Birthdays the Beginning came as a surprise to me. From NIS America, I just assumed that the game would be another fan-service JRPG so I let it go over my head, that was until I decided to give it a chance, and I’m SO glad I did.
In brief, Birthdays the Beginning is a God Sim. From the creator of Harvest Moon Yasuhiro Wada, Birthdays the Beginning puts you in control of your own living, breathing cube in order to birth your own little world filled with various little organisms. Starting from nothing, players can grow their world and birth anything from plants, to animals, to humans.
Upon loading up the game, you’re immediately introduced to the game’s story, you find a map in one of your grandfather’s old books to which you decide to follow. Upon entering this cave a white light draws you near, and boom, you’re thrown into the game. Things start off pretty basically, as you learn how to manipulate the world and the effect it has on the overall environment.
Without spoiling the game’s story, the main goal of the campaign is to birth “Modern Humans” which is done through a series of missions to which you learn how the evolutionary process works. Initially I found the game to be an incredibly clever way to teach evolution to players, that was until I was forced to evolve a monkey into a human by giving it an apple named the “Fruit of Knowledge”.
The main game consists of just a handful of missions, and provided how well you can get to grips with the game’s entire ecosystem, you can complete the main campaign in around six hours, which isn’t the worst considering most of the time you’re sitting back watching your world develop.
Once the campaign is complete, you unlock the free play mode which lets you start from scratch with no rules, letting you freely go about your business discovering and birthing more and more organisms.
In Birthdays the Beginning the main mechanic is manipulating the world around you to trigger evolutionary events. Raising parts of the world lowers the temperature, whereas lowering parts of the terrain raises the temperature. Raising and lowering the terrain also allows for different types of environments from shallows to deep seas to lowlands to mountains. Each of these environments allow different organisms to be birthed which you ultimately collect in a knowledgebase full of information.
Initially you can progress by simply raising and lowering the terrain to increase or decrease the temperature, however further in the game certain organisms require more than just a decent temperature, they may also require a certain amount of rivers to be present in the world, or a certain level of moss which can add a real learning curve to the game.
Ultimately, Birthdays the Beginning is a discovery game in which players experiment with certain environments to create new plant life or creatures. There are two modes available, a MacroMode which is essentially the world builder. This is where you can use your avatar to manipulate the world. Then there’s MicroMode, this mode is where you’ll see your world evolve as you allow time to proceed. You’ll often be fleeting between these two modes as you progress.
Interestingly, there’s an element of strategy within Birthdays the Beginning in the form of your avatar’s HP. Manipulating the terrain costs HP, and once it’s been depleted you’ve got to go back to MicroMode and progress time in order to restore this HP. However, the time it takes for your HP to restore could be the same time it takes for a certain vital organism to be extinct.
Fortunately there are several items that appear in the world that allow you to restore HP without entering MicroMode, but once they’re gone, you’re done for.
Visually, the game is absolutely adorable. Each little creature from fish to dinosaurs, to eventually domesticated dogs, are ridiculously cute. Though I have to say I was slightly disappointed that when I was presented with the splash screen which had creatures made from clay, that the entire game wasn’t made like that, but I digress. While there wasn’t a ton of detail, I think if the game became too realistic, it’d be difficult to connect with each of the organisms you birthed.
Performance-wise, as you progress through the story your world gets exponentially bigger allowing for more creatures and a finer level of manipulation with the world’s environment. As more and more organisms filled the world the game remained incredibly stable, though there were a few times that the game stuttered in heavily populated areas, but this was very few and far between.
Outside of the story mode there’s the Free Mode, which I mentioned above, and a Challenge Mode. The Challenge Mode will most likely be the place where you spend most of your time once you’ve completed the story. Not to say that the Free Mode isn’t interesting, there’s only so much one can do when they’re unsure exactly how to birth an Ancient Red Fern.
The Challenge Mode presents you with various scenarios and the challenge of birthing a certain organism. This could mean dramatically altering the environment and wiping out an entire species in order to birth this particular organism. It actually paints a pretty dramatic picture of the world and how we’ve come to be where we are today, and that if the temperature raised a couple ten degrees, we’d all be fighting to survive in a world of dinosaurs.
Although I’m no scientist, Birthdays the Beginning is a pretty interesting game which tells you a lot about evolution (in a pretty overly dramatised way) and how the fight for survival can have one organism evolve and adapt to different environments. I actually found myself spending a lot of time within the game’s knowledge base to learn about each creature and how they’re birthed and which environments they survive best in, as well as which other organisms are needed in order for this one to survive.
Birthdays the Beginning is an incredibly deep and complex game when it comes down to it all presented in a simple, adorable, and easy to understand package. This game is one of those titles you can easily dip in and out of when you’ve got some time to burn. At the same time, it’s also one of those games where you can kill four or five hours in the game without batting an eyelid.
Oh, just remember to manually save your game. While the game does have an autosave, it doesn’t save progress, just game data. I learned this the hard way after losing a four-hour game…