Hello Kitty Online. So cute you could puke. Yes? No? That was what I went out to discover as I entered Sanrioland, created my little avatar dressed in a plain tanktop and shorts, and named her. Not too many choices in faces and hair so I quickly settled on one and braced myself to be overwhelmed by “cute.”
It was. Overwhelmingly cute. What can I say? Hello Kitty and her friends – Badtz-Maru, My Melody, Purin, Pochaco, Keroppi, ad nauseum is all about cute. Their motto is “Bring Happiness to the World” and they surely try. The User Interface is simple – so simple it took me a while to figure it out – the green check icon means “Yes” dummy… The entire game can be navigated via mouse clicks and indeed, movement is done by mouse-click.
Created by Sanrio Digital and based in Hong Kong, Hello Kitty in Asia is targeted towards the “Office Ladies” – women in their twenties to their thirties, most who have never played an MMOG in their life. In the US, the demographic that Hello Kitty appeals to shifts downwards to the younger players in their teens. Players will also find that Hello Kitty Online is not just an MMOG, but an integrated social space, with blogs and mini-games that you can access directly from the game.
In Hello Kitty, you do not have classes but skills to improve and there are factions as well. You start out in SanrioLand as a human male or female. Rather androgynous looking and your first quests will give you your starting equipment. The game itself is quest driven. Experience is gained by completing quests, not killing creatures and although you are required to beat on critters by some of the quests, they don’t actually die but are stunned. Complete with little stars circling around their heads. They will perk up again after some time and can be re-stunned.
Boiled down to the essentials, it is a tradeskill and “collections” game. Do something often enough and your skill goes up. Then collect enough of these materials to make neat stuff. Like a better weapon or better looking weapon or a styling Red jacket, Blue suede shoes and the like. You also collect pets, grow vegetables on a farm, improve your farm, build a house, decorate your house – and it can be addictively compelling.
Like many games out there now, the newbie experience leads you gently into the game. Each quest you do introduces you to one or more aspects of game play and leads to the next. Quests when first accessed have voice-overs that narrate the quest text. Video tutorials with voice-overs are also available on the website should you need extra help or just want to refresh your memory.
Character Development & Itemization
It’s all about skills. Foraging, farming, sewing, cooking, etc. The more you use the skills, the better they become, the higher level the stuff you can access, the neater the stuff you can make. I was ahead of myself in exploration and picked up several quests that asked for things I could not forage or kill (no, sorry – stun) for my skill level.
Drops from critters are used in quests or tradeskills. They are saleable as well, but vendors will give you next to nothing for them. You start off with a large “knapsack” with quite an amount of storage room, but it is unsurprising that you run out of space quickly. Do not despair, once you access your basic farm, you will find that you have additional storage there.
Most items are player made, although some are gained as quest rewards and others may be bought from vendors – such as your first animated scarecrow for your farm.
Combat and Pets
Combat is accomplished by click and auto-attack. Your only weapon is a “Magic Wand” which first manifests as a broken broom to whack critters with – and soon receive a quest to improve your weapon. My first upgrade was a microphone complete with stand. Blunt weapon? I guess. When I clicked on a critter, my character went into an overhand whacking animation and satisfying numbers floated up from the squarish blue “crab” until it was stunned and I gained whatever it dropped automatically.
The only way you can get yourself killed in this game is deliberately. Creatures are plentiful. So plentiful that they nip on your heels as you walk across the landscape. They may mob you and interrupt your mining, lumbering or harvesting, but you can always outrun them, and they do not do a lot of damage. If they out level you substantially, it may take a long time to kill them but you can still outrun them. They do not follow far. This emphasizes basically, that Hello Kitty Online isn’t about combat.
There are three stats. Health, Energy and Hunger. Health is self explanatory. Energy is expanded when using your weapons or any of your trade skills. I’ve not figured out if hunger really does anything as I replenish that at the same time as I replenish Health and Energy by eating and drinking. Sandwiches may be bought at vendors, but player crafted foods will always replenish Health and Energy at a much better ratio per item. The higher level the item crafted, harvested, lumbered or mined, the more stamina it will require, so Players will be wise to bring some high stamina replenishing edibles such as watermelon juice out into the wilds with them.
Pets are quested and also gained by receiving “pet cards” which drop from critters that you defeat. They are summoned and dismissed by the click of an icon and these add a new layer of depth to the game as they can grow and fight with you, their stats assisted with other pet usable “cards” and assist you in your tasks. Besides they are heck-of-a cute as they follow you around town.
Tradeskills and Farming
Now we come to the meat of the game. You learn right from the start that you can lumber and harvest. Then you learn to “Mix” items – that is… to sew, to cook and to create. Recipes are received from drops, bought from vendors and rewards from quests. The more you “Mix” the better your skill, and products do not sell too badly to vendors.
Once you move out of Sanrio Harbor – the newbie area – and into Florapolis, you will have to speak to an NPC to get your farm, and another for a quest to get your starter seed. Of course you can also buy fertilizer to make the land more fertile, pesticide to kill the pests that might invade and an animated scare-crow just for the fun of it. Farming is how you really earn cash in this game, and obtain some items for crafting.
Gold sinks include such items as land and house improvements and dye pots. Gotta have that styling pink roof. That red jacket. Those blue suede shoes? The only way to get them is to make them or buy them from other players. Here is also where you face your first grind – that is if you feel you must grind. Is harvesting 50 of item A or hunting cutesy critters for 80 of item B a grind? It could certainly be. But let’s read down into the next paragraph – the community.
Community & Customer Service
Hello Kitty Online is not just an MMOG. It is a social space. Being a member of Sanrioland nets you blog space, a Hello Kitty email, mini-games to be played with and against other Hello Kitty aficionados and video editing tools to make your own Hello Kitty Online video that you can publish direct to your Hello Kitty blog from within the game. There are in-game guilds that you can join, and players can also create guilds.
During closed beta, GMs were found roaming around various town areas and portals in areas of the wilderness. They are friendly and will step up to say “Hello” to players and offer help. Players are also friendly and offer assistance freely. Part of this is the social culture of the “office ladies” as well as young players all wanting to make friends – and I met players from various parts of the world, all friendly, offering help, inviting me to visit their farms and willing to share information.
Building houses is a long, energy intensive job. The best way to achieve this is in a guild where many friends come together to assist. Talk about a virtual barn-raising. It is quite an interesting experience as you stock up on energy drinks and hand them out to friends you only met that week, many of whom will bring their own.
It isn’t that large, but it is varied, colorful and explorers will enjoy discovering the fairy in the grove just beyond the nodding cotton bud trees that gives a quest to find a magical stardust tree – from which you have to harvest a golden pear – which you may or may not have the skill to harvest. Each area contains its own cutesy mobs – from funny looking cubical boars to walking star fish and oversized flowers and nodding trees that shrivel up when you’ve exhausted its resource only to plump up again a minute later.
Players will find plentiful visual clues to cue them in to what they are seeking. From a magical sparkle where a hidden crystal is to a circle on the ground and a twinkling swirl to indicate a portal to a building or to another part of the map. Throughout, you will run across Hello Kitty’s friends who send you on quests across the land.
Hello Kitty Online attempts to “Bring Happiness to the World” in the entire experience. The game arrives in a pretty gift box tied up with a pink ribbon. The manual is in full color and video tutorials with voice-overs accessible on the game site eases the entry into the game. The only learning curve is for us die-hard gamers who keep trying to change camera view and wonder if we can kite and AE or gather quests for more efficient xp gain – it’s simpler than you think. It’s a fun, relaxing romp. You hang out, chat with friends, visit each other’s farms and houses, assist each other in building houses, share the things you make, plant a few watermelons, harvest a few strawberries, the xp will come. Grind it and it will be painful.
Free to play but pay for what? We don’t know at this time as the item mall is not functional yet, nor has there been an announcement for the price of the box. But there will likely be exclusive “bling” items not otherwise available in the game, as well as actual merchandise which could be player suggested and requested.
Do I recommend this game? For 99% of our readers? A resounding “No.” You’d be bored to tears. Gaming parents with children in their tweens – let them have a go during Open Beta and your little girl or boy might think you are the bestest parents in the whole wide world. For you Hello Kitty aficionados – you know who you are… you can’t give this a miss. Do I like it? Well, I had my little pink house, my melon patch, my upgraded farm, my red jacket, my brown loafers, my sheep pet, my scorpion pet, my boar pet... Closed Beta is over when Open Beta rolls around, little Sylvene will be wielding her super microphone-of-doom magic wand again.
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