E3 '09: Natsume


Afrika is a photo and safari simulation game for the PS3 endorsed by National Geographic. In it, you roam around with your character either on foot or driving a vehicle in a series of fictional locations: swamp, desert, steppes, lake and savannah.

You are free to explore and take any photos you'd like, but some of the animals are hostile and an indicator will tell you when you are getting too close. There are over 100 assignments to complete. New areas are unlocked as you progress, as well as Sony camera equipment, products and lenses.

We were truly impressed by the look and actions of the animals in their natural habitats, their behavior was extremely realistic. Watch some of the videos below and see for yourself, and check out Rebecca's detailed preview of the game.

Animal Kingdom: Wildlife Expedition

What initially looked like a simplified version of Afrika for children actually has a little more to it than we thought. Animal Kingdom: Wildlife Expedition is a photo safari game as well, but for the Wii and with a more childish anime-style look, where you receive assignments from your editor.

First you find a spot to take the picture, usually by driving around (on-tracks movement) then look around for indicators such as a bush moving to snap the photo of the animal in your assignment. You can also search your surroundings for hidden objects, which you can use later (for example a rain machine or a tent). Getting close to certain animals will let you touch and interact with them.

Once you have the photos, you bring them back to your editor, who will criticize them in a completely over-the-top japanese animation fashion. You are awarded a gold, silver or bronze medal according to the quality of your photos, and you also learn facts about the animals in the process.

Completing objectives gives you access to new areas and more assignments. As you progress, the clues for your assigments become more vague.

Reel Fishing: Angler's Dream

Going back to the realistic simulation category, we stopped to look at Reel Fishing: Angler's Dream. While you can play this with the Wii-mote alone and reel in with the A button, it's also possible to use the Nunchuk as your reel, which in my opinion makes the experience much more intuitive.

The game lets you experience fresh and saltwater fishing, as well as fly-fishing. There are over 40 different types of fish, which struggle like the real thing to try to break loose from the hook. The Wii-mote is also able to reflect the differences between a fish nibbling and biting.

At the lodge you can keep some of your catches in the aquarium, where you can feed and observe the species. You can also ask the Fishing Master or advice, listen to some stories and go over your well-earned prizes and fishing equipment.

Angler's Dream is the kind of game I will probably buy on purpose whenever my dad comes to visit. He loves fishing, and this seems like the piece of software that would keep him entertained for quite a while. The landscapes are very beautiful and I especially liked the water and sound effects, some of them actually coming through the TV and Wii-mote simultaneously.

Harvest Moon: Animal Parade

In this installment of the Harvest Moon series for the Wii, Natsume has once again changed some features around, adding some and removing others.

The game features some of the characters from past titles in the franchise, with the player being able to choose between a male or female charactera nd customize it to their liking. Eight bachelors and eight bachelorettes are available to be courted, with a few hidden ones as well (a witch, a wizard, the Harvest King and Harvest Queen). And fort he first time ever, you and your mate can have two children and right away have them work on the family farm.

There's also photo mode that lets you snap pictures whenever you want and share them online with friends, and the ability to rearrange furniture around your house.

The focus is still on farming and dating/socializing, but there are also missions to complete from characters who need help (for example, help someone find a certain animal by reading the clues: likes tall places and this particular kind of food).

The pet system has been improved. You can have up to three pets at the same time, ranging from cats, dogs, snakes, rabbits, racoons, turtles and more. You can improve your relationship with them, teach them tricks, and you can even ride some of the four-legged animals.

Harvest Moon: Sunshine Islands

More Harvest Moon, this time for the Nintendo DS. The basics of the game are still revolving around managing your farm and socializing to find the perfect mate.

The map of Sunshine Islands is displayed on the top screen (as well as the NPCs in them), a group of islands with a different theme each: mining, fruit, rice, animals and so on. Not all are accessible from the beginning, but instead through game progression and by helping villagers with their requests. You can navigate around by using either the stylus or the D-pad, an alternative presented due to previous complaints over the controls. The menus have also been simplified for accessibility and to make gameplay quicker.

You may have several animals as your pets, such as dogs, cats, horses and pigs. Pets now also have skills which you can improve by playing mini-games with them (for example, frisbee catching with the dog). There are several Festivals where you can enter your animals into contests, and there are also a series of wild animals that help you with particular tasks: the mouse for mining, badger for herbs, duck for fish, monkey for gathering lumber or stone.

Harvest Moon: My Little Shop

A WiiWare title, My Little Shop is part of the Harvest Moon franchise, but it's instead a simple, casual collection of mini-games aimed at a more younger audience. Players can open one of three different shops: juice bar, ice cream parlor or an egg decorating shop.

Basically, you take an order from a customer (Harvest Moon characters) and perform the tasks in the right order to get the product they want. For example, to make a juice, there are fruits and vegetables in conveyor belts. You shoot the ones you need and then proceed to the blender to make the juice. For egg decorating, you select colors, stickers and decorations and apply them to the egg. With the shop revenue you are able to purchase new tools which unlock new mini-games and more complex "recipes" for items.

My Little Shop will also include different downloadable chapters, which will become available in the future.

Article under construction, check back soon for more previews!

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