Gundam Versus — Issue 38

Gun­dam soars in top-notch mecha simulator

I’m a HUGE Gun­dam fan. Next to my love of Mega Man, Gun­dam is my sec­ond great­est obses­sion. Because of lim­ited space, I’ll have to be con­tent with the lim­ited Gun­dam merch that I have amassed. The lat­est addi­tion was given to me for my recent birth­day; it made me recall play­ing a Gun­dam arcade fight­ing game at Nashicon 2016. Would it serve to sat­isfy my hunger for giant robots caus­ing mas­sive dam­age and beat­ing them­selves to obliv­ion? “Gun­dam Ver­sus” for PlaySta­tion 4 gave me my answer.

Gun­dam Ver­sus has some unique advan­tages going for it as a fight­ing game. Its source mate­r­ial is based on a uni­ver­sally rec­og­nized anime series. Unlike other fight­ing games, it does not have a sto­ry­line, allow­ing you to jump straight to the action with­out know­ing back­ground story. That sold me as some­one who knows a series’ back­ground, not need­ing knowl­edge about spe­cific char­ac­ters’ background.

The abil­ity to choose a series favorite from a ros­ter of more than 90 mobile suits from var­i­ous Gun­dam works ensures that you are not lim­ited to char­ac­ters in Gun­dam series only aired in the U.S. Each stage is open area, allow­ing you to plan offense or defense with the ben­e­fit of hid­ing or run­ning from your oppo­nents while recov­er­ing from attacks. Also, you can have two addi­tional char­ac­ters to back you with one serv­ing as a strik­ing part­ner to tag team oppos­ing forces with the per­fect tim­ing. They are avail­able to have a train­ing ses­sion to get you famil­iar with your cho­sen suit.

Those who are not accus­tomed to run-and-gun gam­ing will get frus­trated and want to quit play­ing. The open bat­tle­field requires a 360-degree view, which the PS4 con­trols are decent enough to help han­dle the action. While Gun­dam Ver­sus made an hon­or­able attempt to include all Gun­dam ele­ments, some open­ing themes were played on repeat way too much and that took away the focus from game­play and placed it on the music. Music for the game is top notch, which is to be expected from the Bandai Namco sound team. This was the first time the team did an inter­na­tional col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Czech Phil­har­monic Orches­tra for the open­ing visual. That adds some fla­vor and extras to the pre­sen­ta­tion. While I was dis­ap­pointed that the game didn’t offer an Eng­lish dub track, the orig­i­nal Japan­ese audio for the Gun­dam fran­chise ensured that Ver­sus has the appro­pri­ate Gun­dam feel.

A down­side is that cer­tain series I liked and wanted to use suits from are stuck as paid con­tent, which left Gun­dam fans like me at Bandai Namco’s mercy regard­ing afford­able pricing.

Gun­dam Ver­sus is a tes­ti­mony of how anime, sci-fi and fight­ing games have merged to cre­ate a prod­uct that is playable for every­one, regard­less of fan­dom knowl­edge. As a Gun­dam afi­cionado, Ver­sus is well worth the time spent play­ing and is the next best thing to own­ing a Gun­dam or mobile suit. I wel­come this new addi­tion to my Gun­dam col­lec­tion as I con­tinue my quest to build a mas­ter­piece col­lec­tion of all things Gundam.

Harvest Moon: Back to Nature — 4Q2014 issue

A life that’s sec­ond nature

A life of farm­ing is never sim­ple. Ask any farmer and they’ll tell you: It’s a tough, tough job that requires before-dawn ris­ing and at-dusk retir­ing that repeats itself over the course of many a day. There’s also the fear of Mother Nature wreck­ing your liveli­hood and out­side forces such as other humans steal­ing from you and run­ning you into ruin. But, thank­fully, you can avoid all of that and expe­ri­ence the joy of liv­ing off the land at its finest, dig­i­tally if you so choose, thanks to Natsume’s Har­vest Moon: Back to Nature. And, if you play your cards right and take time to pull your­self away from dig­ging up your ground, you can find your­self a cer­tain Mrs. to share the farm­ing duties with as well.

Back to Nature is the best game in the long-running series. I say this with con­fi­dence because it’s one of the only titles in the series to have been remade mul­ti­ple times with the same setup, just dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters. Every mod­ern Har­vest Moon title takes its cue from Back to Nature, as well. The main goal, which stays the same through­out the series, is to take a farm that’s fallen into dis­re­pair and make it into a prof­itable bas­tion of hard work and suc­cess. Your char­ac­ter works to accom­plish this by pulling up his boot­straps and putting in a lit­tle elbow grease with lit­tle to no help from any­one else, aside from the gnomes he meets tucked away in the crease of the town.

Speak­ing of the town, you’re tasked with meet­ing folks and forg­ing some type of rela­tion­ship with them so that you are con­sid­ered neigh­borly. The town’s set sched­ule makes for inter­est­ing inter­ac­tions and a type of sched­ule plan­ning not unlike Ani­mal Cross­ing. While you’re work­ing to save your farm and chat­ting up the towns­folk, you’re given a third task of find­ing a suit­able lass in town to wife up. If you can man­age to put a ring on it by woo­ing your intended (there are five lovely ladies that you can choose from to pur­sue with vary­ing likes and dis­likes), you’re all but guar­an­teed to earn your place in the town and be allowed to stay.

Back to Nature is deep, extremely deep. So much so that it takes quite a bit of time just get­ting the farm up and run­ning in a proper man­ner that you might make money to sus­tain it. And that’s mis­sion accom­plished for Back to Nature: Get you involved and think­ing hard about what it is you want to accom­plish in your town. That level of inter­ac­tion is sim­ple to begin with, and with decent con­trols it doesn’t get too much harder to main­tain. It’s one of the things that I love about Back to Nature. It doesn’t press too hard about mechan­ics and there’s a wealth of infor­ma­tion within the game about crops and car­ing for ani­mals that can help you main­tain a com­fort­able way of life within the game. But some­times, the level of com­fort you want isn’t always within reach.

While I praise the con­trols, the effect isn’t always ben­e­fi­cial for you. The game is hard in the begin­ning, some­times too hard for its own good. Take, for exam­ple, the fact that you arrive in town with basi­cally noth­ing but the clothes on your back. You’re expected to suc­ceed and set­tle down there but you have noth­ing tying you there very much. What’s to say that your player char­ac­ter doesn’t decide that it’s too much, packs up shop and goes home? It’s not very real­is­tic with some of the things you’re tasked with doing, and start­ing with absolutely no money and try­ing to rebuild a farm is impos­si­ble with no cash flow.

My next prob­lem comes with the cash oppor­tu­ni­ties afforded in the game. With­out cheat­ing, it is nearly impos­si­ble to become suc­cess­ful and well off. This leads into a larger prob­lem with the way time is struc­tured in the game as well. While the time aspect has to be dif­fer­ent than real time, an entire day should not pass within nearly 30 min­utes. It’s extremely hard to get much accom­plished in the early going and it demands that you must have a rou­tine in place quickly or risk being left behind. Sure, you’re given a year or two to get things together but it’s hard to make things work on the farm, court a girl and par­tic­i­pate in town activ­i­ties all at once in the short amount of time that passes as a day.

Cou­ple it with the sched­ule given to the town and there’s a time man­age­ment prob­lem just wait­ing to hap­pen. The con­trols some­times leave a lot to be desired, too. More than once I’ve had a bucket that I’ve filled with good­ies from my plot of land empty just far away enough from a bin that it went wasted. And more than once I’ve been angered by loss of income because it’s on the ground and not able to be reclaimed. But that’s a fact of life in Har­vest Moon titles, I suppose.

Oth­er­wise, Back to Nature is a great sim­u­la­tion of farm life. It’s a good way to play a dat­ing sim and life sim all at once with very lit­tle con­se­quence for poor choices. Get­ting back to nature is an idea all of us need to think of at least once, even if it is to dig­i­tally pair off and make a fast dollar.

Back to basics

Back to Nature, released in 1999 for the PlaySta­tion One, has been remade sev­eral times. The first remake was released for Game Boy Advance as Har­vest Moon: Friends of Min­eral Town in 2003. Friends of Min­eral Town was expanded with a side story, More Friends of Min­eral Town — which allows play­ing from a female farmer’s per­spec­tive — in 2005. These were later ported as Har­vest Moon: Boy & Girl for PSP in 2005.