Building civilization one species at a time
Birthdays: The Beginning is the newest project by the young studio Toybox led by the veteran Yasuhiro Wada, the creator of the Harvest Moon’s series. Despite fundamentally sharing the same genre as his original creation both games are very distinct in their nature. While Harvest Moon is a life sim where you must manage a farm and the life of a main character in Birthdays: the Beginning your daunting task is the creation of life itself throughout many stages of different organisms.
This process is laid to the player through a simple narrative where you get transported to a different world with little to no reason and meet a flying cube-like object named Navi. Navi works as a sort of companion throughout the game, it provides the goals of each stage and hand out tips of what the player should do in order to spawn the species necessary to advance in each of the four episodes.
The core gameplay can be broken into two parts; the macro and micro phases. Micro mode is where you can actively interact with the world, be it shaping the terrain to change the climate of your world, capturing new species to add to your collection, that’ll in turn make your avatar level up, or gather glowing orbs that grant you items to use in the game. This is where you’ll spend most of your time and given the more active nature of it it’s also the most enjoyable in my opinion, but it’s not without a couple of problems. Firstly, at times when you’re trying to select a specific species to collect or ground to shape the cursor can be especially finicky and it can get frustrating quite quickly, the other issue with micro mode is that it’s really hard to figure out which of the species in your world still hasn’t been collected, even in first person mode which highlights the new species on the mini map.
Once you’re done spending stamina in micro mode you can jump into macro mode, where you’re given an overview of your world and the progress of the species that inhabit it. It’s also where you can let time flow, be it slowly or a bit faster at the expense of some stamina, and watch how the world transforms according to the changes you’ve done to the world while in micro mode. The whole process is strangely engaging, I kept trying different combinations just to see what the outcome would be and most of the time it went horribly wrong but that’s kind of the point of the game and I truly appreciate that the game allows you to be as safe or reckless as you want to be.
Birthdays: The Beginning is quite charming to look at, everything looks clean and the species are varied enough, there are severe frame rate dips in the largest worlds but considering the laid-back nature of the game it’s not a big deal. The small pieces of music that are sprinkled throughout the game are also very pleasant to listen to.
Once you’re done with the four episodes of the main mode you can tackle the Challenge Mode, where you’re given goals in pre-made worlds, or Free Mode which works as a real sandbox without any imposed goals. The amount of content in the game is quite decent but this being a sim/world building game I wish there were world sharing tools or some more engaging online interactions with other players, it would be great to be able to create challenges in the worlds that I’ve built for the purpose of this review and being able to share them with friends.
Birthdays: The Beginnings serves as a very strong foundation to what will, hopefully, become a new series for Yasuhiro Wada. Despite the sometimes problematic controls, though, Birthdays: The Beginning is still a very interesting and engrossing game even for those who’ve never tried the genre that’ll be sure to grab the attention of friends and family due to its relaxed and cute appearance.
SGR SCORE: 8/10