Tag Archives: Animal Crossing

Ever Oasis, a refuge from the hardness of life

Ever Oasis comes to us from the studio Grezzo and is Koichi Ishii’s latest project, who you might know as the designer who created the Mana series of action, fantasy-based role-playing games, of which I’ve dabbled in Secret of Mana back on the SNES, own an untouched digital copy of the PlayStation 1’s Legend of Mana on my PlayStation 3, and have no further experience with any other games in the series. Boo to that, boo to me. Ishii is also tied to the creation of those adorable Chocobo and Moogle characters, and the Noots found in Ever Oasis, with their rotund figure, feathery eyebrows, and bouncy walks, are sure to become another beloved trademark. Any way you slice it, there’s pedigree here and a whole heap of ambition.

In Ever Oasis, you play as either Tethu or Tethi, a young seedling, who with the help of a water spirit named Esna creates an oasis after your brother’s oasis falls victim to the evil force known as Chaos. I went with Tethi and gave her purple skin. Your main goal is to find more residents that can help fight these Chaos creatures, as well as create a safe and functional oasis for all to live in. That often requires doing specific tasks for wannabe residents and, once they’re in, setting up shops, called bloom booths, for them to sell their wares and keeping those shops well-stocked. Alas, the story is cookie-cutter basic and far from ambitious, yet the character designs are fun and memorable, and seeing a new possible resident show up in your oasis is exciting, even if the most they can offer you is a fetch quest.

However, it’s not enough to build a new oasis in Ever Oasis. No, no, it has to be prosperous, absolutely perfect. You hit this goal by completing missions in dungeons and caves outside the oasis, in the dangerous desert. Players can form a party of up to three characters and battle a range of enemies possessed by Chaos, but more on that in a bit. Dungeons also contain puzzles and treasure chests full of materials needed to restock bloom booths. Shopkeepers with popular products produce dewadems, this realm’s strangely named currency, which you can spend on various things, like building more booths or crafting new weapons/bits of armor. Bloom booths can also be upgraded by re-stocking them and completing quests for their operators.

Something the Mana games all have in common that is also found in Ever Oasis is a seamless, real-time battle system. One nice option is the ability to switch between any of your three party members at any given time, providing options for weapons and abilities, though I have mostly stuck with Tethi. Combat is a mix of light strategy and button-mashing, with an emphasis on rolling away from an enemy’s attack. You yourself have a Normal Attack, a Special Attack, and unlock combos as you level up. Because you can’t move after landing an attack, you want to ensure you don’t leave yourself open for damage; thankfully, so far, all the encountered enemies have a tell just before they lunge at you, which allows you to time your rolls and keep your HP up. One nice bonus of maintaining a healthy and happy oasis is that your health, when out in dungeons, is extended because of this. As more people swarm to your oasis, it grows and levels up, providing you with new crafting recipes and more safety net HP.

There’s little bits and pieces of things I love very much in Ever Oasis, but they are currently not enough to get me jumping for joy. Like, you can plant seeds and assign an unemployed Seedling to tend to your crops, but this is no Stardew Valley or even Disney Magical World 2. The farming aspect seems ultra basic. You plant seeds, you can either spend dewadems to help them grow faster or not, and wait for them to grow. An oasis of loyal and almost-loyal Seedlings sounds lovely, but this is no Animal Crossing, as they don’t have much to say other than their initial questline and just sort of wander down the road aimlessly. Also, the menus are clean and fine, though I found the section on main quests to be lacking; I want to be able to select a quest as a priority over others and have it drop the necessary waypoints on my map screen or at least see how I’m progressing towards it.

I do worry that Ever Oasis will turn into a grind, something I’m beginning to see as I prepare to throw my first festival, which first requires obtaining a number of stamps from happy shopkeepers. I’ll keep at it for the near future because I simply cannot fall back down the wormhole that is upping my completion rate in Disney Magical World 2, which would basically require me to craft a ton of princess dresses and outfits for girls.

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Happy Home Designer gently puts you to work

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I stopped playing Animal Crossing: New Leaf on May 5, 2014. That’s two days after my favorite villager Sylvia’s birthday. I missed her party. I meant to go all out and get her every gorgeous, pink item I could find, wrapping each up in special paper to make her day all the more memorable. Instead, I blanked and didn’t even show. With panicky fingers, I visited her only to discover her entire home in boxes, ready to be picked up and moved by a service of muscles. She was leaving me. I tried my everything to convince her to stay, but it was too late–she was unmovable. Or rather, completely movable.

It was hard to step away from Animal Crossing: New Leaf, a game which still to this day sits at the top of my Nintendo 3DS stats as my most played game, with only a few others creeping near it. And yet, Sylvia’s departure from my town, as well as her finally giving in and presenting me with her portrait only a few weeks before, unfolded right around the time my marriage was concluding. Two lives ending in unison, and me, standing still, scared and uncertain of what I could do. Thankfully, to help ease the nights, another game swooped in and stole all my attention.

Well, Happy Home Designer is not another full-blown Animal Crossing title, and that’s fine. I’m not ready to commit once more. Instead, it takes elements from the main series, specifically the home decoration aspect, and expands it into a full-time job for your character, who is no longer mayor of the town, but once again another employee of that nefarious rascal Tom Nook. As the newest designer at Nook’s Homes, you’re given the power to create homes, yards, and other buildings, inside and out, with the main goal of making your animal client friends happy. You can help out one client or building request from Isabelle per day–that’s in-game per day, not real life–and before you call it a night, you can spend Play Coins to study your handbook and acquire new blueprints, items, and other decorative thingies for future use.

For some people, decorating is not the siren’s call of the Animal Crossing series. They might prefer fishing and collecting bugs, selling beetles from the tropical island for a large amount of Bells, or doing all the community requests around your village. Or perhaps you really got into designing outfits. There’s also working at the cafe. I think the great thing about Animal Crossing is that it is wide open, and you can love what you love and go deep on it without completely pushing everything else out of the way. For instance, when my sister Jules was playing, she made a great effort to breed all the rarer flowers and enforced a strict “no running” rule when I’d visit her town.

For myself, I really enjoyed expanding and decorating my home, both in Animal Crossing: Wild World and Animal Crossing: New Leaf. I’ve gone to great strides to get rare furniture before. For the most part, I’d pick a theme for a room and work towards collecting items that were either officially part of the theme, like astro furniture only, or somehow related, like a meteor or toy rocketship to place in the corner. The struggle sometimes was finding all the pieces of furniture, which relied on the daily luck of the shop, the generosity of your neighbors, and whether or not you had a friend who could visit and dump everything you need at your tiny, pointy feet. Thankfully, Happy Home Designer gives you a large amount of the furniture objects to you right from the get-go, so you can attack your client’s house with all you have and not be restrained by things like missing lamps or using a chair that obviously clashes with the aesthetic.

Or, if you want, and this is something I don’t ever want, you can go against your client’s wishes and run amok in terms of design and feng shui. For instance, say a squirrel wants a forest-themed house, but you decide to fill it up with pink princess furniture, robots, and all things not related to the forest. As far as I can tell, the job will still get done, and the client might be okay with it. There doesn’t seem to be any penalty for going outside the box, but I prefer to accomplish what the buyer is paying for. I mean, you’ll still get something to eat if you order a hot dog and get a hamburger instead, but that doesn’t mean you’re one hundred percent satisfied with the course of action.

I’ll never stop moaning and groaning over the severe lack of Play Coin integration during the lifetime of the Nintendo 3DS, but the Animal Crossing series has at least tried here and there. In this one, before you clock out for the day and count some sheep that hopefully look nothing like Pietro, you can spend Play Coins, ranging from one to five (so far), to upgrade your decorating abilities and the items available to you, as well as other functions. Like, now I can change my avatar’s skin tone and hairstyle in the boutique section upstairs at Nook’s Homes. Also, I have every gyroid possible, simply at a fingertip’s reach. Same with famous pieces of art.

Now, you’ll recall I had a bad case of epic fail last time I went to GameStop. Well, seems like there was still some in my system when I went to purchase Happy Home Designer with a Christmas gift card. Speaking of cards, there are special amiibo cards for this game that allow you to personally invite celebrities like Tortimer and DJ KK to Main Street and help construct a home for them. Since I have a regular ol’ launch Nintendo 3DS, I asked the young man behind the counter if the amiibo cards would still work or if they only worked on the New Nintendo 3DS, which remains a terrible name to this day. I mean, there’s only one copy of the game, and the game itself comes with a card, so I hoped they would work no matter where you ended up playing it. The GameStop employee told me they would work. Got home, played for a bit, unlocked the amiibo phone, and nope–they do not. I’d have to buy some sort of electronic reader for $19.99 to get them to work, and I already spent enough money on the game and cards themselves that I’m annoyed by the whole process, so forget it.

I’m not playing Happy Home Designer every day like I did for Animal Crossing: New Leaf when I first got it and then for many, many months thereafter. Instead, I’m chipping away at it, doing a client’s request or a job from Isabelle, and then calling it a night. That’s fine. It’s a leisurely game about making animals happy, and making animals happy makes me happy, so this is how I get my fix when needed. However, I am curious to know how long this whole business plan lasts because, eventually, I will run out of clients and things to do.

See you next year at Festivale, Pavé

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Everyone plays Animal Crossing: New Leaf differently, and that’s a scientific fact, proven by science. Or me just assuming. One of those two. Some people make a bee-line for each and every bell, in hopes of paying off their entire house before focusing on anything else. Others tackle one Public Works project after the other, sprucing up the look and originality of their town, and then there are those that put all their energy into getting every fish, bug, and fossil they come across. I’m all of those people at varying times, but last night I did something I’ve never done before in an Animal Crossing adventure–I grinded.

First, let me talk a bit about snowflakes and Snowmam. During the winter, you can build four different types of snowpeople by rolling specific-sized snowballs into each other. There’s a Snowman, Snowmam, Snowboy, and Snowtyke. Each gives you special pieces of furniture and wallpaper in their own distinct way. I went through the entire winter season never getting anything from a Snowboy or Snowtyke, but the Snowman plays BINGO with you, giving you something once you hit five numbers in a row. As for the Snowmam, she asks you to collect falling snowflakes and in return gives you a piece of Ice furniture. I did this for a while, but only got a few pieces before I lost interest in the tediously simple process and stuck with playing BINGO, which, while annoying at times, at least kept things unexpected.

Well, whatever. Winter is over, but only in Animal Crossing: New Leaf. There’s still plenty of snow and cold temperatures outside in Pennsylvania to argue otherwise. Bring on Festivale, which is a spring event that happens in February or March, depending on the year. It mirrors Mardi Gras and Carnival, a holiday celebrated worldwide. Pavé the peacock hosts the event in front of the Town Tree. As it is an all-day festival of color, costumes, and craziness, there is no snow or rain during the entire day. Confetti constantly falls from the sky, and if you look close enough, you can see colored feathers in the mix. Bring enough of a specific color to Pavé, usually three, and he’ll reward you with an item from the Pavé series of furniture. If you find a rare rainbow-colored feather, all you have to do is bring him one of those to get an item. Also, you can interact with your villagers to trade feathers or win them in mini-games, such as charades and rock, paper, scissors.

Now, I totally missed out on both the Harvest Festival and Toy Day due to the fact that both of those fall on the respective U.S. holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas, and that time is spent traveling and drinking wine and being full of food. By the time I had turned on my 3DS, the events were all over–which is a shame. And not. But it is heart-twisting to miss out on these special moments and the chance to earn some rare pieces of furniture. And so I decided to make the most out of Festivale as I could, running up and down and all around Arni in search of the specific feathers, trading when I can, and dumping not needed items on the ground to save inventory space. It’s actually harder than it sounds, as the feather drop rate–slowly falling rate?–is low, and you can never predict who has what color of feathers and are willing to trade. Seemed like any time I had three of one color, Pavé wanted three of a completely different shade. I’d say I put a total of three hours of devotion into this grinding task and came away with about half of the Pavé items for it.

Here’s a list of what I ultimately earned:

  • Pavé Bed
  • Pavé Bookshelf
  • Pavé Bureau
  • Pavé Chair
  • Pavé Chest
  • Pavé Closet
  • Pavé End Table
  • Pavé Floor
  • Pavé Lamp
  • Pavé Sofa
  • Pavé Table
  • Pavé Wall
  • Pavé Clock

Grr. Waah. I think I have duplicates of the Pavé chair and table if anyone wants to trade. Otherwise, I gotta wait a whole year now to try again, and that stinks as I also happen to really love the look of this series. It has a sort of retro kitchen cabin-like look to it, with the blue and white. I’d save the multitude of feathers I still have in my pockets, but my storage space is actually quite limited as is, so I think I’ll save a green feather to wear and sell the rest. Oh well. Until next time, you beautiful picture of a peacock!

Back into the wild to remember which Pokemon I liked

I haven’t posted my haiku review of it yet, but I “beat” Professor Layton’s London Life the other night. And, of course, in an Animal Crossing-esque mini-game made up of fetch quests only, beating the thing is not a terribly difficult mountain climb, but rather a nice walk around the park until the sun goes down and it is time to head home lest a shadowcat eviscerate you. And I sure did take my time, as I’ve been chipping away at fixing Little London’s problems since November 2011. But it’s over. Surprisingly major crisis averted, minute problems of every townsperson resolved, happiness earned, and credits scrolled. The actual main plot through and through is a bit silly and confusing, but I’ll save that for another post. Dangerously, after the credits are done and some ineffectual text plays, I am dropped back into London Life to continue doing all the tiny tasks again and again and again, which is fine, really. But I wanted to play something else for a change.

All of this is to say I took out the Professor Layton and the Last Specter cartridge from my Nintendo 3DS…and replaced it with Pokemon White, a game I haven’t touched in over a year. Shocking, I know. I basically got all the way up to the final fight (or series of fights) and couldn’t beat a certain tier, which meant blatant amounts of grinding, something I wasn’t interested in at the time. And I then put the game aside and forgot about it. Obviously.

But I’m back, and boy was my first few minutes disorienting. First of all, I guess I last saved my progress within some shopping mall, but one that also contained trainers ready to fight. Y’know, not exactly a safe zone, like a health center or neighborhood house. Not knowing this, I immediately went to chat with a young woman nearby. Her name was…Waitress Flo, and she wanted to kick my butt; I guess I had forgotten to previously leave her a nice tip. Alas, many of my Pokemon were weak and low on health, so I had to scrape by. As soon as the fight ended, I got the bleep out of there and took some time to re-learn the menus and what items I had, as well as familiarize myself with my team of pocket monsters.

Only three stood out as memorable, the ones I’ve used since the dawn of time, and the other three felt immediately like space-fillers. But anyways, yeah. My trio of attackers included the following:

The problem is that these are my only heavy hitters, and after they fall, I don’t have anyone else strong enough to take their places. So now I am looking around my storage box for three worthy contenders, and then I guess I will grind them up to the mid-forties or low fifties via Victory Road and hope that I can take down the Ferocious Four (or whatever they are called) in one fell swoop. If anything, the time spent grinding will help me get back into the groove of the game, as well as continue to grow Trashy into the biggest, baddest pile of punching trash you ever did see. I told the world I’d beat Pokemon White with garbage, and I plan to see that promise come to fruition.

The newest Professor Layton game is undeniably Laytonesque

It’s been a long time since I’ve played a Professor Layton game, and that’s probably because I’ve only ever played one before, way back in like early 2008. Professor Layton and the Curious Village was a surprise hit in my eyes, a weird mix of puzzles and top-notch animation and genuine mystery and intrigue. Heck, I even used it as evidence to get a girl I was seeing then to buy a Nintendo DS Lite. I played it more for the story than anything else, but the puzzles were varied and kept me thinking, even if the math-heavy ones were too tough for my artistic brain. If anything, this series oozes charm, which always keeps me interested, and so I eagerly sought the latest iteration, Professor Layton and the Last Specter, the fourth title overall and yet a prequel to that first adventure over uncovering the golden apple.

Plus, the newest game comes with a bonus RPG/Animal Crossing sim-like thing called Professor Layton’s London Life, which is extremely adorable and charming and shockingly deep. More on that in a bit.

Dropping back into the world of Professor Layton was a warm, welcoming experience. The music, the look of buildings and cars, the animated character designs, his trunk-space–nothing had changed, and that’s a good thing. It felt like only days had then passed between this new adventure and our last outing. Even the sounds puzzles and hint coins make when found are constant.

The story so far: Professor Layton receives a letter from an old friend; in it, Clark, the mayor of Misthallery, codes a secret message, a desperate plea for help against a giant ravaging the town and townspeople to tears. Off goes the professor, picking up an assistant, too. Her name is Emmy, and she seems to know more about the professor than is necessary. Once in Misthallery, it becomes clear that more craziness is at work, with locals whispering about an oracle and specter. Puzzle-wise, I’ve tackled seven or eight now, and the hardest one was math-based and about mops. I hate mops. Other than that, one of the three minigames in Layton’s trunk unlocked, and I’ve learned just how Layton and Luke meet for the first time. Neat-o!

In Professor Layton’s London Life, you don’t actually play as Hersel Layton. Instead, you are you…or whoever you want to be. You can design your avatar to your liking, as well as picking a defining trait too–I went with shy and, well, something I can’t remember. Good cook? Sexy swagger? Moves like Jagger? Whatever, no biggie. In fact, nothing is big in this realm, as developer Brownie Brown nails the look of an old-school RPG with tiny sprites that are still instantly recognizable as characters from other Layton games. You pick up miscellaneous tasks and focus more on clothing, items for your room, and getting a job; in this way, it’s more Animal Crossing than an RPG, but there’s stats to clothing and some other grindy elements. Right now, Little London Pauly is wearing a red beret, a blue scarf, and some kickin’ pants. He’s also a janitor.

Both games are currently trying to out-charm one another, and I’m struggling with which to play more of first. It’s actually not a problem at all.

How I finally found you, Suikoden III

Yesterday, according to just about every videogames-covering website ever to be put up on the Internet, was the release date for Professor Layton and the Last Specter. This is a game I’m surprisingly stoked for, and I know why. Certainly, it’s not a love for the series, as I have only played Professor Layton and the Curious Village; granted, that’s a great game, one that packaged both cinematic story and varied gameplay nicely, but I never got around to trying the next two to come out. If anything, they all seemed to be more or less that first game again, with different tweaks here and there. So, why am I all atwitter over the fourth game, which is actually a prequel where I’m assuming we learn why a grown man likes hanging out with a young boy so much?

Well, Professor Layton’s London Life. That’s why. It’s likened more to Animal Crossing than an RPG, and there’s a promise of over a hundred hours of gameplay. Yeah, duh. I think I dropped more than that on Animal Crossing: Wild World easy. With pixelated art and a focus on clothing, filling out a house like the rich and famous, and fetch quests galore…well, where do I sign over my first-born?

However, GameStop decided that Professor Layton and the Last Specter doesn’t come out on October 17, but rather October 18. Why? Why not. They make the rules, and so I disappointingly did not get to pick it up yesterday during my lunch break. When I got home from work, I had some noodles in a cup and mustered up the strength to try again; maybe the GameStops in Pennsylvania were more sensible than those in New Jersey. Nope. The one down the road in PA had no copies on their shelves either. Annoying, but kind of expected. However, this one did have a section for used PlayStation 2 games, a section that most stores have now cut due to saving crucial shelf space for things like Kinect Sports Season Two and Puppies 3D.

In my wallet, among other things, is a list. It’s basically this, but scrawled on a scrap of paper, folded and fading. I’ve been carrying it with me for many months now, and every time Tara and I come across a bin of used PS2 games, we search for those I’d like to add to my collection before they all up and vanish without a sound. I always check the “S” titles first, in hope of finding Suikoden III, a game that I never have hope of actually finding. The Suikoden games are some of my favorite RPGs, and while IV got bad reviews, V was pretty good story-wise, but is currently far away in Arizona. And I always heard good things about III, but never got around to getting it, and by the time that I did begin to earnestly search for it, the dang thing went dark, underground. Phooey.

Imagine my surprise then to find the box for Suikoden III last night, tucked safely behind a dingy copy of The Spiderwick Chronicles. And for $12.99, too. I would’ve gladly paid up to $30.00 for it, so in my mind, this was a steal. I mean, I know how high copies of Suikoden II still go for, and this kind of felt like it had the same rarity as its predecessor. Pretty sure my heart skipped a beat, and I’m so happy that I found found my copy of the game, making its acquiring all the more rewarding. I grabbed another RPG called Ys: The Ark of Napishtim for a few bucks, and Tara slid a copy of Monster Rancher EVO into my hands before we hit the cash register.

I am very much looking forward to seeing what Suikoden III is all about, and you can expect coverage here and maybe somewhere else. Stay tuned, my fellow Stars of Destiny.

30 Days of Gaming, #6 – Most annoying character

Hmm…something about this feels familiar. Oh, right. That’s because last November, I wrote up a little post about my top five most annoying videogame sidekicks, focusing in on the sidekicky aspect of the business. I mean, adventuring into the unknown is one thing, but doing it with a chatty brat is another. Sure, any of those could easily get smashed into bits by today’s 30 Days of Gaming topic train, but I decided to think some more and found a few other contenders. And we’re going with Tom Nook, simply for his sheer audacity to never, ever change.

Tom Nook is a raccoon tanuki that runs a shop called Nook’s Cranny in your town in all versions of Animal Crossing. He starts out as a nice fella, giving you a home to live in. One small caveat though: you’ll have to pay him for it, and he’s okay with payments over time, so long as you eventually pay it off. Once you do, he’ll expand your house, opening up more rooms to decorate…so long as you keep paying him, too. That’s fine. That’s kind of how it works in real life, minus the talking raccoon, I think.

Where he gets truly annoying is in his shop. You enter Nook’s Cranny (clean thoughts, dear readers!), and he welcomes you, and gives you a list of options. You do your things, peruse his wares, and leave, but not before he can get the last word in: “Thank you! Do come again! I look forward to seeing you!” You can never just enter and leave uninhibited, like countless RPGs that let you waltz into that potions shop, knock over some bottles, and leave before anyone notices. No, not at Nook’s Cranny. Not in Nook’s book. He will greet you, he will part with you. He never breaks form. He’s like that Obama smile video. He’s like braindead. He’s like…overtly annoying.

And then he follows you around the store, like a used cars salesman, like a true furniture pusher, like an ex-lover with a vengeance. You can run rings around his desk of player tools, but he’ll catch up to you eventually. Unfortunately, the only way to determine what some of the wallpapers/carpets are is to ask him, and you have to then mash the buttons until you can get him to stop.

You want more? Evidently, after you’ve fully upgraded his shop to Nookington’s, Tom will randomly ask you some questions, and the wrong answers will result in him downgrading the store back to its original format. All that shopping…for nothing.

I’m pretty excited about all the possibilities that Animal Crossing 3DS could hit on the head, but if Tom Nook is around, well, I’m gonna be several hundred thousand bells short of excitement.