With the latest Steam Game Festival currently happening and even more games available to try out, I’ve been spending the last few days playing… a lot of demos as you may have noticed from my Youtube channel.
And with a lot of them, I’ve definitely noticed a theme such as more photography based ones (ala Pokemon Snap) or farming-esque (Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons, Stardew Valley, etc.) and even plenty of fun Detective and Point of Click ones or things that are more silly physic-related racing and golf games.
I don’t bring up the comparisons in a negative sense– every single one I played has absolutely done not just a phenomenal job, but put their own spin on it that it’s never felt “boring” so to speak. But it’s made me think about how certain games stuck with people and inspired them to make their own, but well, better (whether just to them or a universally shared opinion or somewhere inbetween).
I’ve mentioned before how excited I am about the upcoming Pokemon Snap. In general, that hasn’t changed and I’m still so excited. More than anything, my only hopes had been just to have more (if possible, all) the Pokemon and more maps. Maybe also character customization, but that’s optional and just getting to play as a girl this time around will be nice.
Alekon does something interesting where once you’ve done all the segments of a level on Rails, you have the option to explore on foot and when you get back, you can interact and get quests upon returning back to the hub world. It makes it so you can just relax and take your time working on things without the pressure of a time limit over your head.
Beasts of Maravilla is completely on foot, but it lets you really get to bask in the environment and get up close in personal beyond just the lens of your camera.
One thing both feature is a special pose system– with Alekon, it shows all the poses each species could have that you can try and get. With Beasts of Maravilla, the “main” species of the area has special poses for you to try and find. What I especially appreciated from both was a checklist of what exactly to keep an eye out for which helps less the stress and anxiety over missing out on something.
They, inadvertently, gave me things I would love to see the new Pokemon Snap do as well. I don’t think it’s likely, but at the same time, wouldn’t it be a nice surprise?
And I think, in a sense, that really put into focus one of my biggest issues with a lot of more mainstream games nowadays– rather than building on what they’ve done, it’s always about the next big gimmick. Pokemon has had so many amazing features in each gen, but it’s so rare they carry over. Especially with game series, I feel like taking so many of the things that worked best and finding a way to make them fit into the core mechanics while adding some new things is the way to go, but it’s always about a focus on battling or some kind of… soft reboot thing like Splatoon 2 and Animal Crossing: New Horizons had and I don’t really get it.
Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons has also been guilty of this on both accounts. Harvest Moon in general is obviously not the same anymore since Marvelous decided to have XSeed take over instead of Natsume so the new Harvest Moon games are entirely their own new thing… The problem there is rather than looking at why those games were good, they are focusing more on the genericness and putting in gimmicks of other games that just don’t jive well.
A lot of people adored Stardew Valley, but beyond a few exceptions, it just kind of went back to the basics while adding in some combat to the mines.
My personal favorite Harvest Moon/Story of Season games have been Harvest Moon 64, A New Beginning, and Tree of Tranquility/Animal Parade. The first was my first Harvest Moon ever and I really loved the style and most of all, that animals didn’t have lifespans– something that has really frustrated me with the turn to make the games more “realistic”, the second for the characters and customization, with the final one for its story and puzzles and some of the characters and things. I honestly never really played much of Animal Parade itself due to disliking how some of the character personalities have changed, but it opened up so much customization with your family in the game and kids that it’s a shame that’s never made a return.
But I think, if anything, so much of what I’ve found I’ve enjoyed as I played these demos is that they’re just fun. Something in common with my favorite demos I’ve played (and added to my wishlist) is that there isn’t really a penalty for just… not being the best. I can try again if I picked the wrong answer without losing out. I can just be silly and play around and do whatever without worrying about screwing everything up or not being able to unlock the next thing.
There’s something so freeing about being able to just sit and play through these games and have a good time without worrying about how much everything else could fall apart. Though, with some of the games with big choices/butterfly effects (like Song of Farca), I would absolutely love some save states at some point :P
I really love getting to experiment and try different things without feeling like I have to start over or repeatedly bang my head doing the same thing over and over for a slightly better ranking to unlock the next part.
And just I really hope more games could look into what made them so great in the first place– you don’t always have to start over or from the basics to make something good.
I really love collectathons and exploring (though, not in an open world I get too lost). I like finding things. I like stories and meeting characters and helping them. I enjoy when I can play things just to play without worrying about never being good enough to finish. And where I can do things at my own pace and on my own merits without constantly having to keep track of events and random short campaigns.
It’s also made me really think more on a game I’d really like to make. I don’t really have art or programming skills, but maybe one day I can try and do it. I’d think it’d be a lot of fun. And hopefully relaxing too.