Following up on our editorial yesterday we present another tester's experience in Hello Kitty Online.
I don't often do beta tests just for the sake of doing them. Between Allakhazam and the kids I'm usually short of time, and I have this low-key fear that some game will seduce me away from my beloved EverQuest II. But I got the chance to slip into Hello Kitty Online's Closed Beta, and I figured, oh, why not?
Now, I'm not one of the millions of people who dote on Hello Kitty. The 34 year old sweetie drives one billion dollars in world-wide sales a year , but in 1974 when she hit the scene Alaska was a bit out of step with current trends, and I don't think I even saw any Hello Kitty merchandise until I was out of high school (that'd be nineteen eighty-mumbledy-something). So the initial draw, that of "OMG! It's HELLO KITTY!! *squeal*" completely passes me by. It does, however, give the game a huge advantage with a large and diverse consumer base that is ready to embrace everything and anything Hello Kitty. I'm quite willing to embrace the game experience despite my lack of Hello Kitty savvy.
It was a big download, 80+ mb, but in my experience that usually means a large and rich world. As I was waiting for the download I was thinking it would be interesting, because Hello Kitty is a rare case of marketing without a hook: no Saturday morning cartoons, comic books, games, or other pre-designed worlds, just Hello Kitty and Friends merchandise. In a gaming world where building on an existing story or making a sequel seems to be more the rule than the exception, a new world created from scratch sounded intriguing.
I got it installed without a hitch and fired it up. My first obstacle was that there were no nifty little tooltip mouseovers, and the initial interface is all iconic. It's not entirely intuitive, but I also didn't get frustrated by it. (I balked against the lack of mouseovers the whole time I played, I guess I'm spoiled.) I made a character with the nice but limited personalizations, and logged in.
First thought: "Huh. It's not as pink as I thought it'd be."
The world is bright and fits the iconic characters perfectly. I feared I would be overwhelmed by cartoonishness, but it is very well done. The music got to me as I took my time in the initial area; it's lovely music, but I was there a while. A kind GM instructed me in turning it off.
Next thought: "I wonder if the box with the ! in it over that character is important?"
Sure enough, it was my first quest NPC, and I ran off for the newb training, which is fast, thorough, and well done. Video tutorials were available on the website when I got stuck due to the lack of language on the interface, keeping my frustrations to a minimum. The biggest laugh was, as I and many other beta testers were all moving into our first quest involving beating mobs, a World of Warcraft player exclaiming to the world: "What do you mean we can't kill things?!?" There is no senseless violence here. Beating on mobs avails you nothing except perhaps a drop.
That's right, there's no XP. The whole system is skill based, which makes sense as all the quests I did were of the "courier" or "fetch" variety. Along the way you are introduced to the basics of gathering resources, farming, and other game options. I think this game may be attractive to the compulsive crafter or resource gatherer, as much of the content I saw revolves around eventually creating items.
For example, you get a little farm, where you may grow resources and build a house. You quest for the initial instructions and components to start your garden, then go to your own private zone. You'll also build your house there, for which you really want a group of friends, or you'll be there forever! The houses and farms are very cute, by the way, and you are required to pay them some attention by fertilizing and warding off infestations of insects. If the NPC homes are any indication of the variety available to players, in-game home decorators should be very happy.
The main attraction of the game, I think will be more of an extension of the Sanriotown social network. The game comes with options for each character's blog, a video archive, mail, and other social networking goodies. You are encouraged to make friends and join groups (there's even a quest to help you). But the game appeals even if you're not overly social: the world is rich, the plots and characterizations engaging, and overall I found my foray into Sanriotown an enjoyable and even relaxing experience.
Will I buy it? Probably not, it's not quite my flavor. I personally prefer games with at least a drive-by wave at realism. But I can certainly recommend it to folks looking for a nice G-rated MMO. And Hello Kitty fans everywhere!
Amy "Calthine" Lanam
Senior Content Manager