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Review: Yumi's Odd Odyssey

Mar 28 // Chris Carter
Yumi's Odd Odyssey (3DS eShop)Developer: Agatsuma EntertainmentPublisher: NatsumeRelease:  March 20, 2014MSRP: $29.99  Yumi's Odd Odyssey retains the core premise of the original series: a young girl, armed only with a fishing line, traverses a number of odd environments filled with giant enemy fish. In other words, it's a 2D platformer with a grappling-hook mechanic. Sounds ridiculous right? Well there's a reason this series is so popular, and it mostly has to do with how meticulously designed the grappling mechanic is. You're basically free to do whatever you want with the hook, as it can attach to walls, ceilings, and floors. You can retract it, loosen it, swing, rappel -- anything you've done before in a grappling game, you can do it here. It took me a good hour to really understand the game's potential, and it blew my mind once I figured it out. For instance, you can attach the line to the ground, jump off a ledge, and use the anchor point to slowly descend safely down to another ledge below. This is augmented by Odyssey's deep physics engine that you'll have to acclimate to, which lets you get truly creative with swinging to and fro. You can be as as elaborate as Spider-Man or as pragmatic as a spelunker -- it's your choice. [embed]272559:53174:0[/embed] The controls are also extremely precise, and since all you need is one button to throw out your hook and one button to jump, they're easy to pick up. Should you opt for the "classic" control scheme you'll also sport the ability to shoot diagonally either left or right with the L or R buttons respectively, and you can use both the d-pad and Circle Pad for movement (the latter will have to be turned on in the option menu). In rare form, Odyssey allows you to fully customize button inputs to your liking. You aren't going to have an easy time swinging around though, because despite the cute veneer, this game is tough. You'll have to get really creative to figure out some of the game's puzzle-like stages, since some of the goals are smartly hidden. All 50 stages will take a long time to complete, especially when you factor in secret entrances, puzzle-esque boss fights, collectibles, time attack scores, music box unlockables, and branching world map paths. If you couldn't tell from the weird backgrounds, the "odd" moniker can be partially applied to the off-the-wall enemies, which are usually giant fish with human feet -- one of which can shoot a shotgun blast out of his mouth. It's a good thing then that you can stun them with your hook and "collect" them in your backpack, presumably to prepare later in some sort of freakshow sushi meal. Hazards are also a problem as well, and include genre tried-and-true standards like spikes and slippery ice, as well as conveyor belts that you can hook onto to take a ride. Aesthetically, Odyssey isn't going to turn any heads, and it doesn't look or feel like a retail 3DS game. It looks about on par with a good-looking PlayStation One release, bearing a striking resemblance to Tomba. The 3D effect is also minimal, and a lot of the backdrops tend to blend together after a while. It kind of stings given the pricepoint, but where Yumi shines is its commitment to platforming excellence. I'd only recommend Yumi's Odd Odyssey to the most dedicated platforming fans out there. Purists will love it, but the $30 price tag is going to be too rich for nearly everyone's blood. In a sale though, you can't go wrong picking this one up if you have an affinity towards the tried-and-true grappling hook.
Yumi's Odd Odyssey photo
As old school as Argos
We truly live in a magnificent era when it comes to portables. Games we would have never imagined seeing the light of day are localized, and indies are thriving with the combination of the eShop and low development costs of t...

Yumi photo

Yumi's Odd Odyssey finally has a North American release date

March 20th
Mar 07
// Chris Carter
If you aren't a fan of Japanese games, odds are you haven't heard of Yumi's Odd Odyssey. But for everyone else, Umihara Kawase (as it's known in Japan) is a series platform games that has been around since 1994 -- b...

Review: Rune Factory 4

Oct 17 // Dale North
Rune Factory 4 (3DS)Developer: NatsumePublisher: XSEEDReleased: October 1, 2013MSRP: $39.99 You are literally dropped into the world of Rune Factory 4 after falling out of an airship -- an accident happens on the way to delivering an important item. The hero's (a boy or girl, your choice) body doesn't suffer, but their memory does. No worries, though, as you fall into a pretty nice situation. The town you land in, Selphia, just happens to be protected by one of the four legendary dragons, Ventuswill. As luck would have it, Ventuswill really likes you and sees something in you, even with your total lack of memory. She mistakes you for royalty that was expected to visit the town. But when that royalty, a prince, does show up, it turns out that he's looking for some time off. The prince lets you act as royalty in his place while you work to get your memory back. Ventuswill gives you a home in her castle, the prince lets you use his name, and your servants are there for anything else needed. Wow, I need to fall out of an airship some time! Those that have played games from Natsume's other top franchise, Harvest Moon, will instantly feel familiar with a lot of Rune Factory 4's early gameplay. Players are immediately introduced to the garden behind their castle home, where they'll plant and tend to crops, selling them for profit. And later on, capturing monsters as pets to keep in your farm is not unlike ranching. Natsume's oddly adorable farming simulation gameplay is fully intact here in RF4, and is engrossing enough to feel like a game on its own. But then there's a whole other side to Rune Factory 4 with its action-RPG gameplay. Fans of games like Secret of Mana will likely enjoy the fast, accessible swordplay. It's a no-frills slash-and-run type of affair. A magic/skill system lets you pick any two acquired skills -- anything from fireballs to super uppercuts -- to be assigned to face buttons, letting you use them as long as you have points available. From battles players will earn gold and gather items to build up their equipment. Victories bring more skills and power to play with -- pretty standard action-RPG systems, really.   This battle system is light and enjoyable, matching perfectly with the other aspects of the game. It's far from complex, but this goes a long way towards keeping things fun. My advice? Don't think too hard about it. Just jump in, sword a-swinging. I've put dozens of hours into exploring maps and dungeons, and have yet to tire of taking down baddies. Dungeon bosses are a nice challenge, though they can be a bit tough/cheap when you have the difficulty on its highest setting.  Dying comes with a high penalty. If you're done in, you'll awake in a doctor's office, slammed with a bill that feels unnecessarily high. On the hard setting I've lost my entire fortune countless times! It's also more than happy to tell you about your progress -- I've seen so many level and skill-up notifications in the past week that they started to go to my head. A quest giver gradually introduces players to the almost countless number of other gameplay diversions in Rune Factory 4. Through these simple quests, players will learn the basics of skills like cooking, fishing, and flower growing. Later, crafting and chemistry come into play for more advanced skill exploration. The brilliance here is that all of these aspects intertwine. For example, you could take up fishing to try to capture the biggest pike or squid for recognition, and then maybe take the squid back to the kitchen to make squid sashimi. The pike could be sold, or entered in a fishing contest. It's up to you -- there's no right or wrong.  And let's not forget our princely (or princess-ly, for female characters) duties as the prince's stand-in. Players will use acquired royalty points to do things like upgrade the town's shops, or add buildings to their farms. The main goal is to increase tourism in Selphia, so working up enough points to host town events, like cook-offs and festivals, is advised, and keeps things lively around town. [embed]263619:50978:0[/embed] Even with all of this, there's one more gameplay aspect that, at least for me, eventually overshadowed the rest: relationships and dating. I think that if you boil all of the varied gameplay aspects down, what you're left with is flirting with townsfolk. It starts as small talk, which hopefully leads to dates (they call them adventures), relationships, and even marriage. Every townsperson has a gauge that you'll work to level up through your choice of actions. The girl I'm into (I'll never tell!) likes fresh fruit, so I bring her apples when I come across them. The one you fancy may like to beat up monsters, so you should do that together. It's on you to learn what the apple of your eye likes. Again, there's no right or wrong -- you'll have to figure out how to lay on the appropriate type of charm on your own. Players will likely fall into a sort of daily grind with all of these things to tend to. My daily rotation had me tending to my garden in the morning, meeting townsfolk and running quests in the afternoon, venturing out into dungeons in the evening, and offering wares for sale in the evening, all before hitting the sack to do it again the next game day. Somehow, story segments seem to magically weave their way into your daily grind, which has their tale unfolding in a very natural way. Often, I was surprised by story progression segments, totally unaware that I flagged them. It's not the deepest story, but it's certainly fitting for the game's world, as well as interesting enough to keep me tuned in. But, depending on your tastes, that story may not be enough to keep you going. The issue some may have with Rune Factory 4 is that it offers next to nothing in the way of guidance. There's nothing there to tell you how to play or what to do next, let alone the deeper aspects of the crafting or combat systems. You're own your own; it seems that they're hoping you'll find something you enjoy doing. Unfortunately, those that don't find something to enjoy aren't going to feel fulfilled by running around trying to find it. If you're the type that needs to have some kind of idea of what's going to happen next, you may find RF4 frustrating with its very loose structure. On the other hand, if you're perfectly content in carrying out the day-to-day chores that the game has you doing, you'll be fine. I think fans of Animal Crossing will be more than pleased. I can't tell you how many times I completely lost track of time while playing Rune Factory 4. I'd get hung up on one particular thing, like, hunting down an ingredient for a dish I wanted to prepare, and then I'd look up and see that it was 2:30 a.m.  Learning all of the game's various systems is a bit of work, but once I had them down, I could get directly to doing what I wanted to do most: win my girl's heart. There's rarely a dull moment with the lively townspeople and countless quests. It sounds like a lot to handle, but you are free to do what you enjoy, skipping anything you don't find fun. That's what I enjoyed most about this game.  Rune Factory 4 isn't the deepest or most structured game out there, but it more than makes up for it with its charm and wide-open freedom. If you are willing to put in the time to learn its varied systems, I think you'll find that this game is an absolute delight.
Rune Factory 4 review photo
A charming timesink
Some have compared Rune Factory to Animal Crossing. There are a few similarities between Nintendo's charming world and Natsume's flagship title. For one, they both suck you in and manage to somehow entertain with their seemin...


New 3DS Harvest Moon game coming to Japan next year

Yes. More!
Oct 09
// Dale North
Get ready for more farm fun as the latest issue of Famitsu has revealed that a new Harvest Moon will come to the 3DS in Japan in February. ANN (scan at 0taku) says that the new game Bokujō Monogatari: Tsunagaru Shin...

Harvest Moon is better than cow poopoo all over your face

Sep 13
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Did you know cows can have explosive diarrhea? I didn't know that until I saw this ad for Harvest Moon: A New Beginning. Thanks for enlightening us with this informational video, Marvelous AQL! [Thanks, Dave!]
Hometown Story photo
Hometown Story

Set up shop with Harvest Moon creator's Hometown Story

C'mon, get happy!
Jun 13
// Tony Ponce
Last year, former Destructoid editor Chad Concelmo and I spoke with Harvest Moon creator Yasuhiro Wada about his latest game, codenamed "Project Happiness." Hoping to take the lifestyle sim to the next level, he envisioned a ...
Harvest Moon 3DS eShop photo
Harvest Moon 3DS eShop

Harvest Moon GBC takes root on 3DS eShop this week

Portable potatoes
May 14
// Kyle MacGregor
Harvest Moon for the Game Boy Color is coming to the Nintendo 3DS eShop in North America this week, Natsume has announced. The second title in the prolific farming sim role-playing game series, Harvest Moon GB was initia...
Rune Factory photo
Rune Factory

GDC: Rune Factory development resisted by Marvelous, fans

A franchise that almost never happened
Mar 27
// Jayson Napolitano
Apparently development staff and even Harvest Moon fans didn't see the need to add combat to the farming formula. Marvelous AQ Executive Officer/CCO Yoshifumi Hashimoto shared at a panel this morning that he didn't have many ...

Harvest Moon creator's new game, Hometown Story

Coming to North America this year
Mar 04
// Dale North
Remember Project Happiness from last E3? Last year's tease from Harvest Moon creator Yasuhiro Wada has its official title now: Hometown Story.  Famitsu has the full story from Wada himself. He says that the game is nearl...

Natsume to bring Carnage Hearts EXA to North America

Oct 10
// Conrad Zimmerman
If you're into robots and tactical strategy, the gang at Natsume have something they'd like you to have a look at. After skipping the North American market for the last three games in the series, one of the more obscure/rare ...

Holy Cow: Harvest Moon: A New Beginning anniversary ed.

Aug 28
// Dale North
To celebrate the 15th anniversary of Harvest Moon in North America, Natsume is bringing out an anniversary edition of upcoming 3DS game Harvest Moon: A New Beginning. This anniversary edition features a huge twelve inch Harve...

Natsume's PlayStation Plus game sale: up to 75% off

Aug 24
// Dale North
If you're a PlayStation Plus member, now's a good time to pump up your game library. Natsume has discounted many of their titles to celebrate Harvest Moon's 15th anniversary, so you should go...harvest some of them! Adventur...

Live show: Rune Factory on Mash Tactics

Nov 07
// Bill Zoeker
Today, Mash Tactics is jumping into the world of Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny. This Harvest Moon spin-off takes adventure to the seas, trading farm tools for weapons at times. Rune Factory veteran, and neighboring Twitch TV...

Rune Factory takes to the open seas in Tides of Destiny

Oct 11
// Victoria Medina
The newest Rune Factory, for the Wii and PS3 is out today. Tides of Destiny takes place on an island, and will allow players to travel the open seas in search of adventure, enemies and plots of farmable land. Tides will cost ...

E3: Natsume's line-up announced

Jun 01
// Dale North
Natsume has sent along their E3 floor line-up this morning. They say they'll be showing off 4 games for the July 7-9 event: Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny for the PlayStation 3 and Wii, Harvest Moon: The Tale of Two Towns for...

Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny coming to US on PS3, Wii

May 16
// Conrad Zimmerman
Fans of the Rune Factory series have been waiting some time to hear if the latest release in the series, Rune Factory: Oceans would see release outside of Japan. Finally, some good news on that front. In a statement...

Get your ghostly groove on this May with Gabrielle

Apr 20
// Nick Chester
It probably won't win game of the year awards, but maybe it'll get a "Title of the Year" nod: Gabrielle's Ghostly Groove: Monster Mix. Announced by Natsume today, it's a WiiWare "dance adventure" that has cutesy little Gabri...

Rune Factory 3 has gone gold, releases November 9th

Oct 07
// Conrad Zimmerman
This news may not be exciting to most of you, but I'm the one who gets to write the blog posts and I love Rune Factory. So it pleases me to let you know that Rune Factory 3: A Fantasy Harvest Moon is all finished up and ...

Harvest Moon comes to the iPhone with Frantic Farming

Aug 07
// Colette Bennett
Natsume have apparently decided to join the iPhone gold rush by announcing their first iPhone game, Harvest Moon: Frantic Farming. The game boasts both a Mission and Score Attack mode and appears to challenge the player to cr...

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