Harvest Moon: A New Beginning brought some big changes to this well-worn farming sim franchise. Along with the usual tasks of growing crops, raising animals, and wooing spouses, the player character has the power to build and customize the entire town in which he or she lives. There are a ton of item blueprints to collect, though of course the player must also gather the proper building materials before the blueprints can be brought to life.
This customization element gives the entire game more legs, as finding and building the rarest and most interesting items is a more compelling long-term goal than simply making tons of money. Combine this with excellent daily pacing, a lengthy campaign to reinvigorate a dying town, and the ability to travel to exotic locations, and you've got one very addictive little simulation on your hands. We poured tons of hours into Harvest Moon: A New Beginning in 2012, and there's still plenty left to do once we have time to pick the game up back up again in 2013.
There are guilty pleasures caused by an unholy addiction to watering your crops one more time, and then there are guilty pleasures caused by loving a deeply flawed game that we know we should abandon, but are ashamed that we cannot. Dragon's Dogma made us retread the same long paths repeatedly, lacked a useful autosave function, and peppered the world with unexpected, abrupt ways to die, but that didn't keep us from wanting to hunt one more beast, see our way through one more battle, or spend thirty minutes walking back to a remote area just in case a new quest was available there. An excellent battle system, unrelenting pace, and 24 hour cycle that makes environments as different as night and day helped keep us hooked on this one despite the glaring gameplay problems. It's as hard to recommend as it is to stop playing, and is our second place guilty pleasure for 2012.
Pokémon Conquest provides all the necessary elements for our Poké-addictions — cute monsters, fun battles, and all sorts of pointless means of advancement — while changing the setting and general format so drastically that we could almost forget that it was a Pokémon title. No wonder we all got hopelessly addicted to it for a while last summer.
by Becky Cunningham, Glenn Wilson, Michael Baker