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May 13, 2008

Review: River King: Mystic Valley

River King: Mystic Valley
Natsume, Marvelous
Available for Nintendo DS

Natsume brings the magic of the River King franchise to the Nintendo DS with River King: Mystic Valley, a tale of a young boy who searches for the legendary River King fish, so he can save his sister from a never-ending sleep. Now if you’ve never heard of the River King series before, don’t worry because you’re one of many. Natsume has managed to keep this little brother series to the Harvest Moon franchise pretty much exclusive to the Japanese market, except for one Gameboy and Gameboy Colour release which didn‘t catch a lot of fans. If you have been lucky enough to play a previous River King game, you may not recognize your beloved series in its latest addition.

Developers chose to remodel the series for a more casual gaming market and in doing so, have really ripped away lot of the things that made the original game series so great. No longer does the game have random enemies battles throughout its forests, the virtual aquarium is gone and even the fishing portion of the game has gotten way too easy compared to past games. Mystic Valley has players spending 75% of the game fishing over and over again and with only 8 areas to fish in, there’s not a lot of variety in environments.

There are a few side quests like collecting bugs and plants, which along with your fish can be traded in for cards. Cards can then be sold for points and then used to buy new fishing equipment or food. Pets found in the game can be grown into friends that will help heal you or clear road blocks. Feeding your pet some fish will help them grow, but each pet will react differently to each fish type.

Villagers in the game will ask you to performance tasks for them in exchange for items or favours and some will even offer mini games like wash the beans or weed the garden, in which you will get to use your stylus.

Controls are pretty simple once you get the hang of them. Button controls are use to walk, talk and search, while the shoulder buttons allow you to fish or interact with your pet. To fish, you are only to take your fishing pole out, cast the line into the water near a fish and wait for it to pull the floater under. Hits are measured based on when push the button to hook the fish and will determine how well the fish is caught on the line.

Once the fish is hooked, you have to use the stylus to rotate around the fish to reel it in, but if the fish fights on the line, you’ll have to tap on each side of screen to wear it out, before you start reeling it in again. The line tension meter determines how much the fish is fighting and if it goes too high, the fish can escape.

The graphics were very simple and cute, much like the Harvest Moon DS games. Colourful cartoon characters and environments were appropriate, but the fish, insects and plants were portrayed as more life like and it was they seemed creepy and out of place. I was disappointed in the lack of music and sound effects. The sound effects were very basic nature sounds and there was no real variety to the music.

I consider myself a huge sucker when it comes to the games like River King: Mystic Valley or Harvest Moon, because these games always lack any real goals or depth in game play, but somehow I still manage to keep buying them, even though I know they‘re going to end up collecting dust soon. I think I buy them though, for when I want a game where I can just mindless play without worrying about dying or losing. Plus they are just so darn cute!

I wish I could recommend this game to Natsume fans, but I can’t even say that it is at least Harvest Moon good, so maybe just to River King fans, if they just have to have it. So unless you’re like me and can’t say no to cute face, then I would throw River King: Mystic Valley back in the water.

Rating: 5 out of 10
Forget it

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