Thursday, 24 October 2013

In a New Town

  I will be pleased when I have cleared my way through this tax course.  The exam must be completed next week online, so expect further delays.

  After the month of only playing fairly ancient Nintendo games, I desired strongly to try something different.  Pokémon X & Y have, of course, been out since mid month, and they continue to compel me.  Still, there was another game that I decided quite a while ago that I wanted to try: Rune Factory 4.

  The game opens with a Japanese pop singer and a montage emphasizing the game’s main draw: the characters.  I’m already feeling nervous about the purchase, as I enjoy meeting quirky characters and being delighted by them, but I was looking for something high on gameplay.  The game proper begins with a selection screen offering a choice of two fully formed protagonists, a male and a female, and the option to rename them, but not to change them in any other way.  Everything I’ve said about Animal Crossing’s narrow market focus thus extends here to, as every (both) character is white, flat, and white-haired?  That’s not like Animal Crossing at all.  The reaction is staying with me, as RF4 is consistently very much like AC, until it spontaneously changes.

  Our hero Lest (I chose the guy, but the name had to go) has a terrible first day in town, as he is attacked aboard an airship, his unexplained macguffin shiny is damaged, then kicked overboard by minions who need to return to minion school.  How does one raise one’s “minion stat” anyway?  Falling out of the sky, L-guy (can I just use my own custom name?) loses his memory and is now completely dependent on the kindness of strangers. 

  How fortunate then, that he should fall into Selphia, and on Ventuswill specifically.  Ventuswill is one of the native dragons and local guardian of Selphia.  Sensing L-guy is more important than he can remember at the moment, Ventuswill declares him to be the Prince Arthur that the Selphians have been waiting for.  In a world-wind tour day, Lest becomes both Prince and dirt farmer, because what else can you do with a Prince besides put him to work in the fields, then exposed fraud before the sun sets.  While Lest never desists in protesting his unprincelyness, the real Arthur comes along, takes one look at the serfdom waiting for him, and blesses Lest with his permission to continue to pretend to be him.  Though the dialog is rubbish, I think the characterization is spot-on.  Incidentally, I both love and loath the real Prince Arthur!  Jerk!

Before going on, the following reactions demand to be voiced.
  1. RF4 has a lovely, self-referential JRPG style.  The character models and setting are 3D, but recall to mind the delicate sprite work of the SNES age.  The music is also top notch, which is good because I have already heard the main town song more than I could ever care to again.  I kid, in 5 years I will find a remix on OCRemix and love it to pieces but right now I find great solace in the moments when it is not looping the town theme endlessly in my ears!
  2. RF4 has a lovely free move system built in; unlike something like the Sims, the protagonist has no free will outside of the Player’s, hence he moves when and as the Player desires it.  This would be even more satisfying in the later hours, when the main tutorials are cleared, and the game stops railroading the player about!  Clearing these tutorials is no big task, but there is perpetually “one more thing” that makes dutifully performing the tasks feel … unsatisfying.  Sure I learned how to save my game, sleep in a bed, till the fields, plant seeds, water the crops, and make royal proclamations in one day, but did I do any of that, or did the game just play itself to my button presses?
 All and all, I guess I’m feeling a little buyers’ remorse about Rune Factory 4.  I probably shouldn’t; the game has even trusted me enough to start playing it yet.  Most JRPGs perpetually suffer from long introductions; surely this game gets better, just as the reviews said it would!

Day 2 (and 3, and maybe 4, I lost count)
  Day 2 in Selphia isn’t much better.  I haven’t yet found my way out of town to begin adventuring until, maybe day 4!  The ensuing days are filled with tutorials, and a help personified job board that no other character even knows it can talk.  The game’s first few days are dry and boring, but completing the board’s fetch-quests yields useful tools to help complete daily tasks.

  RF4 keeps track of which of its silly cast Lest has talked to in that day, and once Lest has talked to them, there is little reason to talk again until he needs something or has a gift; the characters say only one thing per day, usually.  After hunting the yellow speech bubbles of citizens through Selphia, Lest begins to come across some NPCs who have useful skills to pass on, such as the chef Porcoline de Sainte-Coquille and the doctor Jones at The Little Bandage Clinic.  Such study permits Lest to learn cooking and herb craft, though only slowly and in baby-steps. 

  When I finally did blunder outside the main-gate, hidden as it was in plain site as a plain wall (in a plain game), I breathed a sigh of relief!  I’m outside!  I can finally do whatever I want!  Hurray!  Then Forte strolls up and locks Lest in place for another “just one more thing” tutorial.  Gaw-awh!  Recruiting Forte as a part time front-liner, I finally broke loose and began cavorting about slicing the weak enemies in this region, collecting the fixem’s for healing items.  I challenged the forests beyond this area, and won a few nice trophies, such as a shield and a level of fighting experience.  I decided to return before pushing my luck at night, and was delighted to find a teleport function that allowed Lest to return swiftly to the last save pedestal.  Convenient!

  The next day was a cooking contest; I rather failed to impress!  But this is to be expected from my (total) 2 days mucking about with cooking.  Rune Factory is just opening up before me, and asking what I would do in a world like this.  There’s doubtlessly much left to discover, and with time being what it is, I’ll be taking a lot of time to learn.  Still, there is a glimmer of hope, as the tutorials appear to back off, and the game proper begins to look inviting.

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