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Marvelous AQL

RPG photo
RPG

Return to PopoloCrois out in Europe next week


Australia and New Zealand too!
Feb 08
// Kyle MacGregor
Return to PopoloCrois: A Story of Seasons Fairytale, the role-playing game about shrinking down to microscopic size and fighting it out with tiny monsters corrupting the soil, is launching in Europe, Australia, and New Zealan...

Contest: Win a copy of Nitroplus Blasterz

Feb 06 // Kyle MacGregor
[embed]339227:62151:0[/embed]
Contest photo
Four PS4 codes up for grabs
The localization team at XSEED Games has generously given Destructoid four PlayStation 4 codes for the studio's excellent new fighting game Nitroplus Blasterz to give away you fine people.  For a chance to win ...

XSEED photo
XSEED

Return to PopoloCrois gets March 1 release date


At least in North America
Feb 06
// Kyle MacGregor
Return to PopoloCrois: A Story of Seasons Fairytale launches on March 1 in North America. While XSEED will release the "farming-flavored" role-playing game in both physical and digital form across North America, Marvelou...

Review: Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel

Feb 02 // Kyle MacGregor
Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel (PS3, PS4 [reviewed])Developer: ExamuPublisher: Marvelous, XSEED GamesReleased: December 10, 2015 (JP), February 2, 2016 (NA), Early 2016 (EU)MSRP: $29.99 (PS3), $39.99 (PS4) Following in the footsteps of the aforementioned Persona 4 Arena and Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax, Nitroplus Blasterz markets itself as a game that is easy to pick up, but difficult to master. Targeting both fighting game enthusiasts and Nitroplus fans that might have never thrown a dragon punch, it attempts to walk a line between something players from both camps can get behind. I'd argue that line is drawn a little closer to the hardcore side of things. While the inputs for special attacks and super moves are relatively easy to execute in contrast with some one-on-one fighters, if you're the sort of person who struggles to pull off quarter circle motions, you're probably in for a bad time. That said, there are certain concessions for more casual players, like the "Variable Rush," a special lunge attack that launches characters into a short-lived combo. If the Variable Rush connects, players can essentially button mash to execute a customizable string of impressive-looking attacks that change depending on which face buttons are pressed. It's not necessarily the most effective use of meter (costing two of three power bars), but it's easy to execute and reasonably effective. Beyond the standard light, medium, and heavy attacks are launching "Heavy Action" moves and "Escape Actions," which, depending on directional inputs, can be used to perform everything from short hops, cancels, rolls, air dashes, and defensive maneuvers. One of the more interesting (and useful) Escape Actions is the "Vanishing Guard," which negates chip damage when blocking and, if pressed at the right moment, acts as a parry, giving the user a momentary advantage over the enemy to strike back or get away. Vanishing Guard has its limitations, though, as it can only block either high or low, leaving one angle open for enemies to exploit. [embed]337261:62032:0[/embed] Of course, each character has plenty of unique special and super moves, as well as a single "Lethal Blaze" attack, which, for the price of full meter, triggers a fighter-specific mini-cutscene that unleashes an assault powerful enough to turn the tide of a one-sided match or swiftly end a nail-biter. Lethal Blaze also can be wielded as a trump card by taking priority over other attacks. There are a couple other minor systems at play, but I want to talk about the characters. The main roster contains twelve main combatants, including the sword-wielding Saber (Fate/Zero), ranged fighters Saya and Anna, cat-throwing Nitroplus mascot Super Sonico, zone-controlling Ein, Spider-Man-esque Muramasa, grappling Ethica, and Ouka, a heavy-hitting robotic walking crucifix. While there isn't a male character in the bunch, the cast is very diverse in terms of mechanics, so players shouldn't have trouble finding at least one or two characters that suits their tastes and personal play-style. But the fun only begins with the core cast. In addition to main characters, players will also take into battle two (of twenty) additional partners that can significantly impact how a match unfolds. Each partner comes has a unique move -- and I mean unique. One rides a hang-glider in from off-screen, aiming to crash into your opponent, while others can summon overwhelming swarms of minions, like zombies or bugs. Another sends in a barrage of missiles from the sky, and a few don't attack at all, instead doing things like giving both sides a bar of meter or placing buffs in the middle of a stage, impelling players to play tug-o'-war over the bonuses. The partner blitz attacks recall the arcana system from developer Examu's Arcana Heart series, which allows players to accent their character with different abilities and gives the game an added level of strategy. In my time online with the online mode (which, by the way, is fine -- if a tad spartan), I noticed a pattern of opponents picking partners to counter one another, as the impacts their assist attacks provide can mean the difference between victory and defeat. I can imagine high-level competitors spending a lot of time working out which partners are best in particular spots and situations, offering an incredible amount of depth for those who seek it. In addition to that added level of complexity, Examu also left its mark on Nitroplus Blasterz by allowing Aino, one of the characters from its Arcana Heart series, to join the roster as a DLC character along with Senran Kagura's Homura. While I haven't spent as much time with them as the rest of the cast (they were not available pre-release), I've enjoyed the few matches I've been able to use them in and could easily see one becoming one of my mains, along with Anna and Saber. Since both Aino and Homura are free for the first week following the game's launch, that provides a little added incentive for interested parties to pick the game up early. While I'm certain some players will balk at the dearth of bonus features or collectibles, that sort of stuff (along with the visual novel-style "Another Story" mode) doesn't really interest me. I'm more than content with your standard arcade, score attack, network, and versus modes if the gameplay is solid -- and it is. That's where I derive my enjoyment from. And I appreciate added perks like cross-platform and cross-region play, so I can compete against players on PlayStation 3 and people from other countries. Even though I still have no idea who most of these characters are, that didn't end up mattering to me in the end. Nitroplus Blasterz is a fast, smooth, strategic, and generally entertaining fighting game that has found a happy medium between accessibility and depth. Provided a decent-sized community builds around the game, this is a fighter I could see myself enjoying for a long time to come. [This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.]
Nitroplus Blasterz Review photo
No nostalgia necessary
I recently attended a tribute night at a local brewery, where musicians were invited to serenade patrons with songs from the '70s. Early on that evening, I glanced around the darkened beer hall to discover I was a few decades...


Marvelous photo
Marvelous

Here's your first look at Senran Kagura creator's new Vita game in action


Introducing Uppers
Jan 25
// Kyle MacGregor
Well now, this looks wild. That was my initial impression of Uppers, the latest game from XSEED parent Marvelous. With its over-the-top street fighting, the new brawler has a bit of a Yakuza feel to it. You know, if Yak...
XSEED photo
XSEED

XSEED: Nitroplus Blasterz launches in February


Europe in 'Early 2016'
Jan 16
// Kyle MacGregor
Nitroplus Blasterz debuts in North America on February 2, XSEED Games has announced. I had an opportunity to try the fighting game at XSEED's fall press event in October and really enjoyed myself, despite having almost zero f...
Story of Seasons photo
Story of Seasons

A sequel to Story of Seasons is coming to Japan this year


Not-Harvest Moon 2
Jan 12
// Alissa McAloon
Story of Seasons, also known as that one Harvest Moon game that isn't actually Harvest Moon, is getting a sequel in Japan this year. Like the original, Story of Seasons: Good Friends of Three Villages is a 3DS ...
Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkhuni photo
Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkhuni

Lesbian weapon brawler Valkyrie Drive gets steamy trailer


Out next week on Vita in Japan
Dec 01
// Steven Hansen
Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkhuni, from Senran Kagura creator Kenichiro Takaki, is a game where girls kiss their partners to transform into battle weapons. It is coming to PlayStation Vita in Japan on December 10.
'Kiss the Girls' feature photo
'Kiss the Girls' feature

Senran Kagura patch lets you kiss your anime girls


'Kiss the Girls' feature
Dec 01
// Steven Hansen
Senran Kagura: Estival Versus has been out in Japan (PS4, Vita) since early this year (we're supposed to get it soon). Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson's Kagura was just added as a DLC character as seen in the video above. But ...

Interview: XSEED Executive VP Ken Berry

Oct 18 // Kyle MacGregor
Destructoid: XSEED seems to have formed a close relationship with Nihon Falcom over the years. You've been publishing the Ys and Legend of Heroes series, Brandish released earlier this year, and you just announced Xanadu Next. However, many of these localizations take quite a long time. Are you working to speed up this process or perhaps developing a system with Falcom to localize the games as they're being developed? Ken Berry: That would be nice to implement, but, to be honest, no, we don't have anything like that going on. With Marvelous, our parent company, yes. Falcom is a completely separate entity. Even though we have been working in an almost exclusive relationship for several years, we are not officially exclusive with them. So, we don't have access to their materials early. A lot of times we need to wait for a Japanese retail release before we even get our hands on their games. Part of that I think is because they're such a small team over there and they don't have a dedicated localization team like other companies do. They need all free hands working on their Japanese releases until those are done. Then they can start communicating with us about localization and what to do about a western release. Dtoid: We've also noticed a similar relationship sprout up between XSEED and D3, the company behind Earth Defense Force and Onechanbara, which is actually a Bandai Namco subsidiary. How did that get started and is that something you see continuing? Berry: XSEED actually worked with D3 one time before on the Nintendo DS. In Japan, the game was called Riz-Zoawd and here it was released as The Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road. We did work on that a long time ago, but you're correct, this is a relationship we've renewed in the past year or so after D3 announced they were going to focus on digital and mobile products. I'm not sure about D3's relationship with Bandai Namco specifically in the US, because, as you know, there are lot of Bandai Namco games out of Japan that don't get published in America. I would think Bandai Namco would focus on getting most of their Japanese games out instead of the D3 lineup. So, we just had an opportunity to work on those titles, and we just jumped at the chance. Onechanbara, in particular, is made by Tamsoft, the same team that made the Senran Kagura series, so that was a very easy decision for us because we know Tamsoft does put out some... nice gameplay. Many of us also have been EDF fans for years, so we were very happy to get both of those titles.  Dtoid: Speaking of Senran Kagura, initially, XSEED seemed cagey about releasing that series here in the West. But, lately, we've been getting all of them. What changed? Berry: Due to the subject matter, how it would be received at retail, or even by fans for that matter, we tested the waters by releasing Senran Kagura Burst as a digital-only title on the [Nintendo 3DS] eShop. That was a big success. The fans loved it. And despite some criticisms from the press side for bringing it over, overall, it was more positive than we expected. Plus, the sales numbers were there, so we decided with the next one, Shinovi Versus on PlayStation, to give it a limited physical release and see how it went. That also exceeded our expectations. At this point, I think we're pretty much set and committed to the franchise. But the producer, [Kenichiro] Takaki-san, loves to push the envelope further and further each time. Estival Versus takes it up another notch, but we're still dedicated to the franchise. We want to keep going with the series, because the fans keep asking for it. Dtoid: Touching on the criticism you mentioned, there has been a lot of discussion in the industry surrounding gender equality and sexism. Has this impacted how you approach and handle Senran Kagura or perhaps some of the other games you localize for western audiences? Berry: I think it all depends on the content of the game. The ESRB is surprisingly very accommodating. They have stated very clearly that their job is to rate the material and not to censor anything. If it ever gets to a point where there's some content that gets us to an AO rating -- none of the platform holders will approve an AO-rated game -- so, only in an extreme case like that where we are forced to scale back some of the content would we go that route. Dtoid: Have you had to back away from certain games for that reason in the past? Berry: There are various games from other publishers -- not necessarily Marvelous -- that seem to push things a bit too far. I'm not going to name titles, but it's something we continue to deal with, especially some of the newer titles coming out from Marvelous. There's a new game called Uppers from Takaki-san that was just announced... Dtoid: Oh, I actually wanted to ask you about that and Valkyrie Drive. Berry: So Uppers does have some elements in there that we will need to get a better look at to see how much of an issue it will be in the US. And Valkyrie Drive, pretty much the entire game is based on that kind of stuff. That's another one we're going to have to learn more about to see if it's even feasible to release in the West as they are. Because, if we have to edit them down too much or censor too much content, then, at that point, we have to consider if it's even worth doing. Because the fans that want the game, they want it uncensored, and censoring the content isn't going to appease the people that had no interest in buying it anyways. Dtoid: Mr. Takaki also worked on the rhythm game IA/VT Colorful. Is it true there are no plans to localize that title? Berry: That is how it's looking right now. You know, a couple of us in the office really love that game. They've been playing in their free time the retail Japanese version.  Dtoid: I actually just recently imported a copy of that and have been enjoying it a lot.  Berry: Good. I'm glad to hear that. Yes, I know for that game -- even the licensing issues in Japan were tough to work out from what I hear. And just even thinking about overcoming those same obstacles for the West just doesn't look feasible right now, which is a shame because it is a great game. Dtoid: I'm aware they're completely different companies and it's a different character, but Sega and Crypton Future Media have published several Hatsune Miku games that are quite similar to IA/VT Colorful here in the West. Are you aware of any particular reason why that situation is different?  Berry: To be honest, I'm not sure how Sega works that out with Hatsune Miku or how that license would be different than the IA license. Dtoid: I'd like to talk about Bokujou Monogatari (which was known as Harvest Moon in the West until recently, when it was renamed Story of Seasons -- though Natsume continues to release games under the Harvest Moon brand). What is going on there? Berry: Those discussions were going on for years. I think Marvelous wanted to own the rights to their own IP, and, over the years, as development costs go up higher and higher, I think it might have finally reached to the point where if they couldn't own their IP in the West, maybe it wasn't as viable to put together a multi-million dollar [development budget]. So, I know those were discussions that were going on for years between Marvelous and Natsume, because the Harvest Moon trademark is registered by Natsume in the West. I think it finally got to the point where the decision had to be made. Do we bite the bullet and rebrand it now or continue working where we don't even have worldwide control over our own IP? Dtoid: You have one of those games here with you today, a crossover game, right? Berry: Yes, Return to PopoloCrois: A Story of Seasons Fairytale. That is a crossover game in Japan that used the Bokujou subtitle, which is why we're able to use the Story of Seasons name here. But that title is very much a PopoloCrois game first with Story of Seasons farming elements thrown in as a secondary game feature. Dtoid: Will we be seeing a lot more Story of Seasons games and spin-offs in the future? Berry: The Bokujou/Story of Seasons IP is [Marvelous'] most valuable IP. So that's one we'll focus on moving forward. Dtoid: What about Rune Factory (a spin-off series of the Bokujou Monogatari franchise)? Berry: There are continuing discussions on how to keep the Rune Factory series going, despite Neverland, the original developers, no longer being around. Hopefully, something will come of that in the not too distant future, because Rune Factory 4 was the best-selling title in the series, I believe, and it's a series that's been growing and growing over the years. Marvelous knows fans are clamoring for a sequel and are looking for ways to make it happen. Dtoid: Do you ever foresee Marvelous doing simultaneous worldwide releases for its games? Berry: We may attempt it on a future unannounced title for next year. Every now and then Japan masters up very early and sits on the code for a certain amount of time with a preset release date in mind for their launch strategy in Japan. That would give us an opportunity to catch up on our localization. It just depends on how much volume of text there is to be localized and how much work it involves. But it is something we would love to be able to do in the future.  Dtoid: Is the recently announced PC port of Little King's Story an example of that? Berry: That is something we're handling out of the US office completely by ourselves. Marvelous did assist us with finding a good company that could do the HD conversion. And of course we need to license the title from them, because it's their IP. But other than that it's completely us, where we're communicating with the company that's in charge of the company in charge of the HD conversion on a day-to-day basis. And then it will be uploaded onto Steam on our account for a worldwide release, as well as other digital delivery platforms, such as GOG. Dtoid: You're also publishing a fighting game, Nitroplus Blasterz, which is a genre we don't typically associate with XSEED. Is this something we'll see more of? What spurred the interest there? Berry: The main reason is because it's being done by Marvelous and they asked us if we wanted to do it. To be honest, at first, we weren't quite sure, because even though we have a lot of otaku in the office, even they didn't know a lot of the characters on the roster. But once we got our hands on the game and sat down in Examu [the studio behind the Arcana Heart series] and the director, it just looked great. So we're like, okay, we think even in the West, even if people don't know the [visual novels] the characters are coming from, this is a great fighting game on its own. So that's when we decided to go for it. Dtoid: A challenge many fighting games not on that Street Fighter tier face is a difficulty keeping the community alive. Do you have any initiatives to keep the game in the public consciousness, the tournament scene, and have people playing it for a long period of time? Berry: That's something we're looking into. Thankfully, in our office we have three people who are pretty active in the fighting game community. Those are the people who took the game out to the Prelude II event and the main SoCal Regionals event this past weekend.  [The people at these events] have been great at saying how to get a game out there, how to get players to notice. We've already held a couple small tournaments and are looking to keep momentum after release to perhaps continue holding tournaments with cash prizes and keep the community involved in the game. Dtoid: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us. Is there anything else you'd like to tell the fans? Berry: Just thank you for the continued support. We couldn't be more thankful for all the pre-orders especially. A small company like us, pre-orders, we live and die by them, because that determines if retailers are going to carry our titles or not. We've had a great couple years thanks to the tremendous fan support and we hope to keep that momentum going into 2016. Dtoid: Yeah, you've had a few big successes with The Last Story, Rune Factory 4, and Story of Seasons recently, haven't you? Berry: A couple months ago we announced Rune Factory 4 eclipsed 160,000 units in North America and Story of Seasons has sold more than 100,000 units in North America. Story of Seasons, in particular, that was the fastest title of ours to reach 100,000 units. So we are very happy about the successful rebranding of the Bokujou series. For a small company like us, those are fantastic numbers, and both of those titles continue to do well ... I think we're in a very good place right now -- probably the healthiest the company has been in years.  Dtoid: That's great. I'm really glad to hear it. Berry: (Laughs) We're very busy. Our entire team is just swamped all the time, but they love what they do, so we can't really complain. It's better than not being busy enough! Dtoid: Thanks again, Ken. [Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.]
XSEED interview photo
From Falcom to farming and fighters
Ken Berry is the Executive Vice President and one of the founding members of XSEED Games, one of the premier localization houses responsible for bringing Japanese games to western audiences. Earlier this week at an XSEED-hos...

Little King's Story photo
Little King's Story

Little King's Story coming to PC in early 2016


XSEED behind new HD remaster
Oct 16
// Kyle MacGregor
Little King's Story is coming to Windows PC in early 2016, XSEED has announced. The new version is a visually-enhanced port of the Wii original that XSEED (along with its parent company Marvelous and European distributor...
Senran Kagura PC photo
Senran Kagura PC

Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus PC makeover is primed for summer 2016


The Vita loses another exclusive
Oct 16
// Kyle MacGregor
Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus is bouncing to Windows PC next summer, XSEED just announced. The PlayStation Vita brawler burst onto the Japanese scene in early 2013 before arriving in the West last October. Now, XSEED hopes to expose a new audience to with an enhanced port. A sequel to this entry, Senran Kagura: Estival Versus, is coming to PS4 and Vita this winter.
Marvelous photo
Marvelous

Uppers is Senran Kagura creator's new thing


Not those kind of uppers
Oct 13
// Kyle MacGregor
Oh boy. It looks like that Kenichiro Takaki, producer of the Senran Kagura series, is up to no good again, having just revealed his strange new project in the latest issue of Weekly Famitsu. Contrary to wh...
Senran Kagura photo
Senran Kagura

Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson out now for 3DS


Hakuna matata
Sep 15
// Kyle MacGregor
Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson, the latest entry in Marvelous and XSEED Games' bawdy action franchise, is now available for Nintendo 3DS in North America. The new release is available via the eShop for $39.99, as well as ...
Story of Seasons photo
Story of Seasons

Nintendo publishing Story of Seasons in Europe


Better late than never
Sep 15
// Kyle MacGregor
Story of Seasons, the latest actual "Harvest Moon," is coming to Europe, courtesy of Nintendo. The platform holder just revealed plans to bring Marvelous' latest farming sim across the pond in Q1 2016, following the titl...
Senran Kagura 3DS photo
Senran Kagura 3DS

Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson launches September 15


August 27 in the UK and Europe
Aug 19
// Kyle MacGregor
Senran Kagura 2 will release on September 15 in North America, XSEED announced today. The Nintendo 3D-exclusive beat-'em-up will be available for $40 via the Nintendo eShop or as part of the $50 boxed "Double D Edition," whic...
Senran Kagura photo
Senran Kagura

You can grab Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson in Europe next month


It's almost time to fight some boobs
Jul 30
// Laura Kate Dale
Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson is one of those games that probably know full well already if you're interested in buying or not. My job is to let you know when you can do that, if you want to do that. The newest Senran Kagura ...
Marvelous photo
Marvelous

Valkyrie Drive reveals new Weaponized Lesbians


New screenshots and character art
Jun 30
// Kyle MacGregor
Marvelous has unveiled a few new characters for Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkhuni, the new project from Senran Kagura creator Kenichiro Takaki, which has been colloquially referred to as "Weaponized Lesbians" around these parts for r...
IA/VT Colorful photo
IA/VT Colorful

Senran Kagura dev's new game isn't coming west


Music licensing to blame
Jun 28
// Kyle MacGregor
Marvelous' upcoming rhythm game IA/VT Colorful isn't likely to receive a localization.  Speaking with Siliconera in a recent interview, producer Kenichiro Takaki, best known for his work on the Senran Kagura se...
XSEED photo
XSEED

Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven ascends to 3DS this June


Comes with bonus soundtrack in America
Apr 22
// Kyle MacGregor
Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven would be the Game of the Year if we handed out awards to games based on the wit and cunning of their subtitles. Alas, we do not. But we definitely see what you did there, XSEED. So, kudos. The Ni...

Contest: Win a signed copy of Story of Seasons

Apr 02 // Kyle MacGregor
Contests Official Rules No Purchase Required to Enter or Win1. Eligibility: Destructoid.com contests are usually provided by sponsors who, due to customs and shipping costs (yay budgets), often limit participation to individuals who are legal residents of the fifty (50) United States (unless otherwise stated) and are at least 12 years of age. We encourage our overseas friends to be super sneaky and make a friend in the United States who can receive your prize, and then you two figure out the customs/logistics. Be cautious about who you trust, obviously. Employees of destructoid.com, their advertising or promotion agencies, those involved in the production, development, implementation or handling of Contests, any agents acting for, or on behalf of the above entities, their respective parent companies, officers, directors, subsidiaries, affiliates, licensees, service providers, prize suppliers any other person or entity associated with the Contests (collectively “Contest Entities”) and/or the immediate family (spouse, parents, siblings and children) and household members (whether related or not) of each such employee, are *not* eligible and will be fired and publicly beaten if are caught participating. All U.S., federal, state and local and regulations apply.2. Agreement to Official Rules: Participation in the Contest constitutes entrant’s full and unconditional agreement to and acceptance of these Official Rules and the decisions of the Sponsor, which are final and binding. Winning a prize is contingent upon fulfilling all requirements set forth herein.3. Entry Period: The start and end dates/times of each Contest (the “Entry Period”) will be posted on the applicable Contest site.4. Entry: To enter a Contest, follow the instructions on the Contest site. Submission will result in one (1) entry. The number of times you can enter the Contest will be posted on the applicable Contest site. The use of any agencies or automated software to submit entries will void all entries submitted by that person.5. Drawing: Unless otherwise specified in the contest details above, we will select the names of the potential winners in a random drawing of all eligible entries received during each Entry Period. The number of winners to be selected in a specific Contest will be posted on the applicable Contest site. The odds of being selected as a potential winner depend on the number of eligible entries received during the Entry Period. 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Story of Seasons contest photo
Courtesy of XSEED Games
[Update: The contest has ended and the winner is projectnew! Congratulations!] Story of Seasons is now available on Nintendo 3DS in North America, and we're celebrating its release with an awesome giveaway. The lovely fo...

Review: Story of Seasons

Mar 31 // Brittany Vincent
Story of Seasons (Nintendo 3DS)Developer: MarvelousPublisher: XSEED GamesReleased: March 31, 2015MSRP: $39.99 The alternative moniker isn’t indicative of a “reboot” of the games or anything like that, however. It simply represents the fact that the Harvest Moon name has changed hands from previous publisher Natsume to XSEED Games. Developer Marvelous has crafted a game that’s much more deserving of the title than Natsume’s recent effort Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley, and fans have something meaty and entertaining to look forward to within. But first, a bit of a history lesson. Harvest Moon's life began on the Super Nintendo, where it was known as Bokujō Monogatari, which roughly translates to "Farm Story." It was a novelty then as it is now: a game where you spend your days taking care of cows and harvesting crops as the seasons gently roll through spring, summer, fall, and winter. The goal, ultimately, is to build a house, woo a girl (it was always a girl in the early days), and settle down into a peaceful, pastoral existence.  [embed]289757:57980:0[/embed] Story of Seasons is an interesting amalgamation of what made these games exciting upon their descent into western culture interesting back when I was younger and continues to make them addictive in a modern setting. As it happens, there’s also an astronomical amount of things to do. This has to be the biggest, most sprawling farm sim game related to Harvest Moon I’ve seen so far, in terms of both management aspects and activities to perform. Harvest Moon: A New Beginning is similar in many ways, but it seems Story of Seasons has expanded on it significantly.  Luckily the beginning of the game isn’t so complicated, only offering you the chance to figure out who you want to use as your avatar throughout your adventure. It’s good to begin with something you can manage that’s as simple as deciding who you want to be. You can choose to play as a male or female farmer, both tasked with heading to the sleepy Oak Tree Town, in dire need of a skilled farmer to care for one of the town’s sprawling ranches. You’re neither skilled nor a farmer when you start out, but that’s what makes Story of Seasons so exciting: throwing caution to the wind and heading out to pursue a new profession in an unknown place to help a town in need. There are plenty of other farmers in town to help show you the ropes and ensure you know all there is to know before you plant your first seeds. Together, all four of you can hopefully restore Oak Tree Town’s Trade depot back to its former glory, with the right amount of crops and care. There’s a long road ahead of you, though, and a ridiculous amount of training required before you can even set foot in your own farm. It’s off to Eda, longtime resident of Oak Tree town, to act as your mentor as she prepares you to plant, water, and harvest crops, raise farm animals, how to use and upgrade tools used around the farm, and important information like your Health and Stamina. It’s a wealth of information that can feel like a slog to get through at first, and can feel overwhelming at first. This is absolutely not a fast-moving game. You’ll need some patience to take in all of the little things that you’ll find truly add up by the end of your farming internship, but sticking to it feels extremely rewarding. That’s where Story of Seasons tends to differ from Natsume’s “traditional” Harvest Moon games the most. Rather than arriving at a farm and getting started immediately, you’re given extensive training before allowed to set foot in a farm that’s in any way yours. Even your starter area is adjacent to Eda’s, as if the folks at Marvelous don’t quite trust you with your own area yet, supplanting new features and other additions as you go along. Unlike similar titles in the past, you’ve got more to worry about than if you watered your crops for the day or if your character is looking a bit haggard while tending to crops out in the rain. Your character’s Health and Stamina play central roles in keeping your farm efficient and productive, and there are plenty of ways to satisfy both requirements beyond simply going to bed. For instance, you can eat a small meal, head to a hot spring, or rest in order to ensure your health is restored, but losing it is another deal entirely. This time around even if you do something as small as walk outside during a torrential downpour, you’ll see your health drop, just as you would if you decided to stay up late in-game. In this, it lends a more realistic lilt to farming life. Along with the stamina points, represented by the number of hearts your farmer has on-screen, it communicates the message that farmers are still fragile, often weary human beings who need time and training to work themselves to the bone and keep themselves healthy. Luckily, the two difficulty modes (Normal and Seedling) offer options for players looking to keep things light. Seedling Mode finds stamina consumption levels lowered by 50%, which makes for a completely different experience when starting out, as do the positive multipliers on store items, prices, stock, and more. New players may consider Seedling Mode as a viable option when becoming acquainted with Story of Seasons, as there are alterations between that and Normal Mode that are indeed a boon for newbies looking to get started quickly and with fewer frustrations. Speaking of making things easier, farming feels much more convenient than before. You can work with a 3x3 area when working with watering, planting, and the like, and you can hold down your action button while walking to continue with what you’re doing. If you want to water crops you can keep walking around. If you’re planting seeds, your character will scatter them in the air. It all feels quite intuitive. Controls work with you rather than against you. The only way you might falter is if you find yourself struggling with the in-game tasks constantly thrown at you, and the multitude of extra assignments available to take on. Managing your farm becomes simpler the more you learn about doing it, but there are still several things to keep track of, including your farm house, animals, the crops you’re tending to, and special sheds that can be used to convert raw materials like dairy products and the like into useable food items like cheese or yogurt. You can make clothing, pottery, seasonings, engineer seeds and crops, and more at the Maker Sheds, all of which are extremely important when your farm is up and running proper. There’s a large variety of crops to keep up with as well, including special Super Mario Bros. crops like Super Mushrooms and Fire Flowers. These are interesting, cheeky additions that feel right at home on the 3DS, and when you harvest Super Stars to ensure the crops you have remain fresh. Aside from working on the farm, there are multiple interactions you’ll have with villagers and other NPCs. Some of these can lead to special relationships that can end in marriage and children, and others will give you gifts, interact with you, and befriend you as you make your way as a farmer in Oak Tree Town. These help keep things light, but also act as reprieves from the toil of day-to-day proceedings of planting seeds, harvesting crops, exporting goods for sale, and ensuring your farm remains profitable. Much like real life, offering a chance to interact with others, build relationships, and participate in events and activities beyond that of simple hard work provides several benefits. You’ll find as a player that you’ll appreciate these personable interactions as much as the satisfaction of cultivating a successful farm. Story of Seasons looks fantastic, feels great, and offers an overabundance of things to do and places to see. It’s a farmer’s paradise, though its almost excruciatingly slow tutorial and internship will take a large amount of patience to get through if you’re to see all the game has to offer, and there is a lot. Expect to clear your calendar for this excellent portable farming sim, as you’ll be spending several hours turning a profit to impress the townsfolk of Oak Tree Town, your future husband or wife, or even your friends playing alongside you.
Story of Seasons  photo
For every sim, there is a season
As a fan of both casual and intermediate simulation and farming games, the Harvest Moon series has always been a mainstay for me. I grew up on several different iterations of the Natsume-published entries beginning with Harve...

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