Pitch.io – Nusakana

Pitch.io. It’s what the birds and bees do.

It’s been a while, but this is the next iteration of Pitch.io, where I sift through an assortment of games on itch.io and tell you all about the juiciest nuggets I find.

This week: Nusakana.

The main menu background changes with what local time it is. Pretty nifty!

Now I spotted some immediate similarities between this and Stardew Valley, but upon closer inspection, this game has actually been available on Steam since 2015, where Stardew was released a year later. Not only that, but the devs describe it as an open world JRPG, with a turn-based battle system. How could I not?

What initially drew me towards this game was the laid back song that played in the trailer, and a gameplay style reminiscent of my beloved Stardew, plus the turn-based combat system was a nice addition. The chilled out soundtrack doesn’t disappoint, as it’s your constant companion as you dash around the island of Nusakana. 

So, this game set you on your journey as a nameless protagonist (who you’ll have the duty of stamping them with an eight-character title) who’s received a letter, saying to travel to a little island of paradise called Nusakana, where a mystery person promises to fill you in on the cloudy circumstances surrounding you and your upbringing as an orphaned child, only if you can find them.

Now, none of this is explained off the bat, and you’ll have to go trawling through the Journal tab to find the story regarding the letter. The game seems to be extremely hands off when it comes to the storytelling, as you can go pretty much wherever you like straight off the bat. This really sets the cruisey feel of the game, as you never really feel in a rush to complete objectives. 

All of the quests that I acquired seemed to have very vague completion conditions (like ‘Find and return a child’s rubber duck’), again reinforcing and encouraging exploration at your own pace, making sure not to lead you in a beeline from point A to point B.

In my several hours of playing and gathering everything I could, i’d not seen or even heard about nutmeg or nectar.

For example, I had to get an NPC some food to progress the story, and that’s all the info that was provided. So what do I do? Toddle off around the island and talk to everyone else, scour the beaches for coconuts and seaweed (which I found couldn’t be turned in to the NPC), then enter the jungle and get jumped by a bouncy-ball-with-feathers-esque Wild Fowl. I swing away wildly with my Grandpa’s ‘Old Rod’ (*cough* Pokemon) and slay the winged featherball. I feel strong and manly, so I pick a fight with a reptile, then proceed to get torn apart by said Monitor Lizard. I wake up in an inn 3 days later, stumble around and happen upon the NPC again, to which I hand over some fowl meat and complete the objective. My whole 20 minutes of sunbathed strolling and chatting suddenly felt completely relevant.

Concerning combat, it’s pretty servicable, but early-game I found it’s not hugely necessary. You can take quests that are posted on a board that ask for certain items, be it meat or salak fruit or for you to slay a possessed durian, but these are optional ways to earn money. In my few hours of playing the game, I found myself running away from most battles rather than risking my life with a fishing rod against a walking venus fly trap.

You can purchase better weapons, but it feels almost impossible to attain them, as decent weapons very expensive, and to get enough money to buy them fairly quickly means you’ll have to defeat hard enemies. As for the way combat works, it’s akin to a Final Fantasy type of game, due to the turn based nature, leveling up & stats, equippable items for each character and the party management aspect, as well as accumulating party members as the story progresses. Mind you, I’m still yet to get even one teammate. Sadface.

 See? Possessed Durian. Bet it smells even worse than usual.

There are also other elements thrown into the mix, like time passing, weather conditions and survival elements such as fullness and sleep deprivation which lower your base stats. It seems as though time passes when travelling between areas where the screen transitions as well as carrying out certain actions, such as having a shower and getting treated to the sight of your own pixelised arse. I was not prepared. Certain events and wildlife seem to be more prevalent at different points of the day. I’ve not come across any major impact that weather may have, which I assume comes into it’s own when it comes to fishing and the like.

Morning, afternoon and night. Different characters will be out and about at different times.

I was very shocked by the unassuming breadth and complexity of this game, as I opened up the menu and saw the plethora of discoverable items, a bestiary and even lore of the land, which includes info on two wars prior to the game taking place and their outcomes, as well as info on a previous magical race of people who had enslaved all humans before wiping themselves out. The introduction of fantasy elements completely struck me by surprise!

There are some minor complaints when it comes to some of the games systems, such as having the fishing rod equipped, it’s registered as a weapon. This means if you go to interact with a body of water to fill up an empty bottle with the fishing rod in the weapon slot, you’ll cast your rod instead, so you’d have to unequip any rod to be able to fill that bottle. A minor nuisance, but could have surely been prevented.

There’s a similar nuisance in the way of picking up items in the world. Instead of the game grouping the same item up and saying you got X amount of something, it will compartmentalise every item, e.g. finding two coconuts and three tomatoes on the ground would say you received a coconut, a tomato, a tomato, a coconut and a tomato. Again, minor annoyance, but having to go through a dialogue box for every item gets a bit old.

When I first delved into Nusakana it was easy to harshly criticise as I wasn’t hugely impressed by it’s overly pixelated, low detail resolution and the under polished look and feel of the the game in general. But, as I explored the island of Nusakana and learned of it’s flora, fauna and realised I wasn’t in any great rush to do anything, it lulled me into a relaxed state, allowing me to stop focusing on bits and pieces, but instead take in the whole picture and let my mind wander as the sultry tunes immersed me in this sun-soaked escape from the norm. I hope you enjoy your stay.

With love and sunburnt kisses,

If you want to try out this game for yourself, follow the links below;
itch.io: https://studio-namaapa.itch.io/nusakana
Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/401290/Nusakana/

One half of The GameStormers and one whole of a man, man. Barry likes scrambled eggs and low poly things. Oh, and games.