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.

RF4_Ventuswill
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.

rune_factory_4_screen6
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.

rune_factory_screen8
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.

rune_factory_screen10
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.

7/10

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker Review

Eager to fly the fungi-boxed coop from Super Mario 3D World, Captain Toad has packed up his oversized rucksack and is ready for a new solo adventure in Treasure Tracker. With over 70 levels bursting at the seams with adorable charm and intrigue, Captain Toad shines just as bright as those collectable gems and his tiny torchlight.

First introduced in the Super Mario Galaxy games, Captain Toad has certainly made a name for himself over the past number of years. As Captain of the Toad Brigade, he’s helped Mario return from numerous escapades and seen his fair share of horrors in the Mushroom Kingdom. Though he’ll shiver with trepidation, and look too cute to describe while doing so, the Captain will never shy away from an adventure – even though he can’t jump – particularly if it contains treasure in the shape of gold coins, stars and sparkling gems. And with his plucky, pigtailed friend Toadette in tow, there’s no stopping the duo from collecting a tidy treasure hoard and those end level gold stars from antagonists Kamek, Draggadon and Wingo.

captain_toad_wingo
Better get going, Toad, you don’t want to incur the wrath of Wingo!

As it stands, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker features three episodes and a bonus section. The first two episodes will pit you against 18 capture-the-star cubic levels as Toad or Toadette, with the third episode taking fellow treasure hunters through a further 28 levels. Ranging from traditional cubic areas seen in Super Mario 3D World to mine cart levels, boss keeps and Luigi Mansion-stylised areas, the game’s great pace, consistent variation and well-polished levels provide solid fun for all ages. And while many of the levels are, perhaps, too simplistic for adults, the game’s bonus challenges and gem hunting often requires replaying sections which are, in their own right, the best and most ingenious parts of the game.

Reliant on the Wii U GamePad as its sole controller, Treasure Tracker probably doesn’t utilise the second screen enough. Yet despite this, Nintendo has included a few levels which take the action entirely onto the GamePad. It just feels so natural throughout the three mine cart levels to get your turnips at the ready and move the GamePad’s gyroscope in different directions. There’s a real sense of excitement here as you try to hit every POW block, Para-Biddybud and coin box in sight from a first or third-person perspective, depending on your preference. And while you’re knee deep in an endless supply of turnips from a magical Mary Poppins cart, the TV screen will only track your progress and display the superbly designed backgrounds. It’s in these moments that the game is at home in off-TV play on the smaller screen.

captain_toad_minecart
Tally-oh, Toad! You’ll be back home for tea in no time.

Aside from the mine cart areas, the game’s best levels are often ones that feature the simplest of mechanics. Double Cherry Palace and Double Cherry Spires will bring back the Cherry item for some double Toad-in-the-hole trouble, while the Hammer item can be whipped out for some amusing fungi frenzy. Other levels such as Clear Pipe Puzzleplex, Floaty Fun Water Park and Twisty-Turny Planet will have you thinking outside the box to find alternative paths for gems and golden mushrooms.

Though they are few and far between, Treasure Tracker features a few dozy levels; where Toad moves from canon to canon in Poison Canal Canyon Run or endlessly uses spinwheels as a tried and tested method in Spinwheel Library. Sometimes it’s just as easy to sit back, become idle, and watch Toad or Toadette take a nap on the grass, clap excitedly when they meet up with the Toad Brigade or shiver uncontrollably when frightened. The game’s full of tiny, cute as a button mushroom moments that make the game a joy to play.

captain_toad_sleepy_toadette
Oh, Toadette, we didn’t know you were so sleepy! You might have to sleepwalk to get that gem.

Owning Super Mario 3D World save data on your Wii U console will unlock an extra four levels after firing up the game, but even without the save data, you’ll be able to unlock them on completing the final episode. Though Treasure Tracker’s bonus levels offer new objectives, they are limited to previously played levels, making them somewhat repetitive. It’s a real shame the game ends just as you’re warming up for some lengthier levels with meatier challenges – 10 to 15 hours may be a perfect gem for youngsters but severely lacks in content as a full retail game for the more experienced player.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker merely scratches the surface in terms of length, but its puzzle variety and adorable animations will have you hooked from the moment you pick up and play. Needless to say, there’s mushroom for growth.

8/10

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U Review

After its success on the Nintendo 3DS, the classic action brawler returns to Nintendo’s home console in beautiful HD. Supremely designed with its exhilarating and lavish battles, along with a cast of more than 40 new and veteran characters, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is a near perfect game. And its wealth of classic features, new modes and vast customisation choices means it’s a staple title every Nintendo fan should own – for fun and for glory.

Developed by Sora, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is the fourth instalment of the popular Nintendo brawler. Packed with an enormous amount of modes and challenges, long-time fans and newcomers will be spoiled for choice during single, multiplayer and online play. The game, however, never feels bloated or misses the inclusion of a story mode akin to Brawl’s Subspace Emissary, rather the extra features are well-paced, polished and correctly balanced in terms of difficulty. And if you’re a new player, you’ll never truly feel out of your depth with excellent tutorial tips scattered across its loading screens.

super_smash_bros_wii_u_fight
Take that, Pikachu!

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U features 50 playable characters – the most in the franchise to date – and includes a wide range of movesets and fighting styles to suit many players. Newcomer fighters such as Little Mac, Villager, Mega Man and Pac-Man all feature in the cast and star alongside veterans, while other characters – Lucina, R.O.B and Mr Game & Watch to name a few – can be unlocked later in the game. Some characters, which required unlocking in the 3DS version such as Jigglypuff and Ganondorf, are unlocked from the beginning, plus there are up to 47 stages to explore – rivalling the 34 stages on the handheld.

In regular Smash mode, gameplay is smooth and wonderfully controlled with each fighter having distinct animations for attacks, taunting and dodging. Getting to grips with the basics and finding which character suits your play style is paramount here, particularly if players want to succeed in challenges. Of notable merit are new items such as the Bullet Bill and Gust Bellows – both items can be used to great effect and sometimes with dire consequences to both enemy and user, much like that pesky hammer!

8_player_smash_bros
8-Player Smash really cranks up the volume of madness – DK just doesn’t know where to turn and Mario’s cartwheeling… yeah.

While the fourth instalment cranks up the gameplay by several gears in regular mode, 8-player Smash is where madness truly ensues. Though I have yet to settle it in Smash with seven real-time friends, my two amiibo buddies and five CPU players have been ample substitutes. Given the close proximity to other players on smaller arenas, the action intensifies threefold and you’ll rack up damage quicker than Donkey Kong can say ‘bananas’. Forget about dodging here, this is fast and furious fun for all skill levels.

Though the smaller stages whip up a frenzy, the larger battle arenas such as The Great Cave Offensive can often skew your field of vision. Unfortunate camera zooms can make it tricky to keep track of where your character is, making hazard spots gravely dangerous and risky, plus your character can become minute in comparison to the stage. It’s a killer case of too many cooks spoiling the broth.

Setting itself apart from its predecessors, Smash’s amiibo inclusion ticks all the boxes – both on Nintendo’s behalf and on-screen play. By training up your very own Figure Player and feeding it stat boosts collected throughout classic and all-star modes, you can customise your favourite characters to your liking. And with its self-learning AI, it’s the perfect partner to train against and verse other opponents with. Amiibo will constantly adapt their fighting techniques and level up quicker while versing other characters, but make yourself scarce or you could be on the receiving end of a hearty KO. Though we’re still largely in the dark when it comes to amiibo for other games, they are a superb and exciting addition to the brawler.

luigi_amiibo_figure
Someone needs to tell Luigi that’s really not how ‘planking’ works.

As Smash Run is home to the 3DS version of the brawler, so is Smash Tour to the Wii U version. Stylised after the Mario Party franchise, the board game comes in small, medium and large sizes with a minimum of 15 turns per player to a maximum of 25. To get the most from this feature, however, you’ll need to play with friends or family – adding in three CPUs sucks the fun and blows it in the wrong direction leaving a confusing, shambolic mess. But with friends, the unsettling feeling is squashed and an interesting mode unfolds.

Players will race around the board in order to pick up the most power-ups, stat boosts, gold and Smash characters. Mini-battles will then take place with various sets of rules, along with battles whenever one player collides with another. Those players with more Smash characters will be at a distinct advantage in the final battle, but it doesn’t necessarily equal a claim to victory. Though you can still leave your friendships at the door, Smash Tour is in need of a lick of polish before competing against the likes of Mario Party.

With Classic, Special Orders, Challenges, All-Star and Stadium modes there’s plenty of choice on offer for single players. But it’s the Masterpieces that are a wonderful nostalgic gem for older players and a genius addition for newcomers. Playing a demo of NES, SNES and Game Boy titles enriches the Super Smash Bros. experience beautifully. It’s a niche feature but one that’s memorable for its diversity.

smash_bros_mii_fighters
Which fighting class will you choose?

Between Mii customisation, amiibo and stage builder, fans will be satiated with the level of customisation on offer. Though it’s limited in online matches, you’ll still be able to freely select rules and variations with friends in For Glory mode. While it has slight hiccups, Smash’s online play in both modes will provide players with an endless amount of joy and equal amounts of hilarious frustration.

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, while not perfect, is the game that keeps on giving. Non-stop fun, hours upon hours of content, combined with well-known music gives it the perfect edge. And let’s not be coy here, it’s definitely a knockout.

9.5/10

Pokemon Omega Ruby And Alpha Sapphire Review

More than ten years since the original Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire landed on the Game Boy Advance, long-term series’ fans can revisit the Hoenn region infused by nostalgia on the 3DS. But these aren’t just straight-laced remakes, Game Freak has reinvigorated and honed the games, delivering what may be the most interesting features yet.

For fans whom have been there since the glory days of Pokémon Red and Blue to newcomers from the X and Y generation, Game Freak’s audience is certainly far-reaching on a worldwide scale. With its ever-growing fan base, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire bolster a sweet balance of new and familiar features which endeavour to aid in the fluidity of nostalgia for those who played the originals, as well as keep the franchise fresh.

Yet the games are not without fault and are still plagued with the problematic frame rate drops from X and Y when encountering Horde battles and flying Pokémon – albeit, much less noticeable. The Experience Share item is once again given to you almost immediately after starting your adventure and, while this feature can simply be turned off, it presents players with a startlingly easy approach to the games, fizzing out any challenge from gym leaders or the Elite Four. Alternatively, refraining from using the feature will still grant you a team two to three levels higher than your adversaries, so your avatar will never frantically pass out and become a victim of daylight robbery.

pokemon_dexnav_art
The DexNav gives you the ability to sneak and capture wild and occasionally rare Pokemon.

Building upon the features seen in X and Y, it’s never been easier to train a team of Pokémon in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. Pokémon Amie and Super Training are back to soften the gruelling Effort Value process and friendship building, along with an abundance of mega stones scattered throughout Hoenn to crank up the heat in battles. But it’s the arrival of the superb DexNav feature that elevates ORAS to the next level.

A fantastic companion app for the in-game breeder, the DexNav will alert players to roaming wild Pokémon in the grass, water or caves. You may see an adorable tail pop up from Zigzagoon or Skitty, a silhouette with ears for Plusle, and its individual cry or greeting. Once you’ve located the Pokémon, players can sneak with a slow tap of the circle pad while the DexNav relays its ability, first move and its IV potential – improving the more you encounter each species. Practically eliminating the arduous hunt for a perfect IV Pokémon, it reintroduces fun to otherwise stale, mundane and largely ignored gameplay.

pokemon_oras_delta
The Delta episode is endearing, powerful and a superb addition to Pokemon ORAS.

Though it’s substantially overshadowed by the excellent ability to control your flight over Hoenn with the Eon Flute, the fly HM has had a substantial upgrade. Players need only tap the Area Map on the PokéNav Plus to fly to a selected city or route, so whether you fancy picking up some berries for PokéBlocks to aid in contests or to re-battle a couple of trainers, it’s quite literally on your doorstep. But, as was the case in the originals, ORAS pins much need on HM use and you’ll almost certainly need a HM “slave” to carry out the laborious work for you. And while most water routes are optional, players can alleviate the cumbersome journey by picking up a Sharpedo which boosts surf speed, making the dive exploration and intriguing side stories at Sea Mauville – or many of the other islands dotted around Hoenn – much more enjoyable.

Depending on which version players choose, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire’s storyline will pit players against Team Aqua or Magma, with a goal to revive the legendary Kyogre or Groudon. What it lacks in originality is more than made up for with its intensity from the raging weather and the overwhelming pressure to save the world from utter annihilation. Yet it’s not until players defeat the Elite Four and enter post-game territory where the storyline really springs into action. The tightly packed Delta episode – a mission to save humanity from a meteoroid hurtling towards Hoenn – features enchanting music that cuts you to the core and dialogue to make your heart melt. It’s essentially Armageddon, but better.

cosplay_pikachu_art
It’s show time with Cosplay Pikachu in beauty contests – just mind the thundershock.

With engaging post content, including the Battle Resort, Battle Maison and those fun capture-the-flag secret bases, contests have also had a boost in design. Now players can set their living room as centre stage with the 3DS’s gyro sensor and camera – it’s both delightful for youngsters and an interesting slant. Players will also receive Cosplay Pikachu, so whether you prefer cool or cute, it comes with a switchable fourth move depending on the costume it wears. It’s a neat design that just begs to be utilised more thoroughly throughout the game.

Oozing with an evocative storyline and building upon the features introduced in X and Y, Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are immediately accessible, solid remakes. With just a touch more refinement, both titles could easily charm newcomers into returning and whip up an inferno with long-term fans. Either way, Pokémon is an encore that never truly ends.

8.5/10

*Version played – Alpha Sapphire

Super Smash Bros Wii U Is Currently Sitting At 94 On Metacritic

It sounds as though the Wii U version of Super Smash Bros has been a resounding success with critics. Super Smash Bros Wii U currently has a Metacritic score of 94 which is very impressive. This score is based on 13 critics so the score could drop or alternatively go up. Destructoid says that if you can only get one version of Super Smash Bros then the Wii U version is the definitive one.

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U delivers all of the rock-solid mechanics that the 3DS version gave us, with the joy of playing on a big screen with friends and a heap of worthwhile modes. It certainly doesn’t negate the greatness of the 3DS edition, but for those who have a bunch of friends anxious to Smash and can only get one, this is the version to get.

Thanks N Dub Nation

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker Scores 34 Out Of 40 In Famitsu And Here’s The Details

The Famitsu review is now in for Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker and the adorable game scored a decent 34 out of 40. As with all Famitsu reviews there’s four reviewers who give the game a different score. So for Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker the game received an 8, 9, 9, and 8 which gave it a total of 34 out of 40. Here’s what each reviewer had to say about the charming game.

Reviewer 1 – 8

Captain Toad and Toadette are irresistibly cute with their uncertain walking (laughing). The stages which rotate in the 3D space as you progress have various mechanics and routes packed in, and while they aren’t very big in size, they are still produced neatly to be enjoyable. As game mechanics have many gimmicks which are familiar from the Super Mario Bros. series, anyone can play. There are over 70 stages and replaying is fun, too.

Reviewer 2 – 9

The stages are like three dimensional puzzles which you can observe from all directions. When you get the grasp of the route and gimmicks, it feels great. It is convenient that there are several ways to control the direction of the camera. Every course isn’t just about getting to the regular goal since if you aim to obtain the super diamond and a title of achievement, the difficulty increases which is excellent. Variety like hopping on a rail car and seeing the stage from Captain Toad’s viewpoint is also fun.

Reviewer 3 – 9

This is a product that everyone can play regardless of age or gender. While puzzle elements are strong, the game creates an original combination of action and mechanisms. It is fun to clear the stage after trying repeatedly by trial and error. There are boss fights and shooting scenes, so the variation is abundant. When you rotate the three dimensional world, visible things change so it is easy the get confused and feel like you are straying into another world.

Reviewer 4 – 8

Even if the size of fields is small, it is very fun to progress your way towards the goal by rotating the viewpoint and by understating gimmicks of each field. A pleasant aspect of the game is that you can play stages easily one-by-one without losing interest. Taken measures for giving help at the times when you are stumped are also welcome. There may be a feeling that the volume is insufficient, but because the price is also reasonable, I’d say it is enough.

Thanks, Maanwel