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A Surprisingly Effective $300 This Has Turned Out To Be

I'm so deep in the poorhouse right now that it's not even funny - I vastly overestimated my disposable income when I shelled out for a Nintendo 3DS XL last week.  However, as it turns out, this device is not only trying to improve my body and mind, it's actually doing a better job than anything else I've encountered for years.

There's a Play Coin function that allows me to earn up to ten coins a day that can be spent in various Nintendo games and other applications.  How do you earn these coins?  By walking around with a Nintendo 3DS in sleep mode, triggering the pedometer function.  (I could cheat the pedometer, sure, but that's not how I roll.)  Earning the full 10 coins is only 1,000 steps (1 coin per 100 steps) and that's rather weak considering that the ideal goal these days is ten times that, 10,000 steps a day!  Still, they say that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and just 1,000 is more than enough to get me to take my 3DS for a walk from time to time, an excuse to take a walk that actually works for me.   Alternately, I might just use this gym membership I'm paying for because, even on a treadmill, 10 play coins is 10 play coins more than I had yesterday.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf is thus far the primary game which is currently incentivizing me to get out and earn play coins, but at a paltry 2 play coins a day (which amounts to 200 steps) that's not nearly enough for me to truly say I'm going to get physically fit doing it.
Add to this that I have been getting in a daily regimen of Brain Age: Concentration Training.  Call it a gimmick if you must, but I can tell you this much: each activity in this game is definitely engineered to take you to problems that challenge your brain as quickly as possible; you will hit a mental wall almost immediately, and then there's nothing to do but try to climb it.  Seems to be an earnest and practical way to improve one's brainpower to me!

Each activity is pretty much focused on enhancing memory functions, mostly what's referred to as working memory, which is not even short term in duration, but rather centric to focusing on whatever matter is at hand.  As I continue to clock in time playing Brain Age every day, I'm witnessing a general improvement in my scores (some days more than than others) which is partly a reflection I am getting better at the specific games, but I would wager it is also partly a reflection of a genuine improvement of my working memory.  Just how big are each of those two parts in relation to each other?  I have no way to gauging such a thing.  But if my working memory was improved, by even the tiniest degree, it's worth plugging in 5 minutes every day.
Yesterday, the brony phenomenon came to visit me.  Yes, the new movie, Equestria Girls, actually came to a theater within 25 miles of me, which is fairly noteworthy because it's showing in niche theaters only.  Despite being a frequent ponychan spammer poster, I have not been watching a whole lot of pony lately, thanks largely to the fact that there has not been a new episode for 4 months now.  Equestria Girls is basically an epic-length satisfactory episode of the show, and considering the dire straights of lacking new episodes I was in, you bet I went!  I was glad I went to see it and, at the end of the movie, it seemed that everyone within earshot felt the same way.  Of course, my experience with the movie may have been enhanced by having 50 other bronies in the theater - mostly high school or college age - cheering at every cameo of their favorite characters.  If this movie ends up on iTunes, they've got themselves a sale in me.

Naturally, I brought along my 3DS hoping to collect some StreetPass hits, and I scored two.  Right on!  Well, if the pedometer is set too low, perhaps running around in hope I'll stumble across somebody for StreetPass purposes will get me enough exercise.  I imagine in Japan this is considerably easier, given their population density, but in the United States... not so much, unless you happen to live in New Jersey or something.  On second thought, I'm better off just bringing it to large public events with me than hoping I might stumble across someone at random while talking a walk somewhere - the odds of that are rather low in my neck of the woods.

So yes, this little device has got me to exercise, to educate myself, and even to seek out socialization... sort of... alright, so all three of these are actually a bit of a stretch, but I still think it's just barely feasible enough to matter.  Anyway, how are the games for the Nintendo 3DS?
A New Beginning has map customization?  Well, maybe much later than where I am at now...

As it turns out, my first two GameFly rentals for my Nintendo 3DS have arrived.  Harvest Moon: A New Beginning and Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon.  I have yet to play this latest Luigi's Mansion, but I have seen the review aggregate score and have no doubt it will be at least reasonably entertaining.  However, I have played a bit of the other game I rented, and I have to say that it's been a crushing disappointment so far.

Frankly, Rune Factory Frontier (which I own on the Wii) was better than Harvest Moon: A New Beginning in nearly every way - okay, maybe A New Beginning is a bit more customizable, but that's about it.  Sure, I expected there to be no combat, no dungeons, and no taming monsters to work my overland farm... but I would have thought by now they would have added something as simple as the skill progression mechanic from Rune Factory!  Nope, it would seem your farmer learns nothing from his toil in this game, although I suspect a smith eventually moves in who can improve your tools.  After Rune Factory, going back to Harvest Moon is basically going back to a game that's much, much simpler (... of course, if you like simple, more power to you).  Judging by the save history of this rented copy of Harvest Moon: A New Beginning, the last two players did not get halfway through the first year before sending it back: not a good sign for this game's long-term appeal!

There's technical issues with Harvest Moon: A New Beginning, too.  The 3D effect just barely adequate with bad camera angles and generally poor depth to the polygons in the game; they added this perpetual cherry blossom effect to try to make more of the 3D in the Spring season but, after awhile, seeing pink pedals falling everywhere just gets annoying.  The music is highly repetitive and gets boring fast; I actually enjoy game music, usually, but tracks that last less than 30 seconds really push my patience!  At times, I've noticed the sound glitching in a little buzz when zoning from screen to screen - apparently, this engine is not very thoroughly troubleshooted.
I think the two characters in the middle bar respresent your choice of male or female protagonist, but I've yet to see any of the characters from the top or the bottom bars in Harvest Moon: A New Beginning yet. Way to back load your content!
Maybe Harvest Moon: A New Beginning gets better later on. At the start, the town is thoroughly boring and empty, each day is spent watering my plants twice a day, hearing what three NPCs have to say (and they do not new dialogue often), and passing my time by running around in the wilderness grabbing rocks, flowers, insects, and whatever else I can get my grubby hands on, which is then tossed in the sales bin for money.  Animal Crossing: New Leaf has similar gathering activities, but they are implemented in a much more enjoyable and interactive manner.   However, the whole premise of Harvest Moon: A New Beginning is that you are revitalizing the town through your efforts, which means the town should become more interesting over time and this should lead to more activities. I'll see if I can slog my way through an entire year of the game (which, unlike Animal Crossing, is not simulated in real time - more like about 1 minute of game time for every second or two of real time) and it would be nice if this latest Harvest Moon installment actually became interesting at some point... but, currently, I'm just glad I rented this game instead of buying it, and am looking forward to Rune Factory 4 which is supposed to be out some time this summer.

On a final note,  it seems my old Seagate Barracuda ST31000333AS 1TB hard drive is finally starting to give up the ghost.  It's dropped out of my RAID 1 three times over the last week, apparently failing to power up properly or something.  These drives come with a three-year warrenty, but I'm honestly not sure when I received this drive - it might have been itself a warrenty replacement drive!  I really hope that Seagate is willing to send me another one or, better yet, a newer model of Barracuda.  If they do, I am considering investing part of my next paycheck into a couple of 1TB 2.5" laptop hard drives (because this computer case of mine does not accept any more 3.5" drives) and getting my RAID 1+0 up at last.  If not, I think I'll at least get one 3.5" drive in order to restore my RAID 1. Considering my terrible luck with hard drives, I love RAID1, it has saved me from having to reinstall Windows 7 move than once now, and I never want to go back... but having some speed would be nice, too.

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