Kirby And The Rainbow Paintbrush Review

The beloved pink puffball begins his first Wii U solo adventure in Kirby and the Rainbow Paintbrush. With only three power-ups, the paintbrush fairy Elline and Waddle Dee to help him, players will guide Kirby across marshmallow-like ropes in a clay-crafted world, oozing with charm and delectable intrigue at every turn.

As a direct sequel to the DS title Kirby: Power Paintbrush – or Kirby: Canvas Curse, as it is known in North America – and developed by Hal Laboratory, Kirby and the Rainbow Paintbrush delivers the magic of play-doh at the touch of your stylus. With 22 levels stretched across seven rainbow-led areas, the Wii U game features such stylish and languid serenity it’s akin to a casual beach stroll in the summer sunshine, rather than a Caribbean cruise on choppy waters. But that’s not to say Kirby takes a smooth ride with every roll in his claymation form, with plenty levels full of pitfalls, hazards and tricky moments for players to work up a sweat.

It’s such an adorable tableau I just want to squish it. But it’s made of clay. Oh.

Perhaps it’s the adorable clay animation that makes Kirby’s opening sequence one of the cutest ever witnessed, but it certainly tugs at our heartstrings when Dream Land is sapped of all its beautiful and vibrant colour following the appearance of a mysterious void. Brought back to life by the paintbrush fairy Elline, Kirby and Waddle Dee must take their chances against the evil forces in Seventopia, led by the wicked Claycia, in order to rid the dull hue from Dream Land.

Armed with an ink gauge, players must use the GamePad’s stylus to draw colourful ropes from left to right – or vice versa – for the pink puffball to roll under or over, whilst collecting stars, bonus treasure chests and secret diary entries across levels. Yet, despite the accuracy when drawing from stylus to GamePad, Kirby feels oddly unresponsive at times, particularly when coaxing him onto a newly drawn rope. He’ll occasionally roll the other way if he bumps into the start of a rope or will come to a complete standstill, refusing to budge, even though a rope is quite clearly beneath. It’s this lack of control that makes the game’s levels frustrating and confusing to newcomers. Fans of the series may fare better following the learning curve, though may share in equally stressful times when it comes to piloting Kirby across zipwires in a hanging basket during later levels.

Sadly you’ll be looking down at the GamePad for most of the game, but hey, rainbow ropes are fun.

With only four hit points, players will need to utilise Kirby’s defence tactics wisely by tapping him to build up speed and bump into enemies. Collecting over 100 stars will allow Kirby to perform a star dash and break through those super sturdy metal blocks to reveal hidden chests or pathways for players. But due to his turbo-charged and frenetic nature, Kirby’s star dash can be difficult to control with your ink gauge and occasionally initiates when tapping the pink puffball for a simple speed boost, only adding to the dissatisfaction. It is, however, incredibly handy to store several star dashes at once given there’s no cap limit on star collection.

In story mode, players will have the opportunity to use special Kirby power-ups in various levels, including a rocket, submarine and tank. Aside from providing level diversity, both the submarine and tank power-ups control beautifully and seamlessly. The underwater levels – normally insufferable in many franchises – are absolutely breathtaking in HD visuals and are expertly designed to allow for fluid, elegant control. Rainbow Paintbrush also includes a level which allows players to control two Kirby’s at one time and, though it may seem perplexing on paper, it works with such devilish, playful charm it is completely irresistible and a highlight of the game.

Submarine Kirby controls like a dream in the underwater levels. Totally intended pun.

But, equally, there are also oddly convoluted levels such as the volcanic area, which considerably spikes in difficulty and often contains awkwardly placed obstructions to halt and frustrate players – especially if you are left-handed. And while the eight boss levels are fun they are largely uninspired, with three repeated, though the final showdown does shake the monotonous feel.

Aside from the main gameplay, Kirby and the Rainbow Paintbrush features multiplayer and challenge modes. The latter features over 40 different mini challenges, where players must beat the clock to find four treasure chests hidden in the levels. It’s a good change of pace, giving extra length to an otherwise short game. Multiplayer mode, on the other hand, allows four players to join the claymation game and play alongside Kirby as Waddle Dees. While it creates an additional enemy in Grab Hand, the mode feels disjointed as Waddle Dees must follow Kirby on screen, getting transported if you dare to stray too far.

With a completed game at just over 7 hours of total play, Kirby and the Rainbow Paintbrush feels too short. The HD visuals are astounding with the clay animation but, with touch-based controls, those gorgeous colours are pallid in comparison on the GamePad. Perhaps if there was an additional single player button mode utilising Waddle Dee, Rainbow Paintbrush may have had longevity. But for now, Kirby’s paintbrush rope is a little frayed despite its glossy front. We’ll keep on rolling until his next adventure.


Based on the PAL Version

Xenoblade Chronicles 3D Review


Shulk, Reyn and the rest of the crew return in this 3D remastered version of Xenoblade Chronicles which is exclusive to the New Nintendo 3DS. It goes without saying that the original was one of the best Japanese role playing titles that we’ve had in recent years with an immersive storyline, huge and lush landscapes to roam around in, and a fantastic real-time battle system. If you have a passing interest in role playing games then the game is without doubt an essential purchase.

Xenoblade Chronicles takes place in an unusual universe where two titans, the Bionis and the Mechonis, have battled it out to the death. As with all things, time passes, and the lifeless gigantic bodies of the titans remain. Vegetation has grown on the titans, humans have built settlements, and life continues to evolve on the Bionis and the Mechonis. There are two main races in Xenoblade Chronicles, the Mechon and the Homs, both of whom are battling it out with each other for supremacy. Your job begins on the body of the Bionis where you have no choice but to repel the threat of the Mechon who invade your colony and in turn lead you to uncover the secrets of a mystical weapon called the Monado.


Those of you who have completed the Wii version of Xenoblade Chronicles and are expecting visual refinement really won’t be blown away, as the game features slightly blurry and muddy textures that are generally devoid of any real detail. However, the game looks technically competent, though I have to admit that I personally expected slightly more from the New Nintendo 3DS – which is coincidentally required to play this particular game. I expect the vast majority of you will purchase this game for the engrossing gameplay and fluid storyline which are without a doubt top-notch.

So you’re probably wondering how are the 3D effects on the New Nintendo 3DS? Well, the 3D effects are subtle, but from what I’ve played they don’t significantly improve the overall experience. Again, I was slightly disappointed with this especially as it was one of my first games on the New Nintendo 3DS. This shouldn’t turn you off of the game though. Maybe I was expecting too much from the game which is the first to take advantage of the New Nintendo 3DS. However, as I said before, do not let this put you off.


I was a huge fan of the original on the Wii and sang its praises back in the day. The game has aged extremely well as it’s still the engrossing and compelling game that it was when it launched back in 2011. Even if you have a passing interest in JRPG’s then you need to play it. I’ll admit that the original was one of the first Japanese RPG’s I’d played in years and it has since made me search out notable games of the genre. I love the battle system, I love the characters, the sprawling landscapes, the detailed storyline, and I’m sure you will too.

So is this a good showcase for the New Nintendo 3DS? It’s hard to say. It’s not really a looker and not a game that you will use to wow your friends. But it’s genuinely an essential game and it really feels miraculous playing this on a handheld. Sure, visually it’s not anything to write home about, but a great game is a great game and from a gamer’s perspective this is one of the best games of recent times. Is it the game to buy a New Nintendo 3DS for? Maybe not if you’ve got the original on the Wii. But if you haven’t, then yes, you really do need this game.



Mario Party 10 Review

It’s time to keep your friends close and your enemies even closer with Nintendo’s first HD Mario Party game for the Wii U. Promising a strong mix of luck and skill-based minigames, the game’s three party modes flourish with friends and refresh the franchise. But a series of drawbacks really kills the merrymaking mood, quicker than Bowser’s fiery breath.

Developed by Nintendo’s SPD team, Mario Party 10 brings two new modes to the buffet table with a GamePad-focused Bowser mode and Amiibo party, which echoes the classic mode from past series’ entries, as well as the returning Mario Party mode. With over 70 minigames to play, including 10 boss stages featuring enemies from the Mario universe, and a variety of extras in Toad’s room, players are unlikely to throw in the towel after a few short hours. But, as always, the franchise is best served in multiplayer with its infuriating RNG rates to test even the hardiest of relationships. Sore losers will crumble, newcomers will triumph, and the Luigi death stare will make a comeback between friends. Yet the resulting fun and ongoing hilarity with character animations is just too good to miss.

My own Yoshi amiibo had an eggs-ellent time collecting coins and stars on his green-tiled board. Yes, I used that pun.

The best mode, perhaps, is one that stays closest to the iconic board game with Amiibo Party. Yet ironically, it’s the “bonus” section you can only unlock with a compatible figure model from the Super Mario series. As such, Smash fans can use their Mario, Luigi, Peach, Yoshi, Bowser, Donkey Kong and Rosalina amiibo with this mode, along with Toad and the remaining cast from the Super Mario Collection. Fortunately, not every player needs to own an amiibo, as just one model figure will unlock a character board. As per classic Mario Party rules, players can move their character figure around the board individually with the roll of a computer generated die, collecting coins to grab those elusive stars. Each round will give you a chance to build up your stack of coins via a minigame, in free-for-all, two versus two and three against one.

Yet it’s in amiibo party’s customisation mode that really keeps the festivities varied and interesting. Drawn into four segments, the circular board can be customised to your liking after picking up a number of scattered character tokens. Blending the DK jungle with Peach’s castle, or Mario’s pipes and Yoshi’s mountainous eggs helps keep players on their toes. And it’s not set in stone once you begin playing either, with players freely able to mix and match between character boards throughout gameplay. It’s truly a fantastic blend of chaos and fun rolled into one.

The perfect party for your best Bowser impressions. Release the carnage in the only GamePad mode!

As part of the only mode that utilises the Wii U GamePad, Bowser Party works as a mad dash to the dessert spread, where all the good stuff vanishes in the first few moments. Picture whippy cream for kids; amazing in the moment but a mess to clean up. Similarly, Bowser mode can be utterly delightful in its twisted minigame carnage, where knocking players out with fireballs, hammer slams and bullet bills is fantastically entertaining, as well as making excellent use of the GamePad’s gyroscope and touchscreen controls.

But if you’re a regular player cooped up in a vehicle, you’ll be fighting for your life in minigames devilishly skewed in Bowser’s favour, with very little drive to reach the end. And unless Bowser rolls a number to catch up to your vehicle, players will be stuck without a minigame in dreadfully boring cat-and-mouse territory. And don’t we always want to be the cat?

Although vehicles in Bowser Party feel justified, cramming all four players into a car in Mario Party mode dilutes gameplay, creates friction and tilts many of the available boards directly into luck-based fields. Players can choose from six boards in the luscious Mushroom Park, sinister Haunted Trail, the idyllic Whimsical Waters, the cloud-filled Airship Central and Bowser’s brutal Chaos Castle. Each board has its particulars, from Boos to hot lava, and can be adjusted via the menu to involve no luck-based minigames, vehicle selection and to change the CPU difficulty.

The rolling green fields of Mushroom Park are so lush we could probably live there. Just don’t bring any flint and steel.

Aesthetically, Mario Party mode looks beautiful, with character animations fluid and funny as many fans would expect. Yet, unfortunately, the boards feel far too short. The minigames are sparse, despite being such a pleasure to play, mini star gates will only distribute to one player, and occasionally you’ll miss out on the coolest sections of the board because one character has mixed up the order of play. However, the mode’s saving grace is in its fixed boss fights.

With ten minigame boss fights, players can crank out their skills and best a huge Goomba by bopping on its head or take on Bowser in an epic end battle. As such, working as a team to beat the boss delivers great satisfaction, along with trying to thwart your friends and push them into danger for your own selfish needs. In fact, many of Mario Party 10’s minigames are top notch, with only a few duds including the narcissism-led Flash Forward and the clunky controlled Piggy in the Middle. While race-to-the-finish minigames such as Ice Slide, You Slide; Snake Block Party; Rapid River Race; and Peepa Panic all deliver fun-filled action, as well as others such as Steal the Beat and Boo Burglars to add rhythm and teamwork to the mix.

OK, this guy. I mean THIS GUY is just a hoot. Unlock him and play as him. You will not regret it.

Other than the three main modes, Mario Party 10 has many extras in Toad’s room, achievement unlocks and bonus minigames such as Bowser’s challenge, a minigame tournament and a coin challenge. Players will also be able to unlock two new characters with Toadette and Spike, the latter providing laugh-out-loud, killer dance moves which are not to be missed. Yet since the game relies solely on Wiimote controllers, the GamePad is seemingly shoved into a corner, wearing the only dunce-labelled party hat in the room.

With the lack of a real single-player challenge and online mode, Mario Party 10 is a little too remote to be the life of a get-together. But the game’s interesting amiibo use, sublimely designed minigames and hilariously frustrating luck rates will certainly help beat the boredom. Mar10 day might have been and gone, but Bowser’s manic mayhem – arguments and all – is here to stay.


Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate Review

Returning for a second outing on the Nintendo 3DS, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is as addictive as its predecessor. With new weapons, refined gameplay and fresh areas to explore on expeditions, fans will revel in the new features while newcomers won’t feel as intimidated.

As a hugely successful franchise for Capcom in Japan, and more recently in North America and Europe, the Monster Hunter series has sold an incredible 28 million copies worldwide. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate on 3DS or Wii U and Monster Hunter Tri for the Wii carved out new players in the west, while the hunger for the next instalment on 3DS kept growing. The franchise has always been notoriously tough to broach, often daunting players by its large difficulty scale and its less than supportive approach for those new to the game. It’s this semblance of discouragement that’s personally left me out in the cold, as it may have been for others. But with Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, it’s never been easier for beginners to gear up and start a fantasy-led RPG action adventure.

The Monster Hunter series has never been known for its vast storyline, rather scaling back and using a simple structure to focus primarily on gameplay. However, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate provides a much more linear tale, where returning players and newcomers will take on story quests in order to progress to a new area. Following the suave Caravaneer, players will travel with a band of unique individuals – including a merchant, cook, smithy and quest supplier – as the resident hunter, where your aim is to discover new lands and ancient relics. Opening cutscenes are succinct and wonderfully tailored to fans, setting the scene exquisitely with their beautiful panoramic vistas.

Feisty as ever and ready to take down a large monster. Just choose your weapon, maybe give it a nickname, and bring your Felyne companion along as well.

Yet where Capcom has failed in the past at getting perfect equilibrium for beginners, the developer has thrived in 4 Ultimate. Players will face off with a large monster on a ship to get to grips with the basics and, later, are guided by the Caravaneer and his friends through gathering, cooking and simple hunting quests. You’ll get plenty of Zenny – the series’ currency – at the start of your game, along with a selection of healing items and weapons. Plus, players can access tier one quests at any time, where you can take on a Great Jaggia in a training area and sample the flavour and intricacies of the game’s various weapons. As such, tutorial sections never feel forced on returning players but are a fantastic choice for newcomers. It’s an open-armed welcome with small nudges from Capcom, instead of the regular, and terribly awkward, push and shove trick.

While the graphics for 4 Ultimate are sub-par with unsightly textures, and your avatar will simply graze through buildings, monster carcases and rolling wagons with a ghostly nod and wink, on a technical level the latest 3DS instalment has improved vastly. Actions including gathering, scaling vertical walls – and going sideways, too – sheathing your weapon and even dodging are much more fluid. It gives the game an improved sense of realism in comparison to its static, clumsy actions in past games.

Players can even jump off higher surfaces and mount monsters when the perfect opportunity arises in one all-encompassing action. And if your character has long and flowing, golden locks, you might just feel similar to Legolas in The Lord of the Rings, mimicking impossibly perfect death-defying stunts. Though you’ll do it without the nonsensical snow skimming and gravity-evading step-ups to kill your calves.

Graphics isn’t a strong point for MH4U on the 3DS, even though we’ve blown up this image, but just look at the jaw on Tetsucabra. Don’t fall into its trap!

If you haven’t found yourself upgrading to a New Nintendo 3DS just yet, you’ll be pleased to hear the Circle Pad Pro can be used once again for camera angle precision. The L-Targeting function for larger monsters also returns, which is usually spot on, though players may find it tricky to centre the camera when in close range to monsters. Under a belly, a leg, or rolling beneath a tail can confuse the camera, sending a little more damage to your character and kicking up frustration in the process. It’s never unusable, though, with monster battles just as intense, heart-thumping and addictive as ever.

Loading screens – particularly after quest completion – are a slight pain on older models, however. Having your character aimlessly standing around and not being able to do anything for the final 10 seconds or so is relatively minor, but it’s strangely wasteful when a regular loading screen would suffice.

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate introduces a steady amount of new features to satiate returning players, including two new weapons; the charge blade and insect glaive, which are equally fun to use. As usual, newcomers and fans can pick either the Blademaster or Gunner class with up to 14 weapons on offer and are able to experiment with all in order to choose one that suits. In solo mode, players will come across both Guild Quests and Expeditions. These two new features are, arguably, two of the best features in the game.

I don’t think I’d like to take them all on at once, thank you!

While Expeditions will keep you on your toes, exploring new areas with a constantly changing map and new monsters, Guild Quests can be registered at the Gathering Hall and played in either solo or multiplayer mode with certain weapon or other conditions. Both features provide a great change of pace for the game’s fetch quest quota, with expeditions giving players the opportunity to strategise their item pack and gear efficiently.

For the first time on the 3DS, players can hunt monsters with their friends in online multiplayer. Players won’t be able to access higher tier quests until they reach it in solo mode, however you can freely search for Gathering Halls of any ability once unlocked, enabling those new to the game to hunt down monsters they’ve personally encountered with other players online. It’s this addition that lengthens the game’s longevity, keeps it fresh, and feeds the gnawing hunger more so than buffs at the in-game canteen.

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is a huge and exceedingly enjoyable game. And while I’ve merely scratched the surface with 20 hours of gameplay, it’s one that can be dipped in and out of once you know and perfect the basics. It’s graphical prowess leaves little to be desired, but it’s the gameplay that reels you in; hook, line and sinker. I suppose the game’s all ’bout the chase, ’bout the chase, with no trouble. Well, maybe just a bit.


The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D Review

Fifteen years since its release on the N64, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D arrives on Nintendo’s handheld and brings welcome changes to alleviate past frustrations. The haunting pressure of the impending moon is still ever-present, eclipsing those original fears with stereoscopic 3D usage, while various boss battles are refreshed with entertaining techniques. But despite its practicality, the new saving system dampens the tension, leaving Termina less of a ticking time bomb.

Developed by Grezzo and Nintendo’s EAD Tokyo team, Majora’s Mask 3D has transitioned seamlessly to a portable system with beautiful character remodels, tweaked puzzle elements and improved design layout. After firing up the game and witnessing the opening sequence with our trusted Hylian hero Link and giggling trickster Skull Kid, players will be charged with saving Termina and its inhabitants from the moon’s destruction. But with only three days to find the guardians of Woodfall, Snowhead, Great Bay and Stone temples, Link must use his ocarina to manipulate time and defeat the growing evil within Majora’s Mask, collecting a number of transformation masks and weapons along the way.

Poor Skull Kid, he was just lonely.

As a remake, the game’s familiarity in gear and item screen layout for Ocarina of Time 3D players will be a joy to bunny-hop back into, while content faithful to the original will have fans mimicking the Happy Mask Salesman and grinning from ear-to-ear. Subtle changes to the game’s design, including a revamped, clearer Bomber’s notebook and the ability to fast forward time to the exact hour you wish, are warmly welcomed and keep the pace fluid and fresh.

Newcomers, perhaps, may feel a touch out of their depth without an initial tutorial section to break the ice, but can visit the Sheikah hint stone or gossip stones scattered across Termina whenever they wish for aided direction. Given guidance is optional, players are free to roam the world as they wish and are rewarded immensely for their exploration with up to four transformation masks, 20 regular masks, six bottles and many pieces of heart, along with a vast to-do list in side quests and mini-games.

One of the most controversial changes to Majora’s Mask 3D, however, is its saving mechanism. Rather than performing the Song of Time on Link’s ocarina to permanently save the game, players can now choose to save at the various feather quill and owl statues – the latter which also function as warp zones – across Termina, negating the need to play in one-hour chunks. Though it’s entirely practical, as well as much easier, the frantic need to finish a quest or a dungeon in one sitting is ultimately lost and breaks the foreboding tension that set the game apart from its series’ companions. As a positive, though, saving at a statue means players can safely go back to the previous set of three days to complete any forgotten sections and slow the passage of time if needed, thwarting past frustrations in the original.

The beautiful remastered map of Termina with all four regions; Woodfall, Snowhead, Great Bay and Ikana Canyon.

Featuring only four dungeons, Majora’s Mask 3D is one of the shortest games in the Zelda franchise, but the intriguing side missions – which often require much detective work – are a joy to explore. You’ll converse with monkeys in your Deku mask form, sing lullabies to a crying child as the spirit of Darmani with a Goron mask, and break out your stealth ability in the Gerudo Fortress to bring back stolen eggs in Zora form. At times, you may find yourself wandering aimlessly around Clock Town, just taking in all the interesting sights and sounds of the area or playing mini-games such as the Shooting Gallery time after time. Taking up a staring contest with the moon is not advisable, though, unless you like to lose.

While there are slight nuances in structure to side missions, including grabbing an extra bottle earlier, the most significant lie within the dungeon boss battles – many of which are for the better. In particular, a rejuvenated battle with Twinmold gives the fight much more flavour, though may leave Link’s arm a little worse for wear. It’s possibly just as well Chateau Romani is disguised as Popeye’s famed spinach formula, especially with aliens appearing in the dead of night.

While Majora’s Mask 3D is a wonderful remake in its own right, the game is hampered slightly by the same camera controls seen in Ocarina of Time 3D. L-Targeting, particularly if you’ve yet to upgrade to a new Nintendo 3DS or own a Circle Pad Pro, is wearisome when bosses fly, run or float off screen. Refocusing the camera can often eat into your defences and, in turn, becomes perilous in boss fights when control is of the utmost importance. But even with the added support of C-Stick or a Circle Pad Pro, the game consistently flirts with camera angles in tight spaces, showing dark gaps where there should be hard walls. It’s a minor grievance, but one that’s in desperate need of improvement.

Beloved Epona returns, but you’ll have to reunite at the Romani Ranch on the third day, unless you can find another way?

Returning players may be disappointed with the rather bizarre move from Nintendo and Grezzo to omit a Hero Mode or Master Quest section. However, the addition of two fishing holes – though it won’t heal those wounds – may just keep players occupied for a short time with their hidden surprises.

Though it has minor drawbacks, Majora’s Mask 3D is a beautifully remade game with deeply refined elements to its gameplay and structure. A dark and saddening tale, perhaps, but it’s a game that moves players to the core with evocative music, witty dialogue and one spine-chilling moon. After all, it’s those little pockets of bliss that brings the dawn to our days.


Game Informer Awards Zelda Majora’s Mask 3D 9.25/10

It seems as though Game Informer is the first publication to publish their review of the long awaited Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D for the Nintendo 3DS. The magazine has given the game a particularly impressive 9.25/10. Game Informer was impressed with the subtle changes that Nintendo has introduced to the remake and they believe it makes a great game even better. Our review of the game should go live sometime tomorrow.

Purists will decry the changes made to Majora’s Mask no matter how slight they may be, but I am seated firmly in the “change is good” camp. It’s everything you remember, but without the boredom or frustration related to the passage of time. Majora’s Mask was a game ahead of its time in 2000, and revisiting it under this new lens only confirms that sentiment. Whether you’re returning to Termina or visiting it for the first time, Majora’s Mask 3D is the ideal way to experience this classic.

Rune Factory 4 Review

The long and gruelling wait has finally come to an end for Rune Factory 4’s European fans with its eShop arrival last month. But much like its haphazard release, the RPG simulation title suffers from a few technical and design blips, with its saving grace in a humorous storyline.

The path to Europe has been a rocky and often troubled one for Rune Factory 4. After the franchise’s developer Neverland folded at the tail-end of 2013, publisher Marvelous AQL informed fans the European version was, regrettably, cancelled due to technical difficulties in production. It wasn’t until October last year that both XSeed Games and Marvelous US took the helm and garnered a digital-only release for European audiences. Though it’s been a long time in the making – more than a year after the US release and over two from Japan – Rune Factory 4’s charm lies in its witty, heart-over-head story-telling and effortless character building sequences.

You’re basically the luckiest person in the world to fall into the lap of a very gentle dragon.

With three story arcs, Rune Factory 4 is beautifully rich in content and can take anywhere between 20 to 50 hours to complete the first section either in easy, normal or hard difficulty modes. Players will begin their journey on an airship but, when a common enemy duo appears on deck, your character is quickly thrust overboard and crash lands onto a dragon far below. For the first time in the franchise, players can choose their character’s gender from the beginning and, as is the case in each game to date, a bout of amnesia will plague your character. Under the guidance of Ventuswill the wind dragon, you’ll be able to explore the town of Selphia freely and create a new life through farming, crafting, fishing and forging.

Through a case of mistaken identity, you won’t just have your skill sets to contend with but Selphia’s tourism and attraction too. Charged with improving the town’s upkeep as Prince or Princess, players can choose to take on requests in exchange for points. These vary from general shipping and harvesting duties to taking on demons in the overworld and dungeons. Soon enough it becomes your duty to save Ventuswill, free the monster-trapped Guardians from dungeons, as well as collect rune spheres in order to return Selphia and its regions to their former glory.

Er, if you say so, Meg.

For those unfamiliar with the game’s set up, Rune Factory 4 revolves around four seasons in each in-game year. Town events and festivals will be interspersed throughout the seasons, along with specific time frames for planting vegetable and flower seeds. While Harvest Moon-style farming is your main source of income, you’ll also have to spend time levelling up your skills in cooking and weapon crafting. To do so, players must use rune points, or RP to those more versed in the franchise, which limits what you can and can’t do during a day. Though RP will steadily build-up throughout, it’s frustratingly repetitive to replenish in the beginning when sources and income are fairly limited.

To alleviate some of the mundane farming activity, players can befriend monsters as pets who will aid in tending crops or planting seeds, pending on their friendship levels. However, it’s more than a little unsettling when your well-kept, hard-to-raise crops can be obliterated from the moment a tornado hits. It’s horribly risky as well as a hard fact of reality, but the cruel RNG rate is preposterous for a title that banks itself on generating in-game currency from farming.

For all your harvesting needs take a trip to the general store to buy seeds.

Aside from day-to-day duties, players can head to dungeons to fulfil main storyline quests. These are generally easy to navigate with a map on the lower screen, while hitting switches will unlock secret areas with chests containing spell upgrades and other such loot. Rune Factory’s combat system remains largely unchanged and keeping NPCs or monster allies in your team can become extremely advantageous when facing bosses, deflecting hits from your character.

Though the game eases players in during the first few dungeons, an inane difficulty spike hits at the Lava Ruins. Here, monsters run amok dealing heavy blows, overwhelmingly heated areas will cut continuously into your HP, and nasty pits of fiery columns are awkwardly placed, solely to trap hasty players. It’s almost similar to those moments as a child when you’re forced to hug an estranged relative but, instead, are held tightly and squeezed forcibly on the cheeks until you’re swimming in sloshed kisses. In short, combat won’t help you in these poorly placed and designed dungeon elements.

Apparently, she fainted. Also has amnesia.

Given the two-year hiatus for a European release, the game looks considerably dated as a 3DS title. A lack of clear-cut definition in texture and backgrounds leaves areas looking washed-out and, despite their polished animation videos, characters look clumsy both on-screen and in their overview slots. And if you’re a stickler for feng shui, placing items such as crafting tables and cooking accessories is simply infuriating. Stereoscopic 3D, on the other hand, adds an extra dimension to otherwise flat-packed areas, bringing visual depth to the game.

Though Rune Factory 4 often feels monotonous and grinding, what lightens the mood is the superbly scripted moments between NPCs and the main character. The opportunity to marry, have children and quest with your family are, perhaps, the best and most heartfelt moments in the game. Meeting spirited, three-dimensional characters keeps the game entertaining even at its most tedious.

While it may not be everyone’s cup of tea and is hampered by repetitive gameplay and poorly designed areas, the fourth instalment is a great pick up and play title for newcomers and a solid, longer entry for fans. Perhaps it’s the amnesia talking, but Groundhog Day never felt so persistent.