Archive for December, 2009

FEATURE: Ranch Story – The Harvest Moon Franchise

There are a lot of game sites that cover classic games.  With virtual console et al making such things more (legally) accessible than ever, more people can go back and relive childhood memories.  You can read a lot of nostalgic coverage of series like Ninja Gaiden, Metal Gear, Shinobi, Dragon Quest, and any other well-loved franchise played by people in their childhood, the same people that faithfully buy every new installment and will tell you at length which ones in the series are the best, regardless of age.

Amidst all this coverage, Harvest Moon is rarely mentioned. Perhaps this is because it is largely played by girls, and young girls, at that. “Gamers” who seek help at Harvest Moon forums are usually… well, disgusted when confronted with the level of maturity of the average Harvest Moon player.  Willy would also be quick to point out that many of the games are re-releases of the same games with extra features or “For Girl” versions, what he calls “Game Sweatshop” games.  That’s true, too.   And yet, this series sometimes sees several games a year, and all of them always make it to the United States, regardless of system or quality of game (there are three exceptions, but even then… they still came out here). Over 30 Harvest Moon games have been released since 1996. Few video game series can boast those kind of numbers and apparent popularity in both East and West.

For adult women who are also gamers, Harvest Moon can be just as nostalgic as Castlevania or Final Fantasy. I was twelve when the first game came out in 1997, and it was probably the first video game I was really addicted to. I’ve bought and played every installment since, and am a bit ashamed to admit that my console and handheld buying habits revolve almost solely around Harvest Moon games. It’s a big part of why I play video games.

For this article, I’ll discuss the series at length, then link to reviews for what will hopefully be every game in the series.

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REVIEW: Mytran Wars

Mytran Wars: A PSP squad-based tactical mecha game with 2 separate armies and customizable units. Cool.

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REVIEW: Braindead 13

NOTE: Just for fun, the Japanese box art is shown, but Braindead 13 came out in America (and is American).

Braindead 13 is an interactive cartoon (ala Dragons Lair) released on about every system (including CD-i, 3DO, and Jaguar), and another “game” that tries the definition of the word. While the premise is fun (sassy repairman escaping monster-filled mansion) and the animation is plentiful, the play is trail and error tedium. With infinite lives, prepare for 1001 deaths.

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REVIEW: Wrath Unleashed

Wrath Unleashed (also for X-Box) is an Archon-esque mix of board game strategy and action-based battles (genre-mates include: The Unholy War for PS1 and Dark Legions for DOS). Wrath Unleashed is pretty unambitious (taking spells and units from Archon), but fun enough—despite button-mashing, exploitable combat.

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REVIEW: Thexder Neo

NOTE: Thexder Neo never came in a box. The above image is from Thexder Old.

(Old) Thexder had a sequel, Firehawk: Thexder the Second Contact (an excellent name), and a semi-sequel, Thexder 95. All for various home computers, all forgotten. Then comes Thexder Neo, a PSP downloadable developed by Square (developers of Thexder’s Famicom port). Thexder Neo is a faithful remake, now with 3 difficulty modes, and improved graphics and controls. Great, since the old Thexder controls were unresponsive and lousy. I usually talk about RPG/adventure/strategy games (or other games of words and numbers), but Thexder (or maybe Castle Adventure) was the first game I ever played and gets special privileges.

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