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My Early Foreys Into The 3DS Library Continue

Although I have enjoyed this kind of game in the past, I don't think I'm going to make it to a full year (game time) of Harvest Moon: A New Beginning.   I put another week (game time) into the game, and my little farm persona's routine is the same as it was from the start:
  1. Wake up.
  2. Water the plants.
  3. Run around the forest and mountains grabbing everything I can stuff in my bag.
  4. Dump it all in the harvest bin in town.  Maybe save a few things for storing at home.
  5. Visit the shop to stock up on anything I might need.
  6. Perform the second daily plant watering
  7. Bed.
Eventually, my first turnip crop was ready for harvesting.  Did that.  Found out that turning them into soup was more profitable, so I turned them all into soup before chucking them in the bin.  Soon afterward, my potatoes came in.  I made a fair amount of coin from shipping all this out, but it seems I can already make a decent amount of money just running around the forest collecting bugs and bric a brac to sell, so why bother farming at all?!  For that matter, at this point in the game, there's really not a whole lot to buy: just seeds, fertilizer, recipes, and some basic kitchen supplies.

I know there's a lot more to the game than this, but I don't think I can endure the boredom of waiting for the game to let me at it.  For example, if I had a seed maker, I might be able to do the most basic but important thing there is to do in a Harvest Moon game, and actually increase the star-level of my crops by fertilizing them... but apparently that does not happen until the first of Fall season, a full 60 game days in!  Why did they make so much core gameplay aspects take so long to get access to?! At this point, I am not sure taking the effort to play long enough to see it would change much: the very core gameplay of Harvest Moon: A New Beginning is boring the snot out of me.
Can't wait for this game.  Turns out I won't have to: currently slated for a July, 2013 release in North America.
The Rune Factory games I've played, now those were interesting.  Outside of farming, I also had hack and slash adventuring to do, new dungeons to unlock.  I had a whole series of weapons, armor, progression, potions, magic, ect in addition to this basic farming stuff.  I could actually look forward to having monsters do my overland farming, eventually.  I guess I'm just spoiled: the Rune Factory games I've played were most of what Harvest Moon was, and much more.

Another game that spoiled me off of being able to enjoy Harvest Moon: A New Beginning is Animal Crossing: New Leaf, the newly-released continuation to the Animal Crossing series that I have been playing lately.  The thing is, if most of what I'm doing is collecting bugs and whatnot, Animal Crossing: New Leaf has a far better implementation of that mechanic.  (Granted, Harvest Moon does make selling droves of things easier, and the NPCs have a bit more personality to them.)
The Tortimer Island resort adds a much needed home away from home to Animal Crossing.  It's also a fantastic place to make lots of bells!
While I have been trying to pace myself in Animal Crossing: New Leaf, it seems I'm not doing a fantastic job of it.  I started off wanting to put 10,000 bells into my home and public work project per day.  The next day, it was 20,000 bells.  The last two days, it's been 50,000 bells each - 100,000 bells worth of grinding per day!   Tomorrow will see the completion of my third house expansion (not counting moving out of a tent) and my second public work project.

There's no need to be in such a hurry, as Animal Crossing is fairly unique in that it is a game is designed to be played in small sessions over a long period of time.  Although, I guess 100,000 bells a day is not a terrible goal, thanks to Tortimer Island having a functionally unlimited supply of exotic fruit, sea life, and other bell-heavy swag I can drag back and sell in big piles of 10k-40k bells.  (The Agrias Butterfly is one of my main staples, being found either at town or on Tortimer's Island, and selling for a whopping 3,000 bells each where most things will sell for less than 500.) In terms of maintaining my long-term desire to keep playing this game, I probably would be better off investing half as much time per day.

A game that has really impressed me and may well be my next purchase is in one of the demos I downloaded from the eStore: Etrian Odyssey IV.  This is basically a game of a formula you do not see too often these days, at least on the PC, one largely pioneered by Wizardry and back when I first got my start in gaming you would see games like this all the time such as the The Bard's Tale or Eye Of The Beholder, some of these you may have heard of due to more recent remakes or ports.
In a nutshell, this type of game has you roll up a party of characters and take them through a series of 3D mazes from a first person (party) perspective restricted to 90-degree turns.  It's all turn based, both in overland travel and in combat which plays out with the menu-driven "choose which move this character will do this turn" method we've seen in a great deal of traditional RPGs.  Etrian Odyssey includes an additional mode where you are traveling overland map via an airship, but it's essentially the same as wandering around a dungeon but with the perspective pulled way out.  When you're not out adventuring, you're at town, which is completely menu-driven: talk to various NPCs, trade items, get missions, all via menus.

Sounds thoroughly formulaic, so what makes Etrian Odyssey so great?  Maybe it's because this game trims all the unnecessary fat off the game mechanic and delivers a lean, mean, roleplaying machine.  The details make and break any game, and here we have well-balanced, challenging gameplay, good pacing, and generally a great sense of craftsmanship throughout.  The graphics are great for a 3DS title (although the character designs are somewhat over-the-top anime, including some rather overt lolicon).  Overall, a great sense of flow and interactive satisfaction can be found in this game.

Other compelling features include that you actually manually map your dungeons on the bottom screen with the stylus, and somehow this actually adds to the enjoyment of the game... perhaps it's nostalgia from back in the day when I had to do this on graph paper when playing games like The Bard's Tale or Pool Of Radiance?  Etrian Odyssey IV also looks to be a long game, completion time looks to be about 69 hours - at $35, that puts it right in my 50 cents per hour comfort zone of entertainment investment.  Eat your heart out, Bioshock Infinite.

Moving right along, I've scratched the surface of Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, my second GameFly rental, and have found it to pretty much be more Luigi's Mansion.  It's been a long time since I played the Gamecube original, and I think that the charm of the formula really holds up.

The appeal of the game is mostly about the personality. Luigi and Professor E. Gadd are the stars of the show, their unique personalities playing a lot into the charm of the game.  Luigi is clearly scared of ghosts and this, combined with genius pratfalls, makes watching him while you play a perpetual joy.  Yes, he still hums or whistles along with the background music from time to time.  E. Gadd is a bit of an eccentric egghead, not quite as entertaining as Luigi because he spends the game away from the action in a bunker, but he's certainly full of surprises and wacky inventions!

However, the charm does not end on the two main characters!  The ghosts (which come in varieties that each have distinctive looks and personalities) are often showcased in montages where Luigi observes them through cracks in walls to see how they entertain themselves.  The environment itself also has a variety of distinct personalities: as Luigi moves through the haunted mansion and beyond, each room is engineered to have a unique feel to it.  There's also lots of props to interact with either directly or by sucking and blowing on them with the vacuum cleaner Luigi uses for catching ghosts.  Observing the rooms carefully is part of the gameplay, panning up and down to get a closer look at the ceiling and floor really creates a sense of place even when it's in a game being played in a small device in your hands.

I have played games whose production values are so good that they resemble interactive television shows before.  Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon seems to take things to a whole other level, the resemblance to a high-quality entertainment program is higher than ever; it really feels like you're there directly controlling the protagonist of a 3D rendered animated show and not just playing a game!  The developers must have known that, as they further enhance the effect with a largely menu-less system, and even accessing your database of ghosts is handled as though Luigi is there doing it.

I'm not sure I'll bother buying Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon.  If I were a video game collector, I'd be proud to own it, for sure.  However, as it is, I might just finish it and ship it back to GameFly because, even as cool as this experience is, I don't see a lot of replay value.  Indeed, looks like I'll be completely done with the game inside of 16-24 hours of play.  Again, a fantastic collector's item, but also just a fantastic rental.
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