Review by NeoNess
"Doing Chores Has Never Been So Fun"
Longtime fans of the Harvest Moon series have eagerly awaited upon the arrival of Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life, and it doesn't disappoint. In this newest addition, Natsume has delivered us yet another great farming experience, whilst changing some minor things about the gameplay. A breath of fresh air is implemented into the series, but does it hold up? Grab your hoe, and dive into Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life.
As with all the previous installments of the long-running series, the plot of Harvest Moon puts you on a deserted farm, and forces you to create a life for yourself. A minimal amount of tools are supplied, and everything is basically up to you - and how you decide to do it is half the fun. You have complete control on how you run your life day to day, and juggling different tasks in the short day can be a challenge. All in all, your days are mostly spent watering crops, picking them, feeding your livestock, and wooing the local girl in the town. There's far more however, with people to meet and things to see.
In A Wonderful Life, things are a bit different however. You start off with a farm, but you're also given tools, seeds and even a cow. There's a local town nearby, and happy faces are always there to greet you. You can build friendships with the locals in town, and even flirt with a girl in town until she decides to marry you. Unlike the past Harvest Moon games, A Wonderful Life forces you to marry within the first year - as this game focuses more on personal aspect of living. You'll eventually have a child, and actually watch him grow up into a young adult.
The biggest change in this game, is the chapter aspect. Gameplay is split up into several chapters, with seasons spanning 10 days. The days are 24 minutes long, the seasons are 10 days long, and there's 4 seasons to a year. Overall, it's a pretty long game, and will keep you occupied for quite some time. As time goes by, people will eventually start to look older. Different people may move in, some might move out, and some might die completely. You'll actually grow older yourself, and you can watch your child grow up, and determine a path in his life. Judging off your actions and friendships with the townsfolk, your child has a variety of different paths they can take.
Another challenging change, is the implementation of fertile/unfertile soil, and the ability to make hybrid crops. Some soil is unfertile, forcing you to have to fertilize your soil. More fertile soil is farther away from your house, so it's a strategy of timing your chores carefully. There's also a wide variety of hybrid crops you can experiment with, and finding the right combination can be a fun experience. Top this off with the ability to make trees, the addition of new pets, new livestock, and you have a fresh Harvest Moon game.
The graphics are probably the most outstanding feature of this game. Everything is downright pretty, and the day/night system is very well done. You see shadows in the morning from the sun rising, and the different seasons are very apparent. With the ability to switch to first person perspective to look around, the graphics engine feels like an enhanced version of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for the Nintendo 64. Simply put, these are the best graphics the Harvest Moon series has seen to date.
The sound has the same feeling of the previous installments, and might get bland & repetitive. It fits the game, but not all may enjoy it. There's various fitting sound effects, from mooing to dogs barking. Expect the same type of sound effects from the others in the series, because not much is new here. Control is simple, but can be somewhat sensitive at times. If you're not placed directly in the direction you want to go, you can end up doing the wrong thing. Other than that, getting used to the controls won't take too long at all.
Replay Value: High
Replay value is very high, given there's many surprises throughout the game. I won't spoil them here, but there's a ton of fun things hidden. Alone, hooking up Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life with the Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town for the Gameboy Advance unlocks tons of special goodies. Combine this with 3 different wives to choose from and different paths for your child, you'll be playing this times over.
Good Points +
+ Hybrid crops
+ Beautiful graphics
+ Fresh gameplay
+ Connectivity bonuses
Bad Points -
- Most complex Harvest Moon game to date
- No yearly festivals
- Sensitive controls
Overall, A Wonderful Life has to be the most complex Harvest Moon game in the series. It feels like it's been reworked, and it feels like a new experience altogether. If you're a fan of the previous installments, I highly suggest giving this game a rental. If you're new, and interested in the series, this might not be the game for you. I suggest picking up on some of the earlier versions. All in all, the game does an outstanding job of providing a fun farming experience for all.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 03/25/04
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