Today’s Nintendo Direct saw the publisher showcase plenty of games that are sure to get the nostalgia engines a-revvin'. For the Final Fantasy 7 diehards, there was Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 Reunion, a remake of the PSP spinoff, which got a December 13 release date. For Nintendo 64 kids, there was more Mario Party and Pokemon Stadium than I could ever imagine wanting to play, and the return of Rare’s GoldenEye with online and local multiplayer. Plus, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is getting more classic courses, Pikmin is coming back in a big way, and Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse is launching outside of Japan for the first time.
But the announcements that had me putting on my rose-tinted glasses were a pair of Nintendo GameCube games, both of which I liked (maybe even loved one of them) but never finished: Tales of Symphonia Remastered and Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life.
For the uninitiated, Story of Seasons is the Harvest Moon series (under a different name because North American publisher Natsume kept the original one) and Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life was the series' first entry on the GameCube. In it, you play as a young man taking over his father's farm after the older man's death. You can get married to one of three suitors, have a kid, farm your land, go fishing, work in a mine, hang out at the bar, and more. I played a lot of this game over the years, but according to Wikipedia, I only made it to the third or fourth of six chapters. In my memory, I put at least 100 hours into it, though, so I must not have been playing very efficiently.
Harvest Moon 64 was my introduction to the series and Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town was my favorite, but I only ever rented 64 and I lost my Friends of Mineral Town cartridge. So, A Wonderful Life was the farming sim I spent the most time with. The fact that it featured a fully 3D world meant that it couldn't be as complex as other games in the series, but the world felt stranger and a little eerie at times because of this move to a new dimension. I remember there being a shack on the main character's property that was always locked, and I never got far enough to see it open. That was a big mystery to me, though I read through the plot summary on Wikipedia this morning and it doesn't seem like anything ever actually happens to it. When you're a kid, it can be hard to tell what's significant in a game, and what's just set dressing. Forget-Me-Not Valley was sparse enough that everything seemed like it had a purpose.
Tales of Symphonia was a much more intimidating game, mostly because I hadn't played many JRPGs outside the Pokemon series. Maybe more importantly, it came with two discs which suggested a game of unfathomable length. But the anime aesthetic really drew me in. Well, the anime aesthetic of the opening cutscene really drew me in. There's a shot in that opener where the protagonist Lloyd sprints across cracked desert ground toward a towering skeletal giant, then jumps into the air with his sword drawn. That was endlessly evocative to me.
The actual game disappointed me a bit. Though in recent years, developers have been able to achieve parity between the way a game looks in cutscenes and the way it looks in action, back then gameplay was almost always a pretty significant downgrade from the cinematics. Tales of Symphonia and another Namco RPG that had a gorgeous intro, Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean, were the chief offenders for me at the time. Though Lloyd and the rest of his crew looked like full-grown adults in the cutscene, in gameplay they were short and chibi. The game was still fun to play, but my disappointment was real.
As much as these announcements excited me, I have a hard time believing that I'll actually revisit these games on Switch. As an adult, I have more spending money and more skill than I had as a kid, but I have less of the most important resource: time. These games were too long for me to finish as a kid, with months of summer vacation. So while I'm excited that these games are getting remastered, I may have to leave them unfinished.
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