Happy Birthdays is a delightful game for a number of particular reasons. On one hand, I’ve come to enjoy the games simplistic clay-like art. The creatures moving about as their adorable little feet press into the ground that looks like living art and their soft noises to be made resonating through my headset. On the other hand, you also have a game that’s remarkably focused on its educational purposes such as teaching players how ecosystems have developed, evolved, and in the process, informing them of how climate plays a role and how balance is needed to be kept for all intents and purposes for their evolution to continue.
In ways, the game wants to teach fans about balance, how everything has a purpose in our world. Whether it’s small changes to altitude, water sources, temperature, etc, and just how important those small changes are. But it’s something that Wada Yasuhiro is no stranger to. The man behind the game is the same man who helped bring the Harvest Moon series to fruition. But anyone that knows Wada-san knows a great deal about him through his games.
He’s a very charming, non-violent, and extremely family friendly man. He’s one that encourages growth, vitality, and awareness of the world about us through peace and harmony. Surprisingly enough, his core person shows throughout his games and it’s even more-so clear with his latest title, the reimagined Birthdays the Beginning.
It all started simple, first I was handed an ecosystem, a tiny one at that. Next, I was given the ability to shape, to mold, and the knowledge of how life begins. As I crafted the land to my liking, but following the steps Navi – your assistant and tutorial giver – had given me, I soon saw life begin to take shape. First came the plants once I returned to outer space. Next came the small changes that would bring my fauna to life. I’d see fish swimming about in shallow waters as my ecosystem would begin to flourish.
A few hundred more years and I would finally see dinosaurs begin to appear, wandering about the small ‘eco-cube’. Soon enough things would begin to change, I’d have to once more make an appearance, shaping the world to specific temperatures and climates needed so that more water would be readily available and the temperatures would sit at a nice and 30ºC. Once to that point, my first serpentine friends would begin to appear, moving about my biome as quick as they could. But things wouldn’t be as easy as they sound.
I’d still have to worry about my little biome heating and cooling itself, just as all things do, and even the possibility that this cute little snake and his siblings would go extinct if I didn’t keep order and balance to all things life. Soon enough, dinosaurs would take shape, t-rex’s before long would begin to appear as life began to mold itself as desired. But that was Wada’s end-game attention. To help us understand the needs of our world and how to keep balance to nature itself. The easiest way to put it? The game is educational, even at its most fundamental level.
In Happy Birthdays there are a few things you can do to help play the game and gain a different experience each time around. There are pre-set scenarios in which you can choose from, ones where evolution has already surpassed a certain state you may not see in your base-game experience. You can start ones off where the world is lush with both flora and fauna alike, where dinosaurs are already stomping around on the world before you or ones that are hot, simmering from global warming and the deserts had taken over, or perhaps you want things a little bit cooler, one where wintry winds blow across the hills, freezing the water and creatures within it. Each offering their own unique challenges in terms of how you will help your creatures survive and evolve within the world around them.
But that’s where things do get exciting and the end results become a lot more satisfying than any other game of this kind. This approach is much more immediate, more satisfying those that played the original version on PS4 and certainly will help both gamers young and old enjoy their time with Wada’s Happy Birthdays on Nintendo Switch. Compared to the original title, the game even has a much clearer approach to your end game goals. This time around, you aren’t wondering where to go, how to change evolution to suit things best, and even the fact you are looking for humans to make their first appearance on your world.
After all, this sandbox type game isn’t your average title, it’s one that wants you to think, it wants to see the consequences behind your actions, the effect even the smallest change might have on the world around you and those you’ve helped bring to life. I had moments where I watched dinosaurs go extinct and my heart would begin to break. But you might be wondering about the “why”‘s and the “what”‘s. The answer? All it took was a small takeaway of water or a mountain here and a valley there. Those small things changed how the world about me would evolve, taking itself back a few hundred years as fauna species would begin to die and their food sources perished.
In many ways – I’m sorry. Not many. In every way, the game reflects upon what us humans are doing to our planet, how the smallest changes we make affect the very things we need to survive such as the birds, the insects, the animals, all of it. In many ways, the game is something akin to Zen Buddhism, where patience, respect, and love for all things natural are critical parts of how we live and survive. How the creatures around us live and survive. How we, affect our world with every glass of water we poor, how we change the landscape about us with buildings, highways, and the removal of mountainsides.
It’s a game that isn’t just about hitting “X” to pop-up a menu where you can sculpt the world, force growth, force fertility of the creatures you’ve helped bring to life, or even give life to rivers so that the creatures within your ecosystem can survive. It’s very much a game that wants players to acknowledge that everything has a spirit, that the anxiety you feel when you hear your favorite organism (animals, insects, etc) is about to go extinct isn’t just something that should bother you, but something that you certainly should feel anxiety over and that you should do something about that unfortunate end that could very well happen instead of saying “there’s nothing I could do to help”.
The best way I can explain this game? It’s a game that wants you to know that every action has a reaction. That every choice you make comes with a consequence and that every consequence that happens is almost or is irreversible. Perhaps, to best describe the game, it’s one that is all about spirituality, human intellect, and the need to know that we are slowly killing our world and we should respect what provides us with our ability o life. If that’s message Wada-san has for us, trust me, it’s there and you should certainly let your children try this game so that they can learn the message it has to tell them.