The Majestic Plush Alpaca

Behold, the pre-order bonus for Harvest Moon: The Tale of Two Towns:

The alpaca is an exciting new animal in the latest Harvest Moon, I believe the first since the ostrich and silkworms were introduced in Tree of Tranquility (but don’t take my word for it, I get all the titles jumbled in my head since I’ve played them all way too much). I assume you can gather wool from them, though alpaca milk is an interesting idea. I already love them because they are adorable, the silkworms were not so cute.

In plushie matters, if GameStop screws up my pre-order again and causes me to miss out on another HM plushie I will be mad and you will know it because of the destruction left in my wake.

999 Screens Full of Words

Blurry camera phone evidence of my ultimate victory.
Blurry camera phone evidence of my ultimate victory.

Having played through ChunSoft’s 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors five times (I had to get all the endings, it’s a brain problem that I have) I am very impressed with a couple of things about the game specifically:

  1. Aksys’ smash up job with the localization. There are walls and walls of text in 999 (it’s a visual novel with some puzzles, afterall), all of which make sense. The story was clear, instructions and clues were easy to understand, and so on. It might seem like a no-brainer but Aksys is not a company with the resources of, say, Konami and deserve serious kudos for their job here.
  2. The puzzles and the clues given to solve them all make sense. This is so important in an adventure game but there are so many out there where this isn’t so and you wind up guessing or just trying to combine random objects. That is not fun. In 999 you know what you have to do and how it has to get done. No cat mustache affairs.

The story of 999 is not going to blow your mind but it was consistent and true to itself, with a lot of information to absorb if you go through multiple endings. It all ties together pretty neatly, though there are some questions left up in the air but I assume much of that was intentional. There is definitely wiggle room for a follow up of sorts if ChunSoft decides to go that way.

The variety of puzzles is pretty good–a bunch of them are number decoding which makes sense given the theme of the game, but there are also straight logic puzzles and your standard put XYZ together to get A deals. It’s not Professor Layton level but as I said earlier, they all make sense which is the most important part of an adventure game.

There are some parts of the game where you will read between action for an hour straight. It is a visual novel hybrid, afterall. I found myself getting a little antsy at times during the particularly long reading sections, mostly because I knew I was close to the end of a particular playthrough. The good news is that when do second, third, fourth, etc playthroughs on your save you can fast-forward through all the text that you’ve already seen.

Overall, 999 is an extremely well executed visual novel adventure and doesn’t suffer from localization issues (which I was worried about when I first picked up the game). If anything about the game sounds interesting to you, I really encourage picking it up at full price instead of sitting around waiting for it to drop. Hell, maybe you should even buy it straight from Aksys. If you help them make money bringing over niche games they’ll bring over more niche games for everyone to play!

Lunar Knights – The Sun Is Not In Your Hands

Buy Lunar Knights on Amazon

Back in the GBA days, Kojima Productions released two games called Boktai and Boktai 2 which used a really annoying Solar Sensor gimmick. In the first game, in order to charge your Solar Gun you had to play outside, and if you ran out of sun energy during a mission you had to run around and avoid enemies. While making the second game, the developers decided that the Solar Sensor was not aggravating enough in the first and on top of charging your weapons it was also how you gathered currency because energy and money were taken from the same pool of solar power.

All this made the games tough to play for people who can’t just go sit outside on a whim during the day. I bought both and while the gameplay was fun I didn’t get very far in either due to the sunlight mechanics. Maybe if I were a non-city dweller things would have been different but I wasn’t going to play through them sitting on my fire escape on days I happened to be at home and the sun was up and bright enough to register with the sensor.

The gimmick apparently annoyed enough people in the North American market to cause Konami to swerve away from calling the gimmick-less DS installment of Boktai “Lunar Knights” in North America. Like the previous games it is fun and involves vampire hunting but unlike them I could actually enjoy the enjoyable gameplay. There is still an energy charge system but it relies on the time of day and whether you are outside or not in the game rather than where you’re actually hanging around.

The twist—it’s a Kojima Production games so a twist is mandatory—that makes this game stand alone from the first two is that it’s not a solo adventure. In addition to the kid with a Solar Gun pewpewing vampires there’s a co-lead character who uses melee weapons and charges moonlight rather than sunlight. He’s a grumpy guy who wants to kill vampires in a revenge mission.  You can switch between naive happy sunlight boy and bitter vampire man at will for most of the game, though there are parts at the beginning and end where it’s not possible for story reasons.

Lunar Knights is your standard isometric action game controlled with a d-pad where you occasionally want to punch the game into space because you have to do a lot of maneuvering to face a certain direction, or you run off the edge of a building because you’re trying to go on a diagonal and instead move forward. Combat is relatively easy due to a lockon function so you move towards enemies as you attack them. The damage you take from certain creatures is outrageous, but I am one of those people who hoards health items and it didn’t really affect my enjoyment or cause any untimely character deaths.

After defeating vampire bosses you have to complete a shmupy type mission done from the first person view so you can destroy their bodies in space. These levels are very simplistic and feel like they were tacked on so there’d be something in the game that uses the touch screen.

If you’re hoping for a Kojima story from Lunar Knights, you’re out of luck. It’s straight-forward and clearly meant for an audience much younger than Metal Gear crowd. Good is good, bad is bad and there are no shocking twists or technerds having affairs with their step-mothers at a  very young age.

Don’t be turned off because the game was developed to be accessible to kids, though. It’s a very competent fun action game with lots to do and areas to explore. Lunar Knights doesn’t have any glaring flaws, what holds it back from reaching the next level is that it doesn’t do anything notable or better than what you’d find in similar games.