Friday, July 27, 2007

Rune Factory Romance

All those who enjoy the courtship aspects of Harvest Moon will be thrilled with the possibilities in Rune Factory. There are ten different eligible girls and, as in other HM games, you will have rivals!

As one might expect, although most of the girls are ordinary human girls, there are exotic girls as well. One may be a ghost...

Here are the descriptions of the eligible girls:

Bianca: Bianca doesn't seem impressed with you at first, but good deeds can win her over. Does she have an axe to grind?

Felicity: Mayor Godwin's daughter has energetic ideas for Kadira, but lately she hasn't felt well. Maybe you can find a cure.

Lara: Dr. Evward's assistant is always concerned about your health. Do your best to keep her from being overly worried.

Mei: A proven warrior tough enough to be a match for any guy, Mei's convictions are as unyielding as her sword.

Melody: A lover of magic and comfort, Melody runs the local Kardia bathhouse. She respects a man who can cast a spell.

Mist: While Mist doesn't seem interested in anything other than you working on her farm, she might have secret motives.

Rosetta: Jean's daughter doesn't appear to be interested in poets, but that could change if you don't pay attention to her.

Sharron: Some locals wonder if Sharron is a ghost who haunts the Kasimir Ruins. Maybe you can make her feel alive again.

Tabatha: While Tabatha seems destined to serve as Bianca's maid, you might be the key that unlocks a new life for her.

Tori: Zavier's sister seems shy and apparently doesn't say much, but she knows plenty about most books in the library.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Is Harvest Moon for DS worth the effort?

Having written a number of guides for Harvest Moon DS, and having explored the different glitches in the game, I wanted to make a statement giving my own assessment of Harvest Moon DS. It is one of the greatest games ever created by Natsume. The glitches exist really because it is such a marvelous game. Harvest Moon games are not linear. There are hundreds of variables that can affect the course that the game will take. There are sub-plots within the main plot. There are more than a dozen eligible girls that one can court and marry, or one can choose a single life. One can choose to be an active matchmaker for other couples or let circumstance decide.

Almost every Harvest Moon fan longed for a game that would unite Mineral Town with Forget-Me-Not Valley. Natsume made Harvest Moon DS in response. Very few game companies pay as much attention to the wishes of the players as Natsume does. In Harvest Moon DS, Natsume created a game that was far more extensive than any other in every possible Harvest Moon activity: farming, ranching, courtship, mining, fishing, gambling and Sprites! The fact that the game sometimes can overload the DS system cannot be ignored completely, but that having been said, it is amazing that a complex game like this can be played on a handheld system at all.

The games created by Natsume combine intelligence, ethics, philosophy, creativity, humour, characters with depth and simple pleasure. Even for a fanatical Harvest Moon player like myself, every new Natsume game holds surprises and new challenges.

If your game freezes, you should be able to play through it. If the save files freeze, it is a tragedy but you can start a new game. It is a privilege simply to be able to 'live' in the world of Harvest Moon, even when that life ends abruptly because of a freeze. After all, in this real world, one's life is no more secure. One could be hit by a car when crossing a street. I try to see the 'file freeze' threat in Harvest Moon DS as an 'act of God'. In some games, the player never will experience it. In fact, there are many players who have played multiple games of HM DS without ever encountering this problem. For those whose games have been terminated abruptly, I have great empathy. I have experienced it myself. It can be devastating. On the other hand, would you rather never had the pleasure of playing the game and exploring the incredible world created by Natsume? Would you rather never have had the chance to meet Muffy and Karen in the game game?

Harvest Moon DS offers so many events, apart from the regular heart and rival heart events, allowing us to delve deeper into the histories and personalities of all the characters we have come to love. Is that not worth any price?

As I begin a new adventure in Rune Factory, I may have abandoned Harvest Moon DS temporarily, but I am certain I will play it many more times in my lifetime. It is one of my favourite Harvest Moon games, despite the occasional glitches.

Incidentally, with respect to Rune Factory, I see today that EB Games now gives the release date as 14 August rather than 31 July. I definitely should have a preliminary guide by then!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Rune Factory Preview

I received Rune Factory this afternoon and have begun to keep a game journal in preparation for the General Guide.

Natsume actually has made games like this in the past, but nothing that fully combined the farming life of traditional Harvest Moon games and the combat of traditional RPGs. Legend of the River King involved fishing as well as fighting monsters but it did not have the farming life so central to Harvest Moon. Now we can farm and fight as warriors! Moreover, we can raise monsters as 'friends'.

In the Shipping List, I have found most of the traditional seasonal Harvest Moon crops as well as some very intriguing new items.

I can't wait to fully explore this new Harvest Moon game! At the start of the game, the only weapons are a basic Hoe and Watering Can, but that soon will change.

As a little preview, I am including one section of the Shipping List:

Aqua Ring
Amethyst Ring
Emerald Ring
Sapphire Ring
Diamond Ring
Ruby Ring
Happy Ring
Cursed Ring
Fire Ring
Wind Ring
Earth Ring
Silver Ring
Gold Ring
Platinum Ring
Critical Ring
Silent Ring
Parasite Ring
Poison Ring
Magic Ring
Cheap Bracelet
Bronze Bracelet
Silver Bracelet
Gold Bracelet
Platinum Bracelet
Aqua Broach
Amethyst Broach
Emerald Broach
Sapphire Broach
Diamond Broach
Ruby Broach
Heart Pendant
Star Pendant
Sun Pendant
Gale Pendant
Tear Pendant
Earth Pendant
Silver Hairpin
Gold Hairpin
Fancy Hat
Leather Belt
Lucky Strike
Champ Belt
Leather Gloves
Field Gloves
Pierced Earring
Feathered Cap
Brand Glasses
Fireproof Hood
Evil Charm
Magic Earring
Ring Shield
Courage Badge
Feather Boots
Heavy Boots
Leather Boots
Knight Boots
Hero Certificate
Knowledge Certificate
Handknit Hat
Handknit Scarf
Fluffy Scarf
Art of Attack
Art of Defence
Art of Magic

Unlike some Harvest Moon games, there are no question marks to denote items one has not obtained. All items are given at the start of the game. There is a Crops/Wild Item list, a Jewelry List, a Recipe List, a Potions List, a Fishing List and one other list that has Monster Items from Feed to Furs and Fangs, Gems and other unusual objects. What fun this is going to be!

Farming, friendship and love are as vital in Rune Factory as they are in any other Harvest Moon game. It is a kinder sort of RPG in that monsters do not die but are rehabilitated into their original Forest habitat. You can tame monsters and befriend them...

Friday, July 20, 2007

Rune Factory Announcement

I now have confirmation that I will be sent an advance copy of Rune Factory in order to begin working on a guide for it.

I should have the game early next week and will begin the guide as quickly as possible. I am very excited about this: Rune Factory has been described as 'Harvest Moon meets Zelda'. Although I have not been able to play the game myself yet, I am more inclined to describe it as 'Harvest Moon meets 'Golden Sun' or 'Sword of Mana'. However one chooses to describe the game, the fact of the matter is that one is able to raise monsters, as well as creating and using weapons. I assume the usual activities included in Harvest Moon games are available as well: farming, mining, fishing and so on. As soon as I have the game, I will write a little review of it.

From all accounts, 'Rune Factory' will be great fun! To me, however, the most wonderful aspect of Natsume's games is the lasting appeal that they all have. Even when a new game is released, one does not put aside the old games forever. I look forward to a time when I will be able to play 'More Friends of Mineral Town', 'Magical Melody' and 'Harvest Moon DS' again...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

New Harvest Moon Games

For those, like myself, who intend to play every Harvest Moon game that is released, I would like to confirm my own intention to write a guide for every new HM game. Rune Factory was scheduled for release on 31 July. If there are no further delays, I will begin the guide as soon as possible after that date.

There will be a version of 'Innocent Life' for PS2. There probably will be a few minor differences between that and the original PSP version and I will try to address those in a guide written specifically for the PS2 game. Meanwhile, though, my own General Guide for Innocent Life for PSP should be helpful for players with the PS2 version.

More and more differences are being found between the various versions of Harvest Moon for DS. A large number of events that were included in the original Japanese version were eliminated from the first U.S. version. A second U.S. version eliminated a number of 'exploitation devices' that existed in the first: the Bonus Ranch Trick and the Billion Gold Fishing Bonus are among these. Unfortunately, it failed to eliminate the 'freeze file' problem that causes players to lose BOTH save files when the game freezes at the point of reloading. The U.K. version eliminated the connection with Mineral Town, all books and two of the Casino games. My General Guide does contain a section that deals with the differences between the various versions. At some point, I intend to include a list of the events that were included in the original Japanese game but deleted from the English versions.

All that having been said, Harvest Moon for DS remains a fabulous, intricate Harvest Moon game that combines the characters from Forget-Me-Not Valley and those of Mineral Town and contains a wealth of activities for the dedicated Harvest Moon fan.
Very few players are content to play the game once. Like other Harvest Moon games, it is one of those games that possesses true lasting appeal.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The Legend of the Blue Feather

The 'Blue Feather' is an important item in many Harvest Moon games. When any marriage proposal is made either by a girl or a boy, the Blue Feather must be offered with the proposal.

The actual history of this charming tradition never is given in any Harvest Moon game, although characters will allude to it frequently, and it is not a tradition that is restricted to a single village or location. Individuals from Forget-Me-Not Valley and Mineral Town alike honour the tradition of the 'Blue Feather'.

Here is the Legend of the Blue Feather as told to Freyashawk by Aloysius of Mineral Town, a farmer who achieved great renown in his own village and whose fame spread even to Forget-Me-Not Valley. (In other words, the tale was relayed to me by my first character in FoMT. Make of that what you will.)

The Legend of the Blue Feather

In the first days of mankind, when people were learning about life in all its complexities and splendour, there was a very shy boy named Kuko. He was very much in love with the daughter of the chief of his tribe, but was too shy to say anything to her. Instead, he would leave a white flower at her door each monring and then walk past her house later to see if his gift had been accepted.

The White Flower was a rare and beautiful blossom that could be found only at the top of the highest mountain. Each evening, Kuko would climb the mountain to search for the elusive flower and he would not return to his village without it. To him, it represented the rare emotion that had blossomed in his own heart.

Every day, his heart rose when he saw that the flower no longer lay on the doorstep. He imagined his beloved would understand that her own beauty was reflected in the exquisite loveliness of the White Flower.

Then one day, a delegation of strangers came to the village. They brought an offering of marriage from the son of a neighbouring cheftain. Donkeys laden with gold, chests filled with precious gems and baskets filled with grains, vegetables and fruit accompanied the proposal of marriage.

Poor Kuko! His heart sank when he saw the ostentatious procession and heard the admiring exclamations of the villagers. All he had to offer was the simple White Flower. In fact, as the delegation entered the home of the village chieftain, their heavy boots trampled Kuko's offering into the dust.

Kuko could not imagine that the girl would prefer him to the son of a wealthy chief. He was a poor shepherd boy who owned only a couple of sheep and two chickens who never had laid a single golden egg.

In despair that evening, he went to the Spring of the Goddess to think. It was a favourite spot of his, a place he often visited when life appeared darkest. According to legend, the Harvest Goddess lived in the lake and granted the wishes of deserving indivduals who sought her aid. Kuko imagined the Goddess to be as compassionate as she would be beautiful, and he poured his heart out to her in the twilight, speaking of his dreams and hopes, his disappointments and his struggles. Ordinarily rather inarticulate and shy, Kuko found he was able to speak freely to the Goddess he could not see but whom he sensed to be ever-present in the sparkling waters of the Spring.

That eveniing, when he finally fell silent, he was surprised by the appearance of an exquisite blue bird flying across the sky. The bird circled overhead three times, then dropped a feather into his lap. The feather was long and iridescent, and Kuko never had beheld anything quite as beautiful.

Kuko was startled, but even more astonished when the bird actually spoke to him.

'I am the Namimoto bird, who makes her nest in the very lap of the Goddess,' the bird sang.
'She bids me tell you to take heart. Give this Blue Feather to the girl you love and if her heart beats true for you, she will be yours.'

Kuko bowed low to the sacred bird, thanking her for the rare gift. He then returned to the village, feather in hand, and laid it upon the doorstep of his beloved.

He could not sleep, however, and was at her door at dawn to see if the feather remained where he had left it.

Much to his joy, the feather was gone!

As he stood there, the chief of the village, his daughter and the entire delegation of strangers came out of the house, and the village crier began to ring the bell, calling the villager to a meeting.

All the villagers congregated in the Square, pressing forward to hear the news. Poor Kuko was afraid suddenly that it would be an announcement that the Chief's daughter had agreed to accept the offer of marriage from the neighbouring Chief's son.

Instead, he beheld his lady love stepping forward with the Blue Feather braided into her golden hair.

In a clear voice, she declared: 'I will marry only the man who can tell me where the bird to which this feather belongs lives.'

Her father then spoke: 'Three days from now, we will have another meeting and at that time, we will hear the answer to my daughter's question.'

Kuko realised that the Chief intended to give the neighbouring Chief's son a chance to discover the answer to the girl's question. The next three days passed far too slowly, therefore, for poor Kuko, who knew the answer himself, but did not know if his rival would be able to stand forth to give the correct answer as well.

After three days had passed, the bells rang. out again and the villagers collected in the Square. The delegation returned and this time, the neighbouring Chief's son was with them. Much to Kuko's consternation, he was a handsome lad, but with arrogance stamped in his features. His bearing moreover denoted one accustomed to having his own way in everything.

Kuko's rival stepped forward then, as if he and he alone had the right to speak first.

He declared loudly, 'Here is my answer to your question: I have sent men to every corner of our land, and no one has seen a bird with feathers like this. I therefore declare with confidence that the bird is foreign to these parts, and must be from a land very faraway.'

'Yes!' agreed the Chief happily, 'That must be so. We have our answer here.'

'And yet,' said the girl, 'That is no answer at all. It does not tell me where to find the bird.'

Kuko stepped forward then. Much to his surprise, when he spoke, he did not stutter as usual. His voice was firm and melodious as he said, 'I have seen the bird you seek. This bird will not be found anywhere in our land or in any other, for she makes her nest in the very lap of the Goddess. She is the Namimoto bird, favoured by the Harvest Goddess above all others.'

The villagers were amazed, not only by Kuko's words but by his transformation into a confident young man who had neither hesitation nor fear.

'How do you know this?' the Chief demanded with a frown.

'The bird gave me the Blue Feather,' said Kuko. 'It is a symbol of true love, for the man who offers this feather to a girl declares: 'My heart flies to you, even as a bird flies to its nest. I wish to dwell in your heart forever.' That is the message of the Blue Feather and that is why I offer it to your daughter. I am your humble servant, sir, but my heart has the highest of aspirations, to belong to your daughter forever.

Every one was captivated by the boy's words and even the Chief could not maintain his stern disapproval, although the thought of losing all the advantages that an alliance with the neighbouring Chief would have provided was disappointing. Even so, he loved his daughter and her happiness was more important than riches.

The Chief's daughter looked at the son of the neighbouring Chief, then at Kuko.

'I always loved you,' she told the young shepherd. 'Each morning, I would watch from my window as you brought a beautiful White Flower to my door. I always hoped you would speak to me one day of your love.'

She took his hand then in her own and announced, 'I accept your Blue Feather and your heart. From this day forward, let the Blue Feather be a sign of eternal love for every man and woman who wishes to marry.'

And so it came to pass that the 'Blue Feather' became the symbol of love and accompanied every proposal of marriage through all the centuries.

For all Harvest Moon fans

Harvest Moon is more than a series of games. It represents a philosophy of life and any one who becomes involved in Harvest Moon games will recognise the underlying philosophy in all these games very quickly.

Harvest Moon is NOT about making money or achieving victory over enemies. It is not about winning or losing. The central theme of all Harvest Moon games is working harmoniously with the environment and with society to improve every one's quality of life.

Using the land and natural resources wisely are lessons that are taught by Harvest Moon. Making friends and being able to sustain friendships over time are other lessons that are critical to the player's success or failure.

In this web log, I will include basic gaming advice as well as detailed hints for players. Links to all my Harvest Moon guides can be found on this website for those who are looking for detailed walkthroughs and guides to specific games.