Thursday, September 6, 2012

More Postings About Hero of Leaf Valley

So I am beginning to think that I may, in fact, be a giant idiot and/or a poor judge of what I might enjoy as a thing when I play it.  People who follow my Twitter (or read it on the sidebar) know that I have tweeted obsessively about Hero of Leaf Valley whilst playing it (which is something that will not get old, thank you Twitter for making a fantastic app) and that is because I really like itA lot.  It has quickly ingrained itself to me as one of my more-liked Harvest Moon titles which blows my mind considering I was really teetering on whether or not I should buy it, even on sale for $7.50, and how close I was to leaning the other way simply because my games backlog is long enough, even though I desire more Harvest Moon in my life.  Like, constantly, always more Harvest Moon to sate my need for more Harvest Moon after I have completed the previous taste of Harvest Moon, because they are fairly hard games to just 'do-over' after you've played them and requires at least something of a change-up between one game and the next to keep it fresh.

Hero of Leaf Valley's simplistic approach is reminiscent of the earlier games, something the likes of being between Harvest Moon 64 and Friends of Mineral Town in terms of 'things to do overall' which is a pretty sweet spot to be in, really.  Friends of Mineral Town honestly has a surprising amount of depth to it, with the different tool upgrades you can have done (whereas in 64, your tools just upgrade as you use them more) as well as the mines and such beyond that.  Hero of Leaf Valley dabbles in things but doesn't fully commit to the degree that those elements have been expanded on in other iterations which is refreshing in itself somewhat.  Cooking, mining and tool upgrading are all present and accounted for, but the ways about them are all different than the standard fare, mostly in favor of being slightly I could say.  Missing completely is crafting which is no surprise; unless you have a lot of need for things you could craft (like armor, weapons and such in the Rune Factory titles) there's no real place for it.

Mining is what really saw the biggest change from other titles in that Mining in Hero of Leaf Valley is less "Hit rocks, gain ore" and more "Look at rocks, move yellow ones to establish a chain and try to clear a room with a chain reaction.".  That's right, mining is a puzzle game in Hero of Leaf Valley, or at least has an attempt at it since you can, should you desire, completely ignore that aspect and just hit rocks.  However, stamina is not cheap and it's always best to exert as little as possible to keep enough open for other tasks that you might desire to do.  It's hard to detail this without a picture, and seeing as I am unable to provide one (can't take screencaps of PSP games, IGN has none showing it) I will do my best to invoke a mental picture.  When you walk into one of the mining areas (a new one opens at the start of each new season) it switches to an overhead mode that shows off all of the rocks available to be mined ranging in colors from red to blue to green to yellow.  Each color aside from yellow has its own shape - red ones are a dash basically, blues are a cross (or an X, depending on the orientation), and green are simple circles - with yellow being able to be any of those sizes as well as what amounts to a tear drop shape.

Whenever you shatter a rock, it launches out bits in the direction of its points (so green shoots all around, blue shoots from its four points and red from its two) and any rock of the same color in the range of those bits gets shattered in the same fashion.  Hence, chain reaction.  The rub is that the rocks can only destroy their own color....except for yellow rocks that can be moved and shatter anything it hits.  Do you see the strategy now?  From what I can tell, every room layout (there are only a handful or so for each room, so once you know the answer, it's just a matter of doing it right) is designed in such a way that you can configure it to be cleared with a single smack of the hammer which is really neat in itself.  I can't find a correlation between single-hit room-sweeping and getting better things, but I -did- find two Blue Rocks (items used for the initial tool upgrade) in a row on full-sweeps, so considering that you save stamina, maybe there's more than that reason so shoot for them.  Also it's pretty satisfying to see it run out the right way.

Upgrading your tools is a matter that is something of an exercise in frustration but the end-result, as always, makes up for it for the most part.  The issue at hand, basically is that to get your tools upgraded you have to track down the ore first of course (which is a pain in the ass since first-tier is a Blue Rock and it took me forever to find -one-) and then find a day when the Tool Shop owner, Louis, is actually working.  I say this with a little ire because his shop is closed Wednesdays and Sundays and guess which days I've found my Blue Rocks on.  Alongside the ore is a required cost which is likely in the lower 1,000 range at first and only grows with each upgrade.  1,000 'gold' is nothing to scoff at in this game, at least not yet, as I only have three chickens, two cows, and a field that contains 16 rice plants and 8 Corn which haven't produced a single harvest yet.  Perhaps when I get a greenhouse (which I assume prevents crops from seasonal wilting) I'll be able to go a little crazier with planting things which will bring in more dosh but until then, I've got to play a little more conservatively.  A twice-upgraded axe is basically all I need at the moment since it makes my lumber yield that much better since it takes less to use.  (As well as digging up a bunch of power berries.)

Cooking, now that I have finally gotten the house add-on (50 lumber seemed insane.  Then I harvested like 18 pieces in one go.  Love my super axe and big stamina bar.) is fairly bare-bones as it usually is.  You have utensils (start out with frying pan and a pot if nothing else) and you throw things in them and if you've done a recipe correctly, you get food.  If not, failed dish.  The odd thing I've found about Hero of Leaf Valley's implementation, however, is that you have to actually upgrade your kitchen tools.  The starter Frying Pan and Pot can only hold one ingredient each you might think, limits just what you can make.  The local cook, if you work for her, has appliances that can hold three ingredients which I assume is the top-tier.  Upgrading these things is essentially the exact same as upgrading a tool - you get ore, take it to Louis and pay a fee.  Thankfully there's no "Okay, I'll get it to you in three days" like in other games, but it's still a bit odd that, of all things, I have to upgrade a frying pan to be able to cook two things in it.

If it's not obvious, I've really gotten into the position where I've hit my stride and started really going with Hero of Leaf Valley and it's -awesome-.  Increased Stamina and some better tools means that I can do more in a day instead of picking a single task that I wanted to make sure got done (like picking between mining and chopping lumber) and being able to do more, in the end, means more money for me.  My next outing in wood-cutting will likely net me enough lumber to pick out either my chicken coop or barn to upgrade which means I'll be able to get more animals which means more offerings for more money.  Eventually, I'll be able to earn in a single day what I was making in a week towards the start of the game, and that's really one of the most satisfying moments any Harvest Moon game can offer because it's real, tangible progress.  It's like going back to starting areas in RPGs and kicking the shit out of the enemies that were a challenge to start with.  Except you're earning lots of money in Harvest Moon as well as satisfaction versus just a smug sense of superiority and piddling experience.  Which....that's good too, but money.

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