RFF – First week of summer (Wii)

So as I alluded to in my last post, the end of Spring holiday held its share of disappointments (I’m talking about Rune Factory Frontier here).

First, there was a festival celebrating the opening of the beach, which shook everything up. Lute wasn’t in his normal spot, and by the time I found out where he was (near the church, apparently) it was too late and he’d gone home. So my big forge room remains empty for another week.

Second, Day 30 was actually the first day of Summer, not the last day of Spring, so I lost some crops as they withered to dead grass.

Third, there was a contest at the festival, which I participated in…and failed at, much to the amusement of all the available young ladies present. *sigh*

But life goes on! This week, and today is Wednesday or Thursday of Week 1 of Summer in Rune Factory Frontier land, I’ve already expanded the kitchen area, and I’ve *already* harvested a crop of onions. How so fast?

The power of Runeys. I haven’t mentioned Runeys yet because I’m still figuring them out. Runeys are these kind of spirit things that float around in the world, and if you have a balanced Runey population, your land will become prosperous and things will grow more quickly. You collect Runeys via the (wait for it) Collector (hmm, or is it called a Gatherer?) which feels like a Ghostbuster Ectoplasmic Vacuum kind of thing. So I collected a bunch and set them free around my farm and now I can harvest animal fodder every day, and my onions went from seed to harvest in less than a week. Yay!

Runeys appear over mature croplands, apparently… but they also eat each other, so there’s some kind of balancing thing going on that I haven’t fussed over much yet.

However inside dungeons, instead of Runeys appearing from mature crops, you get these Rune Point Stone things that replenish your supply of Rune Points. I’ve got 2 patches of strawberries growing on Whale Island’s dungeon, so I pop over there, harvest berries, top off my Rune Points and I’m good to go for a while longer. More work!

Anyway, we’ll see how things go during the next holiday; hopefully Lute will be back and I can get both a better Forging Station and better Kitchen Equipment. We’ll see if the money holds out.

So far this week, not much dungeon diving. I did tame a new monster: an ant… so now I have a sheep (I can harvest wool from him) a cow (milk), a squirrel, (who runs around my farmland harvesting ‘wild’ weeds, which can be valuable), a goblin, (who harvests veggies), and the ant will be my combat partner, at least for now (He can harvest veggies too, if need be). These monster pets aren’t particularly efficient yet but I’m hoping they get better with practice. For now they just save me some time, but I still have to do some collecting/harvesting myself.

And finally, the purpose of this post. If you have a Wii, and my inane blatherings about this title have piqued your interest, Amazon has it on sale (today only, I believe) for $29.98. It lists for $50, but I think I paid about $40 at Best Buy a couple weeks ago.

I found a great website devoted to these games: http://www.ranchstory.co.uk/?games/Rune_Factory_Frontier. Gamefaqs has a lot of info too, and honestly for Gamefaqs, the community is decent, but I prefer visiting ‘indie’ websites when I am able to.

Rune Factory Frontier – Day 29 (Wii)

On Day 29, I finally, barely, scraped together enough lumber to get Kross to add a dedicated Forge area to my house. I needed 240 lumber, and I had exactly 240. Late in the evening on Day 28 I realized that my existing axe *could* break down tree stumps into lumber if I was persistent enough. Had I not risked a pile of Rune Points on this discovery, I never would have made it.

Tomorrow is the end of Spring, and a Holiday. I believe I have enough gold to buy an updated Forge from Lute, the salesman who only visits on Holidays. This should allow me to craft better tools and weapons. I have a great amount of iron and scrap iron stored up. Not much copper and nothing more precious, aside from the odd gemstone or two.

I’ve pre-purchased my first run of Summer seeds. I think early summer will be spent digging out all the tree stumps in my field (how do these things grow, anyway…every day there are more!); half of it is over-run with stumps and boulders.

A few mysteries plague me. First is the small purple elephant who has taken up residence in the vestibule of my barn. I first met him in a dungeon. He wasn’t aggressive and I let him be. When I returned from my outing, there he was, hanging out in the barn. He’s gentle but is resistant to brushing or any other kind of interaction. Hmmm.

Second, on Whale Island I found a tower, and spied a young lady watering the plants outside of it. Before I could reach her, she’d gone inside the tower, and no amount of effort would get her to reappear.

These mysteries will have to wait until I get the summer planting in order. It’s going to be a busy few days. Oh! Did I mention I tamed two more monsters? One produces wool, the other milk. That reminds me, perhaps Lute will sell me a “Maker” that will turn wool into yarn.

Oh yes, and not one, but two bunches of flowers were given to me. I extracted seeds from both, but each is a Spring variety of flower. When I can find time I’m going to plant them in the Green Ruins, where it is eternally spring. I’m sure I can make some friends with fresh flowers.

Rune Factory Frontier – Intro (Wii)

A while back, Wiqd, Tesh, Ysharros and a few others were talking about what a Harvest Moon MMO would feel like. It’d been a long time since I played a Harvest Moon game but I remembered the series fondly. All that talk got me reminiscing.

Before I knew it, I’d ordered Rune Factory 2: A Fantasy Harvest Moon, for the DS. When I mentioned this to a friend, he told me he’d been enjoying Rune Factory Frontier on the Wii. Being a crazy person, I picked that up as well.

And I’m glad I did, because honestly I found RF2 to be a bit overwhelming. RFF, on the other hand, eases you into the life of farming and monster bashing…wait, monster bashing? In a Harvest Moon game?

Yup, it appears the series has expanded beyond its non-combat roots. Harvest Moon used to be all about running a farm (unless my memory is playing tricks on me). It was more or less a time management game where you had to balance raising crops with befriending villagers (and eventually finding a spouse). Along the way you’d have to chop wood in order to get lumber to increase the size of your house, and so on. Or at least, that’s how I remember things.

Rune Factory Frontier still has you tilling the land, socializing, expanding your house, fishing, gathering wild herbs, but now you can also go out monster hunting. And time management is still a huge part of the game, in two ways.

First, your character has Hit Points and Rune Points. Virtually every action, be in tilling a plot of land, or swinging a sword at a monster, uses up Rune Points. When you’re out of Rune Points, these actions start using up Hit Points. When you run out of Hit Points, you pass out and wake up the next day at the infirmary. So Time Management Thing One is managing your Rune Points.

Time Management Thing Two is that time is always passing while you’re out and about. You wake up every morning and as soon as you set foot outside, time starts to advance (time stands still inside buildings, for some reason). At some point, you’ll need to go to bed. Sleeping replenishes your Hit and Rune Points, fully if you get enough rest. So when to go to bed is up to you. Get there early and you’ll be fully refreshed. Stay up too late and you’ll start the next day partially depleted, or worse, get sick and end up starting a day with 50% Hit & Rune Points.

At the start of the game, there isn’t a lot to do, nor are there many villagers to talk to. You’re given a run-down farm to use, some seeds and some cheap basic farming gear. Your job is to till the fields (initially 1 ‘square’ at a time), plant the seeds, then water them. As you do all this, you’ll gain skill levels in almost every action. The higher your level, the fewer Rune Points it takes to carry out that action.

With your free time (and early on you’ll run out of Rune Points with plenty of daylight left to burn) you can run around and get to know the villagers, who might give you simple quests, or new farm tools to use. Getting a cheap axe lets you start to chop branches for lumber. Getting a cheap hammer lets you pulverize the pebbles in your field. Both of these actions clear the square for future tilling. Both also has a Skill Level attached.

It won’t be long before you find your first dungeon, at which point you can start hunting monsters (which drop craft materials), mining ore, or even planting crops in the dungeons. Eventually you can tame the monsters, at which point they’ll go live in a barn (which you’ve had to purchase) where you need to brush them every day to get them to like you. Once they like you enough they can be put to work helping around the farm.

I have to say, this is the first game I’ve played that has me brushing a goblin in order to get him to harvest my crops.

You can expand your house with a forge, a kitchen, an alchemy lab, and other ‘crafting stations’ and use the materials you’ve gathered to make better, more efficient tools and weapons. For instance, once you upgrade your watering can you can water 3 squares at once using a ‘special move’ that uses twice the Rune Points of a regular 1 square watering. So a 50% increase in Rune Point efficiency, plus some time saving.

All the while this is going on, the days are passing, new people are moving into the village, and hopefully you’ve been starting to woo a future wife.

At which point we hit one big drawback: you can only play a male character, who can only woo a set number of “heroines” as a future wife.

But hopefully you can see how the game branches out as you play more and more. Suddenly there are too many activities per day, and you have to figure out where the best place to spend your time is. When you wake up to find it raining, you’ll rejoice since it means all the time and rune points you usually spend watering crops can be spend on clearing the field, or dungeon diving, or going fishing, or crafting… still too much to do!

There are 4 seasons, each 30 days long. Different crops grow in each of Spring, Summer and Fall (nothing grows in Winter). Different dungeons allow you to grow different seasonal crops all year long. So inside the “Green Ruins” it is perpetually spring. But you have to fight monsters (using Rune Points) to go in there to tend your crops.

This is going to be a LONG game. I’m 13 hours in, and only on day 23. That is, I’m still in Spring of my first year. There are flowers that take 100+ days to grow (obviously they can only be grown in dungeons where seasons don’t end).

And at 13 hours, I still feel like a complete newbie, still learning to do new things, still meeting new people, still figuring out new relationships and mechanics.

In a very real way, this is scratching my MMO itch. In fact, I got into the Free Realms beta this weekend, and tried to play it, but kept getting drawn back to Rune Factory Frontier instead. If you’re a big fan of crafting systems in MMOs, it’s really hard to resist the appeal of trying to get deep enough into the dungeon to get some copper so you can upgrade your sword, and doing it quickly enough that you can get home to bed early enough that you’ll have enough energy to tend the crops (which you’ll whip up into delicious food for sale) the next day.

Harvest Moon games are often a hard sell, as they can really sound boring. But I find them remarkably compelling. I thought the addition of dungeon crawling would dilute the experience, but it really doesn’t. Having to schedule a dungeon outing, in fact, adds to the experience of the game.

Only 13 hours in, but so far, two thumbs up.

Is the Nintendo Wii phoning home on its own?

So today, the Nintendo DSi launched in the North America. I got mine, love it. More on that later.

We turned on Animal Crossing: City Folk on the Wii tonight, and the pelican mailman dude was there with a special gift from Nintendo. It was a chair shaped like a DSi in honor of DSi day. Now, special ‘gifts’ based on holidays are pretty common in AC: CF (and other games, Wiqd pointed out the April Fool’s Joke in WiiFit), but holiday dates are known years in advance and are easy to plan for. So this unexpected ‘holiday’ got me to wondering about something.

It’s possible that way back when they released Animal Crossing: City Folk, they knew that the DSi was going to launch on April 5th in North America. But the game released back in November, which meant the coding was finished before that.

So either Nintendo really planned ahead (and is pretty leak-proof) or somehow Animal Crossing: City Folk is being updated behind the scenes. I know we’ve updated the Wii firmware/operating system a few times, but never the game itself.

I’m of two minds on this. The gamer in me is delighted at the idea that Nintendo is releasing new content for Animal Crossing: City Folk. But the privacy zealot in me is a little concerned that they’re updating my software without letting me know they’re updating my software.

Or is this even considered updating the software? After all, friends can email items to each other across instances of the game once they’ve exchanged friend codes and visited one another once, so maybe Nintendo is just pre-coded to be everyone’s mail-enabled friend. If that’s the case, it could be the DSi was just waiting on the disk for some trigger to come from Nintendo in the form of a mail.

(Yes, I’m kind of thinking out loud on this one.)

Angela’s mom has Animal Crossing on a Wii that isn’t connected to the internet, and Angela asked her about these mailed gifts, and sure enough, she doesn’t get them. So there aren’t pre-scripted, pre-scheduled actions, but are really mails from Nintendo.

So now I wonder, do these mails just unlock items already on the CD, or are they actually tiny packets of DLC that we’re getting?

And if the latter, how ‘big’ can this mailed DLC get? Could Nintendo email us a new resident for our towns, for instance?

Secret of Wii’s success revealed

Engadget has a post of NPD numbers revealing that the Nintendo Wii has overtaken the XBox 360 in US sales (NPD: Wii usurps Xbox 360 as best selling US game console, pulling away )

From the report:

NPD Group reports more than 666,000 Wii consoles were sold in June compared to 405,500 PlayStation 3s and 219,800 Xbox 360s.

666,000 Wiis, eh? An interesting number, to be sure.

No reports on whether the Wiimote actually sucks out your soul.

Another Wii update

The glow you see today leads down a dark and twisty path to an update that breaks the Zelda hack. Yes, it adds some trivial features but basically it looks like Nintendo is shutting down this particular back door.

Apparently if you have the Homebrew Channel already installed, it’ll still work. Haven’t tested this though. If you’re interested in this Wii Homebrew Scene, I suggest you get the Homebrew Channel up and running before applying this update. Either that, or just skip the update, though you know sooner or later some game will require it.

Nintendo updates the Wii Nintendo Channel

Why is your Wii Slot glowing blue? It’s because the Nintendo Channel has been updated and now lets you rate games, as well as check out how other people (cumulatively) have rated them. You can rate any game you’ve spent at least an hour playing (a bit eerie that my Wii remembers that I played Excite Truck for over an hour at some point!).

Typical Nintendo twists apply. You answer the following questions for each game:

Was the person who played it the most male or female?
What was their age?
Is the game for everyone or gamers?
Is it Hard Core or Casual?
Is it more fun alone or with others?

And finally a “how highly would you recommend it?” slider with no numbers showing, so you can’t fixate on a specific score. You just slide the slider to where it feels ‘right’ to you.

All in all, not a bad feature. It’s reasonably fun to “rate” games (though sadly only one person can rate a game on a given Wii, as far as I can tell) as well as to look up how well gamers are doing. And then they link data in a “People who liked this game also liked these other games” fashion, though that isn’t always particularly significant. People who liked Wii Fit also liked Super Paper Mario… ok, but really these two games are about as diverse as two games could possibly be.