<![CDATA[CHARLES EDWIN BOOKS - Reviews]]>Mon, 20 Mar 2023 17:14:28 -0500Weebly<![CDATA[Harvestella: Life Sim, JRPG, or both?]]>Mon, 16 Jan 2023 14:22:55 GMThttp://charlesedwinbooks.com/reviews/harvestella-life-sim-jrpg-or-both

On November 4th, 2022 Square Enix released a new Farm Sim / JRPG Hybrid in the form of Harvestella. A game that's been advertised as allowing you to farm to your heart's content, raise animals, with an in game clock and time/day system. While also allowing you to freely enjoy the games' deep narrative, exciting characters, build your own party, and unlock new jobs to diversify your exploration experience. But how well does it achieve this? Many games that set out to try to bridge the gap between Farm Sim and JRPG fall flat in one element or another. Does the combat suffer and become cumbersome like it does with RuneFactory 5? Is the story non-existence and instead are just character arcs similarly to Stardew Valley? Let me take you into it.
A quick note before we dive into the nitty gritty. I want to extend an apology to my loyal readers who have been anxiously awaiting this review. I noted back in October that this would be my next project. I also mentioned I wouldn't review it until I had completed the game. It took some time due to NaNoWriMo, Holidays, and mental health breaks, but we are finally here! If you've been waiting all this time please accept my apologies for making you wait!

Due to the size of this game and how many thoughts I want to share I'm going to break this review up into 2 categories. The 1st will be the fast and quick version. I won't go into too much detail and will just get to the point while keeping my opinion minimal. The 2nd part will be expanded on in much greater detail. So please read whichever one fits your time! Additionally, while I won't divulge massive spoilers for plot, I will be discussing farm and combat for the early and late game which could have some spoilers. If you don't want many or as little as possible please be careful!

Here is the breakdown
  1. Premise
  2. Gameplay Loop
  3. How does it compare
  4. Good and Bad 
  5. Final Thoughts
  6. Suggestions to the Developer (detailed version)
  7. Reader Questions (detailed version)
  8. Tips for new players (detailed version)

Fast Version

You're a traveler who falls unconscious during the worlds plague "Quietus". After being saved by the local doctor you're left on the old abandoned farm which the mayor suggests you use to help and get yourself back on your feet. Before long a meteor falls and you're soon housing another girl as mysterious as you are. And before you know it she's off to investigate the Seaslights alone and you give chase to help this mysterious girl who claims to be from the future.

Gameplay Loop
To keep this section short and sweet the gameplay loop is basically farm, cook and craft, explore, side/character quests, story quests, dungeons, repeat. There is a lot of depth in the way story progression, side/character quests progress, and even the seasons themselves change and work. Plenty to keep yourself busy with once you hit chapter 3 too. The game rewards you greatly for visiting and investigating the 3 to other seaslights and you will want those rewards.

How Does it Compare
Harvestella compares the closest to Rune Factory or, from a farming perspective, a simpler Stardew Valley with a dash of My Time at Portia. Farming is very straight forward and Harvestella uses a 30/31 day calendar system and a night to day system as well. But there are no special events for birthday or holidays. It follows the conventional rules of be in bed by 2am, albeit with a few minor tweaks to how that looks and works. 

Good and Bad
  1. Original Job System
  2. Easy Farming Experience
  3. Simple Combat
  4. Faerie Tasks
  5. Easy Cooking and Crafting
  6. Excellent Writing for Side/character quests
  7. Original Story
  8. Progression is rewarding

  1. Weird lighting hiccups
  2. Textures loading a half a second too late in cut scenes
  3. Mandatory Story progression for content (subjective)
  4. Can't skip some cut scenes (i.e. Cres' speech every time you get KO'd)
  5. No dodge/block mechanic
  6. Story is long (subjective)
  7. Extremely limited character customization
  8. No Voice Over 

For a deeper look into the lists above, please see the detailed section below.

Final Thoughts
For me this game was fantastic! I am someone who enjoys JRPGs and my cozy games and this did a wonderful blend of taking the best parts of both genres and melding them fluidly into one. RuneFactory always left me disgruntled about its combat system and Stardew always felt empty after awhile because there is no narrative going on. 

Harvestella on the other hand was such a wonderful blend of these two genres it kept me hooked until the very end.

There is a free demo available on the Nintendo eShop. It also available on Steam.

Detail Version (with possible minor spoilers)

You wake up in a small village called Lethe during the current events of Quietus. A global plague that occurs inbetween every season where strange grey light particles fill the air killing off all plant life. All people are advised to not leave their home during the event due to the sickness it can cause which turns from no symptoms to death very quickly. After being rescued and given a home in the old abandoned farm you are swept up into another strange event wherein a meteor crashes into the northern part of town. After exploring you discover a girl inside the meteor and you take her back to your farm for her to rest. At the same time the Order from Argene have arrived telling all citizens to refrain from using the monolite, a magic crystal, as it may be linked to the events of the meteor fall. In every region lies a massive crystal called the "Seaslight" and at this time everyone is forbidden from going near it. However, the girl from the Meteor insists on investigating them as she recognizes the fall seaslight as "the Red Queen" from her time and before you know it she is already gone. And from here on the story picks up for quite a wild ride.

Gameplay Loop
Aside from that big story premise up above the standard gameplay loop will be. Wake up, craft or cook, farm, and explore dungeons. Whether its exploring a short map between two regions or the much bigger and larger dungeons. There's plenty to explore and you'll want to make it a priority as when the seasons change Lethe won't always get every crop available to you.

As you continue the story of investigating the seaslight, completing the dungeon and boss, you're always rewarded with a magical faerie that comes to your farm. They bring about a lot of added benefits and the faeries are how you will enhance your faming skills! Tired of plowing 1 square at a time? Do tasks from the fire faerie! Want to smash big boulders? Do tasks from the earth faerie! Wish you could plant or harvest more than 1 square at time? Do tasks from the wind faerie! Each of these simple requests have a way of rewarding you. Whether it upgrading the quality of your farm, which increases the chances of you producing HQ items. Or upgrading your skills to plow 1 to 3 to 9 squares. Or plant 3 seeds. Or harvest 24 squares all at once. Beside just upgrading your skills, improving the farm, or decreasing stamina cost. You can also be rewarded with new crafting recipes and trust me, you're going to want Sprinkler level 1 AND level 2.

Once you hit Chapter 3 side quests and character quests become available. As you explore the world and go to new places and meet new people you will have the ability to take on side quests. In JRPGs these are often simple fetch quests, or things to fill the time. In Harvestella there are roughly 8-9 side quests in each of the main cities and each one was given a lot of care and excellence! The stories are crafted with care and I found myself immersed in each one! They often expand what local life is like in these areas while letting you meet a wonderful cast of NPCs in the form of short story content.

Throughout dungeons and explorable locations you'll also discover broken down usable things. Whether its bridges in need of repair, mending a ladder, blowing away debris, etc you'll need to use time, and kits to get this squared away. They a nice little extra for those who enjoy exploration or making short cuts!

There is also a really enjoyable, but straight forward, job system! Continue to the story if you want to unlock more jobs! While some are based on traditional Final Fantasy or fantasy classes others are completely original. You start out as a fighter and quickly unlock mage. But from there you could find you way into a Shadow Assassin or perhaps a Pilgrim. A pilgrim is a magic based job that creates weapons out of light and allows you to attack from a distance. Or perchance you'd like to be a Mechanic? A job that uses a massive drill attached to your arm and can break and debuff your enemies? The choice is yours! You can equip up to three jobs at once and switch between them on the fly in dungeons!

That the basic flow of the game. You farm, cook and craft, explore dungeons, do quests, level up, upgrade weapons, and complete the story.

How Does it Compare
It doesn't 1:1 compare to anything out there right now. At first glance some might try and compare it Rune Factory or perhaps Stardew Valley with a dash of My Time at Portia, but neither of them really gets close. Let me go over what's the same and then touch on what's different.

Harvestella has but some other games don't
  • Stomach meter
  • Faerie Tasks
  • Expandable Farm Land
  • Explorable World Map
  • Stackable Items with no arbitrary "cap"
  • Cooking "Quests"

Harvestella does have in common with other games 
  • Day to Night Cycle
  • 30/31 days per season
  • 4 seasons
  • Marriage
  • Character Customization
  • Cooking
  • Crafting
  • Livestock
  • Expandable Farm
  • Tools Upgrades
  • Stamina and HP bars
  • Mount
  • Material Pods
  • Simple Farm Decorating
  • Character Levels
  • Job Levels and Job Tree
  • Party Member Affinity/Friendship
  • Storage
  • Stackable items 

Havestella doesn't have in common with other games
  • Children with Life Partner
  • Dodge or Block
  • Deep Character Customization
  • Skill Tree
  • Home Decorating
  • Changing Appearance

So while there are plenty of staples that come with the genre of farm sim, there unfortunately is a lot lacking that cozy players might be missing. Character customization is beyond simplified with you only really getting to decide if you body type is a little wider or taller or shorter depending on which body type you choose. You're limited to a few color options for skin and then you have a medium amount of options for hair and eye color. That's it. You also can't change it later and there is no hair salon shop to change it up later either. 

Below I'll go more in detail about the unqiue things it brings to the table and why're awesome! While also touching on some not so great things.

Good and Bad
1. Original Job System
As you progress the story and acquire new party members your character will awaken to new jobs. There are also 2 secret jobs that will take some work to unlock but are well worth the effort! As you unlock jobs you can equip them via the party menu and selecting your character. Mix and match for whatever best meets your play style. As you defeat enemies you will obtain job points which can be spent on your job board to unlock new abilities, increase damage, and shorten the cool down on job swapping when exploring. You will also have to progress character quests and achieve level 6 friendship/affinity with the corresponding person to unlock the 3rd panel for said job.

2. Easy Farming Experience (slight spoiler)
It takes the best and easiest parts of any farm sim and makes it very straight forward. To start out you have a very small simple plot of land to work with. After building a hammer you can smash away a few of the small rocks but will be left with the larger ones. As you progress you eventually can obtain the earth faerie tasks and unlock the ability to smash away huge boulders. As you start earning money you can expand the farm more and more. You can eventually have a coop and barn built to house the games chickens and goats perfect for eggs and milk. Just like every other farm sim the crops belong to certain seasons and some carry over into others. But be warned, until you beat the entire game, all crops will die after the 30th day. Quietus begins for 1 day, killing all your crops, except trees, and you'll have to plant them again. This, however, is not the case when you've beat the entire game and your seasons go from 30 days to 31 days.

2.1 Stamina / Stomach Management
I didn't mention this in the short version but Harvestella has a unique mechanic known as the "stomach gauge". Down near your HP and stamina is a stomach. If you eat anything, the gauge fills. As long as there is something in your stomach you will slowly regain your stamina. Be warned though, you can't eat if your stomach is full. No being sneaky either and thinking "my stomach is at 95, I'll eat a 25 stomach food quick!" That won't fly here. While this isn't something you have to worry about when it comes to farm life, it is important to pay attention to when exploring dungeons and fighting enemies. Eat food wisely!

2.2 Expand your Knowledge
I didn't mention this in the short version but Harvestella also has a "knowledge system". It's more like a "you found a book system" but it expands you abilities in the game. You can learn "Fishing Knowledge" by purchasing it from the shop in Lethe. After that you'll earn it as rewards from other things. The same can be said for Gathering and Mining. Higher knowledge means the more likely you are to obtain HQ items and even get rarer items. They're worth discovering!

2.3 Expand the Backpack
Expanding the backpack is thankfully very easy and straight forward. There's no non-sense milestone you have to earn to start upgrading either. You start with 2 rows (16 slots) of inventory. Buy a backpack upgrade at the general store in Lethe and you get a 3rd row. Do it again and get a 4th row, and you guessed it, do it again and get the 5th and final row giving you 40 spaces of inventory. Thankfully, in this game, unlike Animal Crossing, stacks go beyond 99 and they don't have weird requirements. You have 50 carp? Congrats you have a stack of 50 carp, not 50 individual fish. Want 137 wood? Great, its 1 stack.

3. Simple Combat
Combat is extremely straight forward. When exploring maps or dungeons your attack button is Y. Your item button is X. Some jobs unlock the "step" ability which lets your character rush forward a small bit. It's very situational but can be helpful to get away from an enemy attack sometimes. After that you can Hold ZR to use abilities. As you gain more JP and unlock more skills you eventually can have a skill on X, Y, A, and B. And that's it. No changing skills in or out, no rotating their button assignment, no having to choose to between skill tree route A or B. Just gain JP, spend it on what you feel is most important to you at the time, the end. If you really want you can max out the jobs by grinding JP later.

3.1 Weapons and Panel 3
In the town of Lethe there is the only blacksmith in the game. Here you can upgrade your weapon and your party's weapons. Please note, you have 1 weapon that changes shape depending on your job. You will not have a variety of different weapons for your main character.

As you start earning JP and unlocking panels on the job board you will not have access to the 3rd and final panel. In order to unlock these you will have to do character quests for whomever gave you that job. I.e. if you want the 3rd panel for Shadow Assassin you will need to do the Character Quests for Istina up to friendship/affinity level 6 and then you'll earn the stone that expands this. This is the case for all jobs with the exception of the fighter and mage job, and the secret jobs.

4. Faerie Tasks (slight spoilers)
Are a unique take on the farm experience! As you beat each of early game dungeons and investigate the seaslights you will have a faerie move onto your farm. Each one brings with it a list of "orders" or tasks. As you complete them you get various rewards. Whether its new crafting recipes for things like sugar, seasonings, cheese or mayo makers, you'll get handy items like the sprinkler and feed maker. But one of the big ones is that it will increase you tool charges and decrease stamina consumption! Gone are the days of find copper ore, process it, give your tool away for a day or 5, then continue to silver. Now, just finish farm tasks and as soon the task goal is complete you unlock the ability! I didn't obtain all of the abilities at time of writing, but, being able to hoe a 3x3 or harvest a 5x5 all at once is incredible. Make sure you do these, because trust me, you will want that Sprinkler Level 2 recipe! Not only that but after you save certain faeries you unlock additional biomes! If you have saved the fire and earth faerie they'll build a cave biome. Where you can grow things like peppercorn, chilis, etc. Or save the water and wind faerie to get the water biome! Perfect for sugarcane, coconut trees, watermelons, and more!

5. Easy Cooking and Crafting
Recipes are a walk in the park. Simply go to a new city, buy their recipes, and you're good to go. You can get additional recipes by turning in food to local kitchens and by doing side quests. Whereas the crafting recipes are more often than not rewards for progressing the main story and for completing faerie tasks.

5.1 Turn in Cooking and Fishing
I didn't mention this in the fast version but there is in fact fishing in this game and a system in place for cooking. They're worth the effort too. In each city is an Inn and at said Inn or bar is a cook. They'll ask you to bring them dishes so that they can expand their menu and the rewards are worthy of the effort it can take. You will always get cash and the cash prize goes up every single time. You'll earn more money and often times recipes or items. There are 5 kitchens total in the game so plenty of opportunity to get some money together. Also, after you unlock the water biome a mysterious pond appears. In it is a Sahagin that will ask you to bring him rare fish in exchange for prizes. The prizes are of course money, materials, and even more Fishing knowledge!

6. Excellent Writing for Side/character quests
I mentioned previously that there are only 8-9 side quests per city. While that's true I wanted to really point out what that means for folks who aren't experienced in JRPGs. Typically in a JRPG there are hundreds of side quests. They are not created equal either which means it can be really taxing on a player's time and experience with them. With Harvestella only having roughly 45 side quests in the entire game it means the writers were able to spend a lot more time on them and it seriously shows! As a player who comes from massive JRPGs like Xenoblade Chronicles, Persona, Dragon Quest, and Final Fantasy these quests, while smaller in number, were fantastic short stories to consume. Whether you're learning about the friendship between three kids and their friend about to move away and all the feelings that come from that. Or learning about a priestess who is doing more than her faith says she should and getting herself into danger. These quests are incredible and well worth your time if you're into a good story. I read and enjoyed every single one and let me tell you, more than one of them moved me to tears. Both happy and sad ones.

On the character quest side of things there are over 100 character quests. There are 10 character story episodes for each party member you can get and a couple bonus characters too like Cres, and someone else. These stories are all personal and individualized for each person. I had a blast with all of them and they're what made me pick my "life partner". Learning all this backstory and growth was such a beautiful and fun thing to do.

7. Original Story
It goes without saying that I've played a lot of JRGPs. They're not all equal despite all being on the grandiose side. I've played stories that have you fighting as a child to save the world from a pig army, or your 1st quest is delivering a sandwich to the final quest being "Kill god". I've gone through time compression, watched my character be phantom thieves and steal the hearts of villains, and even one were it turns out the entire game and characters were a computer program and the final boss was the game developer. Despite all the extreme variety of games out there I can safely say that Harvestella has its own unique story as well. While in the beginning I was extremely drawn into and loving it, I got to a point where it takes a hard left turn here and there a few times. Despite that I really enjoyed what the story came up with!

8. Progression is Rewarding
Whether you're doing faerie tasks, expanding the main story to get more faeries, doing side quests, or turning in dishes and fish. The game makes sure to reward you for your efforts along the way. Whether it's rare items for upgrading weapons, or materials to build a barn or coop, or even just money which is the most important part of the early and mid game. It does a wonderful job of making sure to reward your time and efforts.

1. Weird lighting hiccups
Lighting can be kind of weird at times. I remember talking to Istina in the orphanage and the lighting on her character model kept flickering from detailed, to not. It wasn't a big deal, but it was very noticeable. Enough that it took me out of the game and I was paying more attention to that instead of the conversation.

2. Textures loading a half a second too late in cut scenes
When in cut scene it will flip between different camera angles and shots. Harvestella tends to have a tiny graphical hiccup every single time this happens wherein when the camera flips you have low poly models presets and then half a second later it loads on all the textures. Not an end of the world thing, but, definitely noticeable.

3. Mandatory Story progression for content (subjective)
If you want to unlock the faeries, more seed variety, biomes, marriage, etc you have to do the story. Some people might really enjoy earning those things. And others might really hate that. I know I was bit put off when the I looked up "how to get married" and discovered you can't do it until you actually beat the game.

4. Can't skip some cut scenes (i.e. Cres' speech every time you get KO'd)
While you can skip cut scenes for boss encounters if you died and are trying them again. You can't skip anything else. So, if you're like me and die constantly, or pass out constantly at the 2am marker, you're going to get tired of being scolded by Cres every, single, time.

5. No dodge/block mechanic
While this might be okay for those not looking for a deeper battle experience. Those who are more experienced are going to be pulling their hair out at the fact combat is essentially a game of cat and mouse. You attack, dodge an AoE (area of effect, big red box appears for you to see a big attack is coming), reposition and repeat. There is no, time a dodge roll to avoid damage, and no shield or block skill. While this matters very little in the beginning of the game its a big pain in the later part of the adventure.

6. Story is long (subjective)
I wasn't expecting the length of a standard JRPG when I bought Harvestella. I knew it was a blend of JRPG and Farm sim but all the ad spots showcase the job system and farming. I was not expecting a 60+ hour story here and for me it took me about 80+ hours to finish the game. While compared to other JPRGs that's either standard or short, it can be a lot for a cozy player coming into it. Due to the length of the narrative and the fact so much progression is locked behind completing the story, this could be a real turn off for some players.

7. Extremely limited character customization
Unlike, any, other farm sim out there Harvestella has little to no customization. Almost insulting low. Harvest Moon games have more customization than Harvestella, and for those who don't know, Harvest Moon games have close to zero...so.

Aside from choosing male, female, or non-binary you're then left with about 4-5 options from a taller broader model to a shorter slimmer model. Then you can choose your hair and eye color from maybe 16-20 options. There is no hair salon to unlock later and you appearance is locked to "Fighter" for all cut scenes and only changes in dungeons/exploration depending on the job you select. The customization is beyond simple and no you cannot customize the look of your house interior or exterior. You can do a very minimal amount of decorating via fences on the farm itself.

Final Thoughts
Harvestella is such a gem on the nintendo switch! I never see anyone talking about this game or showcasing it in any kind of way and I think that is such a shame! I've heard hardcore JRP players complain about the combat being too simple and I've heard hardcore farm sim fans complain at the egregious lack of character customization. To me, you have to look at what the Harvestella team set out to do and that was make a game that takes the best parts of JRPGs and Farm Sim games and combines them. Yes combat is simple, but that's good for folks who are unfamiliar with job systems and action combat. Yes the farming is straight forward, but that's good for JRPG players who are unfamiliar and the fact its upgrades are locked behind "faerie tasks" give a good check box of items that both cozy gamers and jrpg gamers love!

There is so much to enjoy with this game and the good vastly out weights the bad. Even at this point of the review I can still think of a dozen more wonderful things about Harvestella that I left out of this review. This might be one of the best games I've in 2022/23 and that's comparing it against games like Xenoblade Chronicles 3, Crisis Core Reunion, and a lot of others.

Honestly, its a beautiful and emotionally packed narrative experience, with the best parts of farming and daily life all rolled into one. Try out the demo, see if you like it, and if you're on the fence with the demo I promise you the game opens up so much more once you hit chapter 3. Unfortunately the demo ends at the end of day 15 or chapter 2 and has a slow opening (first 5-7 days). It's well worth the price in my book.

Suggestions to the Developer
As always I try to leave a little feedback for the developer in hopes the smaller items can be patched later, or, if a sequel is ever in the plan it can be part of the next development project scope.

1. Please make skippable cut scenes
At the bare minimum please make, whoever finds us face down in the dirt, a skippable scene. I do not care how much of my money they take, but I don't want to listen to it 40x (yes, I passed out a lot).

2. The dodge/Block Issue
I understand the idea for combat was to be simple and straight forward and these mechanics could be too much for a someone just looking for a straightforward experience. Could you add an option for "simple" vs "advanced" or something? Simple would retain the current design but advanced would allow players to unlock or use a block/dodge button depending on class?

3. More Customization
Listen, I know some people are asking for the stars when they talk about customization and you can't please anyone. I also am aware part of this limitation is likely due to the fact that it impacts our player character art in the menu and you'd have to do a lot more designs to have both the player portrait and customization, but, the cozy genre demands customization. Even I, someone who doesn't need that much customization, was rather shocked how extremely limited it is. Let players pick hair styles. Add a more diverse set of options when it comes to body and face types. The options right now all feel almost identical. Please give us some more options and freedom in the future. Your showed representation is important with our gender options, please let that also ring true in our character customization.

4. Add Voice Over
For some people this might not be a big deal. But in 2023 I think it's rather important to have voice over, especially for a JRPG. It feels little like you took an easy out on this one because most, if not all, farm sims are silent in this direction. But JRPGs definitely are not. Most of them have their major story scenes voiced. The game does feature some sound quips here and there as people walk by, or you exit a location, or even in combat. If your team makes Harvestella 2, please add voice over.

Reader Questions
On Instagram I asked folks to send in any questions they might have! As such, I'll be answering them below! If you sent in a question, thank you so much for doing so!

1. "I Like Stardew Valley and Final Fantasy, but which of these is the game more like?" - Nerdyreferencelibrarian

That's a good question! The short answer is its mostly Final Fantasy with a dash of Stardew and a sprinkle of My Time at Portia. The long answer is below.

Immediately, I'd say Harvestella feels like 80% JRPG with 20% Farm Sim. So much of the game is focused around the narrative and combat progression. Due to that it's probably more in line with Final Fantasy, but longer than a standard FF experience. It's story telling, depth of story and characters, world building, and length feel much closer to a Xenoblade or Dragon Quest length of game. On average I think most people finished the story around 60 hours. However, don't let that trick you into thinking farming is a joke and nothing. Money is a massive requirement for this game and all your money making comes from quests, but even more so farming. You do not want to sleep on faerie tasks or growing crops.

2. "I heard there's multiple endings for the game...is that true?" - author_elli
SPOILER WARNING! While I won't go into big detail, this might be a spoiler for someone, so stop here if you don't want to know.

Technically yes, there are 3 endings for Harvestella. However, that's also kind of not true. There a comes a point, near the end of the game, wherein you are forced to make a choice. You're also given the opportunity to save before this choice and boy do I recommend it. Once you enter this area it is the point of no return. You cannot back up, you cannot change your mind, you cannot leave. However, both choices given to you will lead to a "bad ending". To get to the real "good" ending you have to do a few things. Thankfully, none of your choices in the game impact your ending, its only the choices selected during the events of "make a choice" that decide which ending you get. 

And my hint to you will be an old song that's lyrics are "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice!".

Once you've chosen the correct options you will move into the final chapter of the game and start working towards the true ending of Harvestella. So, if you ask me, they're more like illusion endings, but you still get a credit roll, and some very small conversation at the end of it. So, three endings I guess.
10 New Player Tips
I wanted to quickly throw out a couple tips. If you're a new player to Harvestella and you'd like a little knowledge before you start your adventure! Don't worry, nothing too spoilery below! Here are just some honest tips to make your time a little easier!

1. Fight Enemies
While it's easy to run by the enemies and never fight them, I really recommend that if you find yourself done with quests or farming for the day, spend the remainder of the day fighting monsters. It will make it a lot easier on you if you level up. While it only increases your HP and stats, that is going to matter A LOT once you're chapter 4 and beyond. So don't slack on it! Even if you are an experienced Action combat player those HP pools are so important.

2. Read your descriptions
Not every item needs to be kept. I mean that. Some items are genuinely in this game to just be sold. So read the description of fish, found materials, etc if it says "its meant to be sold" or "earns money when sold" it is meant to be sold. You will never use it for crafting or cooking or to turn in for a quest. So don't keep it!

3. Do Faerie Tasks
It's really easy to ignore them, but they're so important! Especially if your main focus is farming. By the end of my run I could plow the entire farm, water it by hand, and sow seeds and it wouldn't take more than 1/6 of my stamina bar. Plus a lot of handy crafting recipes are locked away in the faerie tasks as well as your charge skills for farming.

4. Upgrade Your Weapons
While your strength, magic, def, and magic defense go up as you level up your weapons can be upgraded. If you're feeling like you're not doing enough damage make sure you visit the the blacksmith and upgrade yours and your teams weapons. It makes a big difference.

5. Gather Gather Gather
Any time you walk by a gathering or mining point DO IT! There are a few faerie tasks that want you to gather and mine well up to 2,000 times. Completely doable, but, you'll do this before you know it so long as you do it as you see it. Worried about stamina cost? See my next tip!

6. Always eat in the morning.
This is a little harder at the beginning of the game, but, if you can get fruit and just eat it quick in the morning. 10 stomach is perfect for farming or event just regenerating the stamina spent gathering/mining on your farm. It'll save you a lot of headache.

7. If you have food in your stomach and your stamina is maxed, Run!
There's no need to walk everywhere. Especially, if you've got food in your belly and your stamina is full. Sprint to about 1/4 and then just walk. You'll be maxed out again in a minute or so and you'll get placed a lot faster.

8. Keep Repair Kits and Bombs on You
There is almost always a need for repair kits and bombs in the dungeons and that doesnt change from the beginning to the end of the game. If you're worried about the level 2 bombs and repairs kits, you will not get access to these until chapters 7 or so. So, don't worry about trying to track them down.

9. Do things now not later
If you're worried that the Faerie tasks won't track your progression before you unlocked them, don't worry. The game is always keeping track of what you're planting and harvesting and etc. So, don't worry about it doing content before the faeries show up.

10. Which Seaslight to do fight? Spring, Summer, or Winter?
While you can do these in any order I'll let you decide which to do first but I'll give some context.

Spring = Wind: Improves your ability to plant and harvest seeds/crops.
Summer = Water: Improves your ability to water crops and has the sprinkler level 1 and 2 recipes.
Winter = Earth: Improves your ability to use the hammer and has the Charge Hammer ability needed to smash big boulders left on your farmable land.

In the early game its easy to say the wind crystal is the least important when compared to water and earth. Those massive boulders are a huge pain and you're going to want them gone. Plus being able to water more crops faster is huge not to mention the importance of the sprinklers!

However, Spring is the very first month you start the game in and a lot of the wind faerie tasks are centered around harvesting spring crops. Most players on their first time do not make it to Nemea until the 15th-20th day of the month let alone finish the Heaven's Egg and actually get the Wind Faerie. If you're wanting to get the ability to sow more seeds and harvest more things sooner than later you might want to go here first. Many of her tasks are centered around growing spring type crops and if you don't do it then you'll have to wait until next year! That's a long time to wait. So, choose carefully.

The End
If you made it this far, you are a straight legend. Thank you so much for reading my review! I know this was a long one, my longest to date actually. But the game had so much content and I wanted to really highlight it and leave as few stones unturned as possible.  It took me awhile to get this one together but I had so much fun with the game and putting my ideas together!
<![CDATA[No! And let me tell you why!]]>Wed, 26 Oct 2022 18:32:25 GMThttp://charlesedwinbooks.com/reviews/no-and-let-me-tell-you-why
At first glance you might think Hokko Life is an Animal Crossing inspired life sim game. Of course, it is. You don't need to any kind of special degree or super power to see that is what the developers set out to do. They're also not shy at admitting that. But is it a direct clone? Does it bring anything unique to genre and that specific "animal crossing" style genre? I have plenty to share in this review! As always let's break down the categories.
  1. Premise
  2. Gameplay Loop
  3. How does it compare
  4. Good and Bad
  5. Final Thoughts
  6. Suggestions to the Developer
1. Premise
The premise of Hokko Life might seem very familiar if you're a long time Animal Crossing fan. Though, this time, instead of choosing to set out on a new adventure you oversleep on the train and end up in this new town. Once there you're given a temporary, 1 day, stay at the local in and lounge. Soon after you'll repair 1 of 2 broken down homes and then take that home for yourself. From that point on its sort of up to you on how you spend your time.

2. Gameplay Loop
The first few days will revolve around cut scenes, unlocking crafting, obtaining your first few needed tools, but after that it's all up to your choices and self-progression. Hokko Life takes a page out of the original Animal Crossing's book and doesn't hold your hand much. After a few days they mention a system called "Mayor Merits". Which is a way to unlock, expand, and upgrade certain aspects of play. What they fail to tell you is that this system is also what is needed in order to reach new areas of the wilderness surrounding the town. In general, though, the basic gameplay loop can be broken down into a few things.

  • Gather materials
  • Chat with villagers
  • Complete requests
  • Craft
  • Decorate
while that doesn't seem like a lot, it can give you plenty to keep yourself busy with. Especially once you've got your feet wet and you've established your personal goals.

3. How does it compare
Hokko Life is almost 95% Animal Crossing without question. Hokko Life does not use a real-world clock or calendar system. Instead, it retains the familiar day to night, new day, style that other cozy games have. However, Hokko Life does not force you to sleep, nor does it penalize you for not doing so. It's simply used as a means to advance time. Speaking of, unlike most other games in this genre Hokko Life allows you to go to your bed at any time and sleep for 2 hours, 6 hours, or until the next morning. Be careful though, if you stay up until 4 or 5 am, and its now Monday, and you choose "sleep until the next day" it will literally move you all the way to 6 am on Tuesday. 

In many ways Hokko Life offers exactly what Animal Crossing does albeit a different art direction, less animal variety, and a tad less polish. However, that doesn't mean Hokko Life didn't bring anything to table. On the contrary there is A LOT Hokko Life does right, and better, than Animal Crossing. And to be bold, even more than other games in the cozy genre.

The Good Things
There is A LOT to talk about when it comes to the good things Hokko Life brings to the table. Especially when pinning Animal Crossing against it. For the fast version I will post a list below and then I'll go more in depth on each aspect. But, be warned, it'll be a long section. If you're strapped for time, or attention, skim the list and move on!

  • No real world time
  • Better Stacking
  • Better Decorating
  • More Freedom in Decorating
  • Massively deep Furniture Creation Tool
  • Deep Customization
  • New Tools
  • Character "upgrades"/unlocks
  • Ease of town adjustments
  • No limits on Signature Character Species
  • Dedicated Farm
  • Mines and the Deep Forest
  • Archeology
  • Alternate Critterpedia 
  • Original Items and Gear

No Real-World Time
This one really comes down to personal preference. But I know some of you AC Time Travelers are out there, and I think you'll be happy to know you can fast forward time quickly by just sleeping to the next day versus saving, quitting, opening system, changing date, going offline, starting again. For me, I loved that I was free to play as much as I wanted to right now vs being constrained to the IRL time of day and calendar.

Better Stacking
One for the WORST and I mean worst things about Animal Crossing is the stack limitations. Oh, you can have 99 weeks, but only 10 tickets, but 30 stone FOR SOME REASON. Meanwhile, in Hokko Life you can have stacks of anything at 1,000+. I didn't test the limitation, but I assume it goes to 9,999, but who knows maybe it goes to 99,999. The point is it doesn't stop at some nonsense arbitrary number based on type. OH, and YES you can stack critters. Caught 80 carp? No worries, you have a stack of 80 carp.

Better Decorating + Freedom
While Hokko Life doesn't let you "glitz" or "wax" up an item to give it a special effect, not does it have accent walls or wall partitions and dividers. It has everything else you could imagine. You can place furniture in any direction, easy flipping and rotating options too. This applies in town too. You can build furniture and place it however you like wherever you like. Meanwhile animal crossing requires a very rigid 90 degree turning system.

Massively Deep Furniture Creation Tool
I am not someone who enjoys building designs or creating my own pieces. I genuinely dislike it; I never want to do it. However, Hokko Life somehow takes that taunting tool and makes it, relatively, easy to anyone to come up with a design. You don't have to meet any requirements that impossible. You can click pieces into one another, you can paint them, dye them, even adjust them later if you decide you want a change. You can also hop aboard the train to "the city" and download designs from other creators. Honestly, I cannot speak enough about the freedom and creativity allowed here. Online I saw folks who made a home and people in the comments thought they were looking at animal crossing. But it was a player designed home with customized furniture and patterns. I saw someone create a literal glass case filled with plants. Another design featured an outdoor doorway. The door was open, had a star patterned wall in it with lights shooting through, and plant vines. Someone else made a wooden pergola and you come completely walk under it. In my time I even wanted to make pathways and it was available right after unlocking design furniture. While there a couple teeny tiny complaints I have about the ease of zooming, resizing, and moving objects, it’s well worth the minor hassle / getting used to for the level of freedom it offers. There is nothing else out there, that I'm aware of, that has this level of ease and customization. 

New Tools
While a majority of the tools are familiar to you like the shovel, net, etc. Bombs, light posts, miner hats, fishing bait box are a few to mention that are brand new. Bombs will be needed to access the deep forest, but, as you unlock Mayor Merits, they also unlock the ability to break rocks. Doesn't sound like much, but bombs have a HUGE area of effect and can clear out 3-5 veins in seconds. In the mines you'll need light posts in order to navigate the darkness. But over time you can unlock the ability to craft a miner's hat which means never needing light posts again! I really enjoyed the originality of these items!

Character Upgrades / Unlocks
This one might make it a little more similar to Stardew Valley. Unlike the skill system and trees that game provides, as you advance through Mayor Merits you eventually start unlocking character specific things like:
  • Sprinting
  • Items sell for More
  • Less resources needed to craft
  • More resources obtained from trees, rocks, etc.
  • New Crafting Recipes
  • Freedom to Move Houses
  • Expanded Inventory
And a lot of other things! I was floored by this idea, and, to me, it was so much fun working towards those unlocks.

Ease of town adjustments
Moving a fountain, fence, house, or really anything has never been easier. Want to move a house? Walk up to the placard, press A, and select Move. Then you're free to move it anywhere. While this is an unlocked feature via Mayor Merits, it is a very easy one to unlock, but also very ease one to overlook and miss.  Whether you build your own furniture, buy it, or download it via the city area you will have a huge level of freedom in placing everything.

No limits on Signature Character Species
Unlike Animal Crossing which will never allow you to have a peacock, dodo, walrus, camel, or any of their signature main characters as villagers. Hokko Life does. From bears to elephants, rabbits, and pigs. Any species that has a main character still has other villagers in this same species. VERY COOL I say. And that isn't me just being salty I can't have any dodo friends...well...maybe it is.

Dedicated Farm
When you unlock farming, which happens by visiting the Inn and speaking to this villager when they happen to be there. You will get a dedicated space to farm at. You won't have to use up town space for it, or you can if you want to, but the choice is yours!

Mines and the Deep Forest
Animal Crossing has little in the ways of more places to explore. But Hokko Life brings in the mines we're all used to from the genre and a, long overdue, deep forest. Which is quite similar to Stardew Valley's Lake Forest. Most cozy games give us a mine to explore. A great way to access to gems, stone, etc. It has always made stone and gems more available than wood or hardwood. But thanks to the deep forest, the hardwood, or as they call it mahogany wood regenerates regularly. A small addition, but a welcome one. Keep in mind though, that is does take many days for Mahogany trees to regrow.

While you won't be digging up fossils in your village. You will be taking a boat to an island. There you'll get a tool that allows you to scan the ground for treasure. Once found simply press A and you automatically dig it up. You can even unearth gemstones. Take them to your crafting table, press X, and viola you will have some gems!

Alternate Critterpedia 
While Hokko Life's critterpedia isn't anything to beam over. It is a bit useful. Unlike Animal Crossings in depth look which offers months and times available. As well as details about the critter. Hokko Life instead lets you see exactly how many critters you're missing per area. I found this helpful because it didn't leave me wondering if I was missing a fish in the ocean, lake, river, forest lake, island pond, island ocean, city, etc. But it doesn't list any of the cool in-depth information like Animal Crossing's Critterpedia does.

Original Items and Gear
I mentioned some of these items in previous topics but here is a quick breakdown of what I discovered in my time with Hokko Life.
  • Bombs
  • Metal Detector
  • Miner Cap
  • Bug Catcher Cap
  • Magnet Fishing (skill)
  • Bug Draw (skill)
  • Light Post
  • Fishing Bait Box (does not take up room in inventory)
  • Tools upgrade instantly and do not break

The Bad Things
For me there were just a few negative things, or rather, things that felt off or just didn't like.

I personally, and still do, struggle with the art direction. It's just close enough to show the player where their inspiration came from. But in some ways, it feels different, just to be different rather than an original style choice.

I wish there was a little more direction when it came to how to unlock and progress elements of the game. I think it's really cool how a lot of it is attached to Mayor Merits. However, things like unlocking the farm and subsequent farming aspect of the game are completely locked behind a villager. To unlock things like the fashion store and the farm you have to visit the Inn between its "business" hours. Which are lunch and dinner timeframes. Each time you'll see a new villager who will want to move in and then they are moved into a queue. However, key characters that open businesses also fall into this net. They're also not unique enough to immediately let the player know their significance. The game never tells you to check back often for important characters, which you have to do to unlock some new features. If you fail to come, do this regularly you will likely put yourself "behind" in terms of when content would and should open up. For myself I did not unlock farming until I was in the Summer. Which means for all of spring I did not have access to the farm, farming tools, seeds, or anything. Because I wasn't coming here and checking this very often.

There is also an obvious lack of polish when it comes to the finer details of the game. A great example is that in Animal Crossing, no matter the time of the day or what building you're in, you can see the lighting adjust to match. In Hokko Life it always appears to be daytime inside buildings. Always. There's also a funky little bug where if you talk to a villager near a wall, or object, they end up stepping back into it to have the conversation. This is obviously, and unavoidable, if you're speaking to someone who is sitting. Because they'll stand up and be inside the chair or couch.

My final complaint comes in the way of the furniture building. Earlier I mentioned how fantastic it is, and it is, but my one complaint with it is that it doesn't have ease of use. As I spent time building lights or chairs certain elements of it became obvious. You are really restricted to the little colored cones and direction for lifting an object up, bring it forward, moving it sideways. An example is if you wanted to move an object somewhere you must select "move" and then 3 colored cones will appear. On the left side is a yellow cone to move the object on the x-axis. On top of the object a blue cone to move the object up and down on the y-axis. And, I believe, a green cone, in front of the object to move it on the z-axis. Unfortunately, these 3 cones are exactly where they are. If you find yourself wanting to move the object on the x-axis and are on the right side of the object, you must painstakingly move to the left side to click the cone and begin moving. Another thing that's odd is that depending on how you move the camera your cursor might glide with ease to the other side of the space, or extremely slowly move. For some reason the camera location determines this. As some positions make it easier for your cursor to glide along the x, y, or z axis.  Part of my complaint here is that the team introduced using button combinations in order to zoom in, out, and pan. It would've been nice to see them utilize more button combinations to make moving, resizing, and rotating objects easier.

Final Thoughts
During my time with Hokko Life I also took to the internet to try and see what others were saying. unfortunately, it felt like most people didn't the game more time than an hour or two and were quick to dismiss it as a watered down rip off of Animal Crossing. If I wasn't seeing that opinion than I only found a few diehard fans deep in the back creating some of the most incredible furniture creations I ever saw from this genre. While the game lacks a bit of that final polish, you'd come to expect from a game like Animal Crossing. Hokko Life stands strong on its own legs and expands on that formula. It respects the players time immensely compared to every other game in the genre and as someone who games and writes as a hobby and has a bunch of kids to look after at home. I greatly appreciated the extreme flexibility the game offers players towards its content. With Hokko Life sporting an easy $20 price tag on Switch and Xbox this game is packed with a ton of charm and wonderful features you won't find anywhere else.

Suggestions to the Devs
I only have a couple things to check off this time.

1. Please consider adjusting how building furniture works. You made an amazing, deep, free system that’s only limit is, genuinely, player imagination. However, because of odd occurrences with the camera favoring one axis over the other. Or the cones being only on 1 side of the object it can become really difficult to handle. Maybe add more button combinations to quickly enable moving, rotating, or resizing. An example, might be if I hold ZL, Press Left on the dpad, this tells the game I want to resize now and then let the right stick go left and right for x-axis and up and down for y-axis. If they want to move on the z-axis click R3 to switch between x and z, or y and z.

2. Add a bit more polish to time of day and interior lighting. And try to prevent your models from clipping into walls and furniture.

3. Make it more obvious that players need to visit the inn to find more villagers. Especially, if that's how we unlock special characters such as the farm and fashion shop. That, or just make important people show up as a mandatory event like Animal Crossing does. That way players don't accidentally miss out on things because they forgot or didn't know.

4. Also make it more obvious to look inside Mayor Merits. A few things cannot even be expanded if someone doesn't make it to the mine or the deep forest. But you can't get to the forest unless you've made bombs. But you can't make bombs unless...you get my point? I only discovered this because I went through and read every single Mayor Merit and examined the silhouette picture to get an idea of what it unlocked / what I needed to do. Make this more user friendly.

5. DO NOT LOCK HOUSING ITEMS BEHIND MAYOR MERITS. One of the biggest draws to Hokko Life is the ability to move houses freely. And not just that but being able to rotation them is massive. But you do not unlock this function unless you met the requirement inside Mayor Merits. Which is do some requests, have a few villagers moved in, etc. Either make it a point to mention this functionality unlock the player, or just make it available right away. Or make it an event that occurs after a certain number of villagers have moved in or days.

<![CDATA[DON'T BUY B&B Before reading this]]>Mon, 24 Oct 2022 18:03:33 GMThttp://charlesedwinbooks.com/reviews/dont-buy-bb-before-reading-this
Bear and Breakfast is the newest entry into the cozy genre from the folks at Gummy Cat. Bringing the fun idea to run a bed and breakfast, as a bear, in the wilderness was a fun, original, and extremely exciting prospect for many of us in the cozy space! The game will have you cleaning out old, abandoned buildings and sprucing them up with decor and the various things you can build, or trade junk for. Literally, you pick up leftovers as a form of currency to trade to a dumpster managing racoon in order to obtain things like rugs, lighting, and even new recipes for crafting.

Without further ado, let's get into our categories today.
  1. Premise
  2. Gameplay Loop
  3. How does it compare to stardew /portia / peer games
  4. Good and Bad
  5. Final Thoughts Feedback
  6. Suggestions to the B&B team
You play as Hank a friendly, goofy, bear who lives with his mom and 2 friends. One is a grumpy pigeon who is all about cash. The other is an over eager go getter doggo. You finally get to leave home to get something for mom, but one thing leads to another and after a "chance" encounter with a literal loan shark the trio finds themselves signing a contract to start a bed and breakfast. Their hopes are to bring humans back to the wilderness, so the wildlife has more access to fresher garbage and trash.

Gameplay Loop
The basic of B&B are going to have you do the following.
  • go to new area
  • clean out empty building
  • make rooms
  • build gimmick for the zone
    • i.e. - toilets, kitchens, dining halls, etc.
  • apply this info forward (not backward oddly enough)
  • raise prestige of property with décor
  • invite customers
and repeat. You'll need to gather materials such as wood, stone, metal, etc. and eventually craft items needed for the rooms. You'll either be crafting the items or exchanging for them via the racoon. Higher prestige nets you more money earned per stay, however, customers have higher expectations for their rooms. Such as whether it's near a decent enough toilet or not. Or if the kitchen is nearby and good enough.

How does it compare?
B&B doesn't compare much to games like Stardew or Portia. If I had to compare it to a few games, it'd be Paradise Planner/Happy Home Maker and My Time at Portia. That being said, the designing doesn't hold a candle to PP and the crafting aspect is only slightly similar to Portia. B&B mostly stands on its own with very connections to other titles in the genre.

If you're a fan of character customization, calendar systems with holidays, weekends, friendship affiliation, and marriage B&B doesn't have any of that.

Good and Bad
Let's start with the good. The writing for this game is wonderful! I cannot emphasis this fact enough. The writing team had me laughing within the first 5 minutes. It took no time at all for me to fall in love with Hank and the cast. From clever comments to relatable quips. They did an outstanding job! Same goes for art and sound direction. The sound team did a wonderful job with ambience and the maps really feel like you're off in the Midwest wilderness. Not sure if that was the goal but it definitely gave me Colorado or Minnesota vibes.

Now to the bad. B&B suffers from some of the most difficult controls I've seen in a long time. The inventory is a pain to move around inside. Once you do finally get used to how the building and crafting menu works all the required button pushes just to get from one menu to the next the team throws it entirely out of the window when it comes to the storage system. Everything you just spent the last 5 hours learning isn't useful here as it doesn't apply.

Pair the nightmarish controls with the smallest inventory in the world while also having one of the largest item catalogues for a game, and you're in for a bad time.

I also ran into a few bugs. Twice my game just outright froze. I have no idea why because I really wasn't doing anything aside from walking down the road. Not sure if the switch version suffers from memory leak problems or what..

The game also force closed on me twice. Again, I was just walking around and poof it would force close. 

I also ran into an instance where I accidentally opened my map while gathering a resource and the game locked me into the map screen. I couldn't leave the screen no matter what I did. I should point out though, I was unable to reproduce this glitch in my live review, so maybe it was just a one-off occurrence for me.

A major pain point for me, aside from the controls and inventory, is the building. If you start a build, only to discover you didn't bring the needed items, you have to exit the entire build. Which can effectively waste a ton of time if you didn't prepare or preplan. The game does not let you craft on the fly, or easily make items as needed for your build. Even if you do select crafting while in the building window you most scrap the entire thing in order to craft. So please take note of this and plan your builds ahead of time. At least, with what the minimum required items are. The game will not let you simply build empty rooms to be filled later.

And before I move on let's talk about the storage system. Up until now you've been able to press the X button to quick grab 1 item and use it in a room out of your inventory, or quick craft it into your inventory. In the storage screen if you press X, you move EVERYTHING to storage. Press Y and you take it all out. If you want to just store 1 or 2 things, you have to painstakingly move everything one by one. The menus don't even use a memorization marker either, so you are always brought back to the very first square of your inventory. The storage also features "filters" which only show you specific items in that category like food. Now, you might think "oi, no problem I'll just filter and then take all. I'll just keep all my resources." Sadly, that isn't how it works. Filters are only for show. If you try to "take all" with a filter applied the game still takes EVERYTHING. Next you might think "okay, so the game grabs everything in the filter orders shown here." but you'd be wrong. Take everything must pull everything in some item index order, or some other order that you are given no details about. Because you can grab everything but still leave behind food which is the second filter but have grabbed hats. Which is one of the last filters. It's wild how badly designed this storage system is.

Final Thoughts
I'm a bit disappointed honestly. I'm frustrated at my time with B&B and not for a lack of things to enjoy. As I started this game I had so much fun in the beginning. It made me laugh and smile. The game actually felt fun to decorate with and build rooms. But that fun quickly went away as the game required more and more resources, and more and more items. I fumbled with the controls constantly, even on stream, and became so frustrated with crashes and freezes. Thankfully, the game auto saves often, but it's still a bummer when you're in the middle of something only to lose. I can only imagine how frustrated I'd been if the game crashed while I was mid build. 

Most of these problems probably do not exist on the PC version of B&B. Being able to click and drag items would make things 10,000x easier than they are on the switch controller. Honestly, I believe most of these inventory and control issues can be resolved with just a few changes which I'll mention below. But where it stands today, if you need good controls to enjoy a game like this, maybe skip it on switch and snag it on pc instead. The writing, music, and art carried the game a long way for me. Sadly, my small pile of complaints quickly turned into an overwhelming mountain of small complaints.

B&B team if you're reading this review, PLEASE hear my pleas and take the below into consideration and rework your control system.

1. Rework a menu system for this game. Do away with the panel at the bottom. That works fine for PC but not for a console games. You require too many button presses for us to get anywhere. Map the + as the menu button and when pressed bring up the Inventory and character screen. Add quests and other things at the top and we can toggle them with L or R.

2. Button usage. The switch has 12 buttons. Meanwhile B&B utilizes about 6 of them actively. I'm being generous with that number and gave L and R, the zoom buttons, a pass, but I can't imagine these will be constantly by anyone. So, if we take those off, you're utilizing a measly 4 buttons. X for map, Y to start selecting which menus you want, B to cancel, and A to confirm. Use the buttons for other things.

3. Redo the storage buttons. You have 12 buttons to use on the switch, but for some reason refuse to most of them inside the menus or storage. You change X from quick grab to move all and change Y from select a menu to take all. So, so, so, so, frustrating. Consider making ZR move all and ZL take all. Then return X to move single items over regardless of if we are in our inventory or in the storage.  Map R and L to change filters or even change select windows between inventory and storage.

4. Make Filters matter. If I filter my storage make sure take all applies to the specific filter.

Fix 3 and 4 and it will be a night and day difference for how frustratingly difficult and bad your current control system design is. You have an amazing team of talented and creative folks at Gummy. I'm not sure why the ball was dropped when it came to controls, or if it was just too much work to make something proper, but it's made the switch experience a nightmare in my opinion.

Coming next:
My next review will be about Hokko Life! An animal crossing inspired life sim for Xbox and Switch!
<![CDATA[A new Potion for the Cozy Crowd]]>Wed, 21 Sep 2022 18:39:13 GMThttp://charlesedwinbooks.com/reviews/a-new-potion-for-the-cozy-crowd

Potion Permit is a brand new IP from the team at PQube. While many, myself included, looked at it and instantly thought of Stardew Valley, the current reigning champion of the cozy genre, Potion Permit brings it own unique spin on the genre. For this review the categories we will focus on are
  • Premise
  • Gameplay
  • Comparison to other cozy games
  • Bugs
  • A word from the PQube Team
  • Final Thoughts

In Potion Permit you are a chemist from the Capitol and the Mayor of Moonbury, Myer, has requested a chemist come to the village to help aid in healing his sick daughter. Moonbury has it's own "witch doctor" but they've been unable to heal Myer's daughter.

When you first arrive, none of the villagers want to be seen with you let alone actually speak to you. As you progress in the early days of the game you'll explore the forest, gather resources, and come to find a cure for your patient. This sets the stage for everything else that is to play out in Potion Permit. From helping the townsfolk any time they fall ill to assisting in fixing up local issues.

Potion Permit has a lot to bring to the table. The gameplay is straightforward and easy for any to pick up but also brings just enough to spin to give even the most seasoned player turning their head as they think through some things.

The most important aspect of the title, aside from making potions and treating patients, is the actual characters themselves. Every villager has been crafted with such care and attention to details. Whether you see Runeheart arguing with her mother, to throwing darts at the tavern, or just strolling along town with her hammer. Every character has so much personality and depth. You'll need to chat daily and give gifts to max out their friendship. Once done you cannot raise their friendship again until you've completed the needed relationship quest. As you develop these bonds with folks there are some you be able to romance as well!

Crafting Potions
Potion creation is the key element of this game. Not only will you need to craft different potions to help your patients. You'll also need to craft and sell potions in order to bring in additional gold. Beside those two items you will also be called upon to help out with various pests or environmental issues. Whether it's crafting unique potions to dissolve a substance or learning about bugs in order to produce a repellant that is safe for the plant life.  At various points through the story you'll also need to research tasks in order to craft the appropriate potions. Each ingredient used for potion creation offers a different opportunity to solve the potion's "requirement" for being brewed.

When crafting you'll be presented with an empty shape of blocks. Each ingredient can fill a certain amount of blocks. Once all blocks are filled you craft the potion. However, each ingredient brings a different set of blocks that can be filled. Additionally in the early stages of the game your cauldron can only use a maximum of 5 ingredients for any potion. Over time though you will be able to upgrade it. Which will unlock serums and allow you to use 1 additional ingredient in potion creation.

While this isn't mandatory and comes as an optional thing to do once you've upgraded your house once. It can be highly beneficial as it heals HP and stamina. I recommend taking advantage if you are in quick need of resources.

Patient Care
Near your house is the clinic. When a patient is dropped off an alarm will sound in the morning letting you know you have a patient. There you'll need to speak with them, examine and diagnose their ailments via four different mini games. Whether its memory, a DDR like game, or dodge the icon you'll have something different to do each time. Don't worry though, none of them are overly difficult as long as you pay attention. Be warned though, if you make too many mistakes it will impact the patient experience and you may misdiagnosis them. Though, I never encountered this. Once done you will know their ailment and be able to create a handy potion to solve the issue. At some point as you upgrade your cauldron you will also gain access to recipes for, essentially, shots that let you skip the mini game step and go right into treatment.

As you make your way through the game you'll find bigger and better resources. Trees will be bigger and give more wood when chopped down. You'll find silver and gold and even be able to upgrade the Blacksmith and Carpentry shops. Which give you more access to upgrades for your house, tools, health, and more!

Unlike many of the games residing in the cozy genre Potion Permit actually has a very compelling and interesting story. And not just for the main campaign either. The side stories, aka the relationship quests, are deep and fantastic experiences! You'll learn more and more about each villager and unlock additional information for them in the journal. But the real treat is getting the unique individual cut scenes for them.

Foraging for Ingredients
Making potions is going to require a variety of ingredients. From plant leaves to bear paws there is a wide selection available as you progress through the game's various regions. Some items come directly from the environment. Others are drops from the wild life. Some further can only be obtained after completing a main scenario quest and solving an environmental problem.

Comparison to other Cozy Games
While at first glance Potion Permit looks to be a peer of Stardew Valley, I was surprised to learn that it's actually a distant cousin. While Potion Permit does feature a day of the week and night/day system, it does not have a calendar or season system. Which means no birthdays and no holiday events. While you do not get to experience a changing season you will find wild life and plants that are native to the three unique biomes. Even similar enemies don't always drop the same items. Such as bears in the meadow will drop a bear claw and honey, but bears in the glacier region drop thick black fur.

It also lacks the ability to make choices. In other cozy games such as My Time at Portia, Harvest Moon, and Stardew your player is given the opportunity to answer events in a unique way. Which typically impacts your relationship with said character. In Potion Permit there are no choices and instead the story for your character and any villager is already decided.

Potion Permit also features a stamina bar and tools for chopping down trees or smashing rocks. However, there is no stat based system to go with it. You will always use a flat amount of stamina for using the tools. Even when upgrading they don't use less stamina, but do more damage to the resource. With the first biome, the meadow, being level 1 resources and the wasteland being level 3. Having upgraded tools makes it easier to break them down, but, you can break all resources will the default rusted level. It will just take a lot of stamina to do so.

Gift giving is present as well, but instead of requiring you to learn someone's favorite items and risk giving them something they dislike, you are only able to give Moonbury gifts. A unique bag that is seen as a part of the city's culture. Everyone is always happy to one because of that.

While you can romance some characters there is no marriage option. You can date anyone that is romancable and according to the developers your free to date anyone, that you can romance, and multiple people at once.

Passing out is back as well with the 2 a.m. deadline. But if you don't make it you don't lose anything. You just sleep until 12 p.m. vs 6 a.m. Also if your HP hits 0 you instantly move to the next day and wake up at 12 p.m. but lose nothing.

During my time with the game I encountered a handful of inconvenient / odd bugs. None of which were game breaking. I reported them to the team and was told a patch would be released before release addressing the issues! But for the sake of transparency I want to just point out some of the "major" ones I encountered.

Wack-A-Mole was completely unplayable. I was assured by the team this would absolutely work on release day though.

There is a fast travel spot near the town square and the beach that would keep switching "off" any time I closed the game. It also turned off when I played for more than 4 hours one time.

Consuming food replenishes stamina, however, my next tool swing would instantly drain about 80% of whatever I just healed making food consumption broken.

I had a couple events freeze when they started to play and I had to turn off the game.

Near the end of the main story my journal stopped showing the quest. So I was unable to pin it, or review it for information. I was still able to find the quest points and finish the main story.

The profile card displayed and tracked playtime incorrectly and said my story progression was always 0%.

A Word from PQube
The folks developing this wonderful title wanted me to let all players know that if they encounter any bugs or issues to feel encouraged to report it to the team with video or screen shots at their official discord. They're focusing all their effort on release but are excited for you all to experience their newest project!

Final Thoughts
I personally had a blast playing Potion Permit. Being able to experience such depth in all the characters and the game itself having an easy to follow and enjoyable main story was such a treat. I spend a lot of my time either playing JRPGs or playing cozy games. For me, this was an interesting blend of fantastic story telling, from every direction, to the cozy gameplay we've all come to know and love. While I bumped into a couple bugs here or there, nothing ruined the experience for me nor did it soft lock me anywhere or break the game. In fact, when reporting them the team always received them with grace and was grateful I took the time to share the issues. That was huge for me and I loved that.

Potion Permit has so much charm to it and I hope if you're a fan of cozy games you'll give it a try! You can play Potion Permit on Thursday September 22nd, 2022 digitally on PS4, PS5, Xbox, Steam, and Nintendo Switch for $20.

Thank you reader for taking the time to read my thoughts, I hope they were useful to you!
Lastly, thank you PQube team for allowing me the opportunity to play Potion Permit! I'll be day dreaming of voyaging the high seas with Leona for days to come!