rise and Fall of the Casual Gamer

Posted by Shannon O'Grady on September 25, 2008

In recent years the gaming industry and the media in general have developed a new name to describe what they believe to be a new market: The Casual Gamer.  But who or what is “the casual gamer” and is the phenomenon as new as we’re being lead to believe?

Diner Dash has become a standard in Casual gaming, and a favorite among gamers

The current market for casual gamers focuses on short games,  divided in to small, task oriented segments without much character or story development.  They feature linear plots where the game goal is often spelled out in the opening sequence.  These games also feature simple controls and repetitive action.

Now if many of our readers think back to childhood they’ll remember playing videogames that can be described in just this way, only, these games were cutting edge.

You see, it’s my theory that casual gamers have always existed, but due to technical limitations these gamers were satisfied by the same games as the hardcore gamers.  Who doesn’t remember the repeated button mashing of the original arcade fighting games?  Or the redundancy of the highly pixelated enemies in your favorite shooter?  These things appealed to both types of gamers.

Quarter circle forward, Punch is no longer the winning combination

Quarter circle forward, Punch is no longer the winning combination

As the technology and the market developed the games became longer and more involved, leading to
monstrous several hundred hour long, multi-disk RPGs and longer, as well as more complicated stories for shooters and even fighting games.  In addition to longer, broader stories, the controls and mental skills needed to play the games became more complex and taxing.  The argument is made that this is where the casual gamer was lost.

However, I beg to differ.

The casual gamer still played these games, but often, didn’t finish them.  They played until they were bored or stuck, and then traded them in for the newest game to suit their fancy.  How do I know this?  Why that’s easy.  Until late in high school, I, was one of these people.

I had many friends who I swapped games with, though I hardly remember any of us ever finishing one.  We played games because it was fun;  when the game stopped being fun, it was time to move on.  We often found ourselves drawn to games meant for users several years younger than ourselves, because the simplicity of the games made them fast and fun.

Then the industry gave us a new name and shoved us in to a box.  The casual gamer was suddenly separate and inferior in some ways to the hard-core gamer.  We needed to be pandered to and given games that were simple.  At least, that’s how my hormone addled mind saw it at the time.

Now I understand that the companies were cashing in on the boredom of the casual market.  If you give the casual gamer 10 games they can finish quickly and happily, they will play them all, and ask for more.  You can even charge them large amounts of money.  Even better, you can draw in new gamers (the bored housewife, the girlfriend of a gamer, the businessman looking to blow off steam) by illustrating that these games aren’t the life sucking games the hardcore gamers sink days and days in to.  These games are short: you can finish them in a weekend and then go back to the real world on Monday.

The Wii is the gaming platform that made "casual games" acceptable for all.

The Wii is the gaming platform that made casual gaming acceptable again

So what does this mean for the gaming industry?  Initially it meant a sort of heated segregation between those that were capable of playing harder, longer games and those that weren’t.  But then Nintendo brought us the Wii and all bets were off.  It became cool to play casual games; so long as it was just for a laugh.  The former “casual game” became the rest stop for the hardcore gamer looking to rest their thumbs and just goof off. Once again the casual game, and the casual gamer, are reabsorbed in to gaming society.

So why then do we still have this term, “Casual gamer” hovering around?  Partly because of habit, partly because it provided an effect way to measure the time investiture in a game, but mostly because of marketing.  “Casual gaming” opened up gaming to new markets, and in order to keep these markets, the marketers feel they need to keep the term.

Fair enough I say, just don’t call me that to my face.  I’m no different than the rest of you.  😛

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