Birthdays the Beginning Review: The Great Beyond

May 5th, 2017 -

God games aren’t too popular these days, especially when they are limited to a cube. That being said, Birthdays the Beginning had a bit of an intriguing nature just from the title. Birthdays the beginning of what, exactly? And as this is a new IP from Yasuhiro Wada, the creator of Harvest Moon, there’s a lot of built up expectations.

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The game starts with some exposition and beautifully painted backgrounds, although not overdone, and instantly this is far better than any other game of this nature that I’ve dabbled in, as there is at least some sort of storyline as to why this cube world is even relevant. Essentially, the story centers on a curious granddaughter. Like all cube games, the world is initially empty, but you do have a little helper friend who is a pretty cool cat, if you ask me. The little avatar representing the player is basically just present as a placeholder, nothing actually happening there. The controls are very simple, with the button functions displayed at all times in case they are forgotten.

Starting the game off, you’ll go through the tutorial as Navi holds your hand. The story has four epsiodes, each furthering the development of life on your cube world, as well as the size of the cube. The first episode serves as a tutorial, although Navi never really stops helping you throughout the rest of the episodes.

When you’re playing god, there are two modes: micro mode is where one can edit the world, to put it simply, and macro mode is where the player can set time in motion to see the effects of those adaptations. It is easy to switch between the two and it is therefore easy to find oneself switching back and forth and then back again after pondering the next step.

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Back to the beginning (see what I did there?) when our curiosity was ignited over what the game was truly about. Soon it is obvious that the cave the inquisitive granddaughter wanders into is more than just the portal you figured it would be. The world is a clean slate where you must create environments for microorganisms to thrive in, and for organisms to evolve from the very basic cells that were randomly generated on earth. Okay, clearly there is a bit of an educational and political agenda here, but that is neither here nor there. All of the organisms, aside from the hideous sea ones of course, are very cutesy, as the art is a lovely cartoon style. The soundtrack starts with a fun tune that is relaxing yet upbeat, although the game is certainly lacking in the variety department here, as that song is pretty much it for the remainder of your playtime.

The gameplay is easy-going up until a random point where evolving one creature into the next is a major chore. From the macro mode, a menu is accessible that shows a list or tree of possible evolutions, ratings on fertility, adaptability, etc, as well as the conditions needed to spawn a species. Did I mention there is both fauna and flora involved here? Although it seems complex, the evolution is simplified and once a new species is birthed, as the game calls it, the player must go into micro mode and capture it like a photographer, more or less.

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In order to find a new species, there is a mini map in micro mode that will have dots to show the location of items available for pick up, flora/fauna, and any sort of item placed in the cube. A certain button will change the map to show pink dots, which are the new species that have not been captured. The player may either float their avatar around to hover over or under where the new species appears on the mini map, or switch to the first person mode designed to assist you in locating species for capturing. This mode is essential for the smaller creatures, but also for any creatures or plants that appear in areas that have become super populated later on in the game. Unfortunately, the controls for this mode can be rather frustrating and leave a bit to be desired when scouring an entire world for one stupid butterfly! By the way, there are definitely missions to accomplish and, after completed, there is a five star rating system for your performance that is based on five conditions of completion, such as beating the level within a certain number of cube years, not using certain items, etc. The missions are simply to move forward with your evolutions, but they usually are bigger advancements.

If Birthdays the Beginning sounds too science-like, please trust that the focus does not have to be on the facts such as X evolved from W and can mutate into Y. The challenges involved in this god game to successfully create a world where life thrives is actually very entertaining. The game is not story-centric despite having one involved, but it does have just enough to make the player wonder how this will end.

RENT

PROS

  • Adorable Art Direction
  • Superior to Most Cube Games
  • Supplemental Story

CONS

  • OST Lacks Diversity
  • Despite the Guide, Still Frustrating
  • Limited Options

Birthdays the Beginning was developed by ARC SYSTEM WORKS in conjuntion with TOYBOX Inc., and it was published by NIS America. The game launches on PS4 and PC May 9th, 2017 in the US and May 12th, 2017 in the EU for $39.99. The game was provided to us for review on PS4. If you’d like to see more of Birthdays the Beginning, check out the official site.
 
NIS America and ARC SYSTEM WORKS are not affiliated with Fist Full of Potions. Any views or statements presented are my own, and do not represent either NIS America or ARC SYSTEM WORKS.
 
Here at FFoP we use a rating method that you may be unfamiliar with, so allow us to clarify. When we review a game, we see what sort of BRA fits. Buy, Rent, or Acquire is the rating we give out – we’ve boiled it down for simplicity. A Buy is worth the full retail value; a Rent is something you may want to try before you buy, or grab at a discount; an Acquire is something you can play, but we’d suggest borrowing it from someone, grabbing it in a game bundle, or some other means. If you want further clarification, please feel free to get in touch.

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