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'Birthdays,' a quirky sim game, coming to PS4 in Japan; Western release to follow

Yasuhiro Wada, creator of the beloved and influential Harvest Moon farming/role-playing game series, has revealed a quirky new sim game that will be coming to the PlayStation 4 in Japan next year, with a Western release to follow. The Japanese release is set for January 19, 2017, according to Niche Gamer.

Birthdays is a sandbox life sim, in which you cultivate a small ecosystem with evolving life forms of increasing complexity. One of the main means by which you do so is terraforming the environment. Over time, the creatures inhabiting your little world will adapt accordingly. The chunky, voxelated landscape, which is a bit reminiscent of Minecraft, is populated by cute, familiar animals. The trailer shows an initially barren world gradually filling with greenery, with dinosaurs giving way to mammoths and smaller, modern mammals. The player appears as a little red-suited spaceman, both flying around within the little world and standing back to the side as the player manipulates topography from a zoomed-out perspective.

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In concept and appearance, the game owes a lot to Populous, Peter Molyneaux’s genre-defining god game from 1989. That game also had the player taking responsibility for a microcosm primarily by raising and lowering terrain to create better conditions for its inhabitants. It also harks back somewhat to some of the more niche, pre-The Sims games from Maxis, like SimLife and SimEarth, though it’s perhaps a bit more simplified, at least at first blush. God games have been a largely underserved genre for the last several decades, and this looks like it could mark a much needed return, particularly as computing power now allows for much more robust and interesting simulations than during the genre’s peak in the 1990s.

Birthdays‘ English translation for North America and Europe is being handled by NIS America, which has previously ported Japanese niche genre games and curios like the Disgaea and Danganronpa series.