Ah…holiday times. Rarely are the options extended to gamers so compelling. Traditionally, I set aside some time to dream about games that I wish I could play, but for lack of funds, time, or other precious resources I always wind up short of. The addition of the oath holds me back this year, but that will shortly clear in about 5 days.
So, A Link Between Worlds. I couldn’t guess how highly I’ve telegraphed my interest in any of the Legend of Zelda series’ games, and Nintendo’s devs are expertly skilled at playing my violin like heart strings. I’d call ALBW a day one purchase, not least of which because family are unlikely to go looking for it for me.
A while ago, I was carefully researching Animal Crossing, not sure why I would want to play it. The rest is history, of course, as Animal Crossing likewise plays my Link to the Past heartstrings perfectly. While researching it, I looked up games that seemed close to the idea, because this is a game design I’m not widely familiar with. The search turned up four names, two of which I have: Ubisoft’s Anno 1401 and EA’s the Sims. Yes, I still play EA games even as I curse their phoney-baloney monetization schemes, which is why I decided to get the game on the DS. See? Smarts!
Both these games emphasize their Simulation based roots, but Anno 1401 is flat-out the better game; it draws from the Age of Empires tradition of simulation, without giving you a player character to worry about. Sims 2 Castaways is a Sims game, as much like any other Sim game except necessitating a crafting system to compensate for the lack of ability to buy whatever you need. S2C still suffers from the weaknesses of the Sims, including giving you minimal time to work, little tools to satisfy needs, and a player Sim with a mind of his own to manage.
Even through all of that, Animal Crossing is much better, as the entire experience is not a simulation, but is instead an experience – eh, let me word this right, because the player’s experience is the core of the product, and every bit of programming is spent to make the player feel important, content, warm, comfortably, relaxed, or in-need. Both the other designs reflect these emotions as design goals, but lose the emotions in the engineering of the experience.
Two more names came up at the same time: Atelier Annie and Rune Factory. There were others, like Farmville and Harvest Moon, but these interest me far less for their reputation of focusing on purely casual farming.
Atelier Annie is a “sim” game by Gust and NIS America about a young female alchemist whose life’s ambition is to sleep in, marry rich, and be wealthy. Sent off to alchemist camp by her parents, she is given a chance to catch the eye of the young prince, and with that, she is inspired. Annie works to restore a run-down island to a functioning theme park, and much of the game is spent working with the common folk to get them to help in her boutiques and attractions, or so I gather. I haven’t played it, myself. But it sounds clever and witty. It’s on the Nintendo DS, so playable on the 3DS, and I can see it on eBay for about cost.
Rune Factory 4 is just released Oct 1 on the Nintendo 3DS. This venerable franchise Harvest Moon creator Natsume involves mixing combat and farming in an odd brew. Dungeon crawling buffs entirely different stats than farming and crafting, and different again from socializing. But it can also recruit monsters to help with the farm, and odd reinterpretation of Pokémon’s formula. I admit being curious, but I hear bad things, like the tiresome tutorials, and use of limited energy to limit how much a player can do in one day. I enjoy games that let me iterate on failure until I succeed, quite a bit different from RF4.
Speaking of Pokémon, X & Y have both launched, and the consensus is online that it is the same old game with a 3D model coat of paint. Not too shabby considering the base game is in no danger of running stale any time soon.
Sonic Lost World is another compelling choice. I’m no great Sonic fan, but I enjoyed Super Mario Galaxy quite a lot, and SLW surely copies everything it needs to and innovates where it SMG came up short, which is not at all often, let me tell you.
Finally, Etrian Odyssey: Millenium Girl revisits the first game in the series that I missed. I didn’t dislike EO2, but I wasn’t wowed by it enough to keep following Atlus’ signature dungeon crawler, and that may be a shame, as it surely looks impressive. While I’m at it, I’ll toss EO4 onto the list as another that I wish I could play.
All of this on the Nintendo DS or 3DS, and none of it including the impressive looking games for the WiiU, which I still don’t own, including Watch Dogs, Super Mario 3D World, and Wii Fit U. They are all quite phenomenal looking games, and I wish I could buy them all, but money only goes so far. Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is already a day one purchase. So which other games are best for me? It’s a vexing problem, but comparatively, it’s the sort of problem that I wish that I had more of.