Review by dougmoto

""I had an ant farm once; them fellas didn't grow squat""

-Mitch Hedberg

My dear Natsume/Marvelous…I sometimes find I have trouble expressing my feelings, so I'll do my best. Right now, I am so angry that I could walk up to your headquarters, throw in a Molotov, standby while it burns down, and then release my urine into the ashes. Actually, you'd probably collect insurance money on that, so I'll have to think of something else. How much do you programmers value your kneecaps? Never mind. We can come to terms with that later.

I'm sure you have lots of enemies Natsume. But I can assure you, I'm nothing you've seen before. I'm not one of those angry feminists, peeved because of the chauvinistic angle of the games. Don't act like you didn't notice either. Harassing girls in the wee hours of the morning? Making your wife cook for you all day? What kind of 19th century attitude are you trying to bring to the table here? However, as much as I agree with their cause, I'm not part of their extremist group. And you're damn lucky I'm not part of the Grammar Police either. The crime? Guilty of misspelling your own company's name and translating random words into “engrish”. Cute.

But that's not why I'm writing. I don't want to remind you of the enemies you already have. I want to notify you of the ones you just made.

I'll tell you a story. There was once a boy who played Harvest Moon 64 to death. He loved that game more than his taffy. And he was a boy who loved his taffy. In fact, he became so addicted, that when he got a Gamecube, he prayed to the game gods for a sequel. Hell, it didn't even have to be a good sequel. If it was a remake of Harvest Moon 64 with updated graphics, new areas and a bit more character development, he would have been in farming heaven. And lo and behold, a new harvest moon game was announced for the console. “A wonderful life”, it seemed like they were taking a new path to the Harvest Moon series, but he trusted them.

So a few days after launch, he read some reviews, just to make sure. “8.7! Fun and Addictive” Just the things he wanted to hear. He destroyed his piggy bank (with a hammer, for that classic feel), and rushed off to the store. After a trip to EB he greedily unwrapped his newest purchase. Eyes shining with childhood naïveté, he took a deep breath, and was ready for a gaming experience he hasn't had since the days of the N64. But nothing could prepare him for the emotional backhand he was about to receive. And I'll let you in on one last secret. That young lad was me (shocking, no?). And my cheek is still sore, Natsume.

---

So why do I so deeply despise their newest offering? To put it simply: The game play is more boring then half of Swiss cheese. The empty half. You can't even ride that thing. Remember when farming was fun? Does Harvest Moon 64 ring a bell? I often wonder why they would try and fix something so close to perfection. So instead of cheerfully harvesting your crops everyday, now you can do it in a more realistic manner: tediously. Do you like spending time with your family? If so, don't plant stuff. You have to till each square one by one, plant the seed one at a time, and then carefully water them. Of course, you'll definitely water some twice, since it's basically impossible to tell which planets you've already gone over. Now rinse and repeat for a good two thirds of the short season. The plants now take most of the month to grow and gone are the days of multiple harvests. If you're looking for something that could bore an assembly line robot, make sure you look into farming.

So stick to the animals, you say. I would agree with you, but I actually like making money. You see, cows now not only cost money to buy, but you have to seed them as well. Of course this is realistic, but extremely ridiculous. After you shell out 6 grand for a top quality cow, are you really going to want to burn another 5500? On top of all that, the cows only give milk for a year after birth. Let's do some quick calculations. If you're afraid of numbers and logic, you may want to skip this part. 11500$ is thw amount we want to make up. Let's say you're selling grade A milk (the middle path between B grade and S grade). That's 405$ a day, totaling 16200$ a year, a profit margin of 4700$. Great, not even enough to re-seed your cow. Sorry Betsy, but tonight we'll be enjoying some filet mignon.

Alright, there ARE other animals that aren't called “cow”, but why would you want them? The sheep sells for 1500, and its wool goes for 75 to start. I may not be business savvy, but getting wool once a month is not going to keep you rolling the money. Alright, so stick with the milk. At least you can buy a goat and milk that. For 40 days. Then, some strange anti-lactation disease takes over, and it becomes no more than a space-waster in your barn. You can't even sell the damn thing, and I can see why. What kind of whack-job would want a goat that doesn't do anything. The only way to get rid of your little stall-hog is to off it. I'm serious; you have to kill the thing to get it off your farm. How strangely satisfying.

Now this is where someone shouts out the inevitable argument of “mixing crops”. Oh it's so innovative. Never been done before! Ever stop and think that maybe there's a reason it hasn't been done? With so many different combinations of crops you can make, it's basically impossible to remember how long it takes for each to grow, and how profitable it will be. It would be a very cruel world without the help of internet guides. The very least they could have done is given these genetics abominations some memorable names. For example, here's a strawberry/potato hybrid. Guess what it's called! Blasphemous Starch Berry? Strawtaters? Nope. Berryto. Which seems to bear a slight… subtle similarity to another hybrid called the Berrytoma. It's the same word, for goodness sakes, they were just too lazy to finish it the first time. At this point in time please note that you cannot mix potatoes and corn, to make Porn. This was one of the first things I tried to do, but I was set back slightly by the fact that there is NO CORN IN THIS FARMING GAME.

But Harvest Moon games aren't all about the money right? Any Harvest Moon fan knows that real satisfaction comes from flirting and wooing the right lady. I was anxious to see what kind of candidates they have for marriage in this game. Sadly, saying that I was disappointed would be a disgusting understatement, which is several times worse than a gross understatement. Before you, you have the choice between: Muffy, a blonde flirt that seems incapable of independent thought. Celia, an Amish lady who fronts a dangerous orange bandana, and has the mental prowess of a houseplant . And finally, Nami, a blatant lesbian. Needless to say, I tried to marry the lesbian. I'm pretty sure it's much harder than wooing the other girls, because you have to first convince her to bat for the other team. But in the end I succeeded, and I was the proud husband of a lady who looks like a 12 year old boy.

Surprisingly, Nami let me father her children, and I didn't even have to cross-dress. Since Harvest Moon is a clean, children friendly game, you don't get to see the polygonal sprites go at it, which would have made this game 10 times as offensive, as well as interesting. Anyways, this game is split up into 6 chapters, and this is chapter 2: The birth of your child. It's honestly pretty much the same as chapter one, except you have a little brat crawling around. He seems to take after his mother, because he's weird as hell. He often asks me questions like “are you a square”, to which I reply “I can't believe you're my child”.

I seemed to have forgotten to mention that characters actually age. Sort of. In between chapters, you'll notice that some of the village persona seem to be getting on in years. Eventually, this will happen to you as well. Finally. I can run around naked like a senile old man should. Sadly, I hear that doesn't happen till the very last chapters, which I never reached. After the incredibly boring first chapter, I didn't think things could get worse, but I was wrong. That kid is too much. Needless to say, I yelled “enough with this”, slammed down the controller in a blind rage and punched the nearest baby. Then I fired up the N64 for some decent Harvest Moon.

The only real positive thing I can say about this game is that it's pretty. For a mid-life, Gamecube, Harvest Moon (now there's the kicker) game, it's really a work of art. The town, while being confusing and maybe a touch too somber, is nicely detailed. You can hit Z and go into first person view to take it all in. Sometimes I just like to look around and forget about the game altogether. It's a nice relaxing change from the daily bustle of losing money and stupid kids. Speaking of which, the character sprites are just so-so and don't really show a wealth of emotion, but it's a lot nicer than anything I'd have expected from a harvest moon game. I can honestly say that if the graphics in the harvest moon series improve any more, the game will probably start getting too realistic.

It's the same for the sound. You don't want too much realism, or it would become more of a simulator. That's why I'm glad they kept voice actors out of this series. I can't imagine Jack having a voice. It would completely wreck the nostalgia. All those years, I was able to flirt with so many girls without talking. Now THAT'S some serious game. On top of that, voice acting is rarely well executed. It takes a lot of refinement, skill and determination to record decent voices, and judging by Natsume and Marvelous' track record, I would say this was definitely a good call.

In summary, this game is like a cross between The Sims, and a cactus. Oh, but not the actual fun part of the Sims, oh my no. I'm talking about when you've been playing for 4 hours and things have gotten so repetitive you want to gauge your eyes out, but your hand is moving on its own muscle memory. That, plus the appeal and replay value of a cactus. It's nice to have sitting on your desk, you know? But really it's too painful to play with, and too much of a hassle trying to sell it back to the store. So there it sits, just waiting to be played. Every now and then, someone will take a look and say “A Wonderful Life huh? Exactly how wonderful is it?”. Your eye will twitch involuntarily at the twisted example of irony that Natsume has concocted.

Pros:

+Makes a handy coaster
+Completes your harvest moon collection
+You can use it to squish insects

Cons:

-Game Play makes you suicidal
-Innovations are really just hassles
-Everything you do makes you lose money

Overall:3

SECRET ENDING

All is not lost fellow Harvest Moon fans. I followed up on my letter to Natsume and I showed up on their doorstep with Molotov in hand. Right before I lit the rag, a bumbling Japanese employee came out to beg my forgiveness. He claimed they had been working day and night on a new Harvest Moon game, and it was just about ready to be launched. I thought for a second. Then I punched him in the pancreas and stormed into the building. I wasn't ready for any more lies from this devil company.

Infiltrating the inner breaches, developers and programmers cowered in fear behind their stainless steel desks. They pointed nervously to the large wooden double doors down the hall. I moonwalked to the final chamber and slid in on my forehead. The boss was waiting for me. He didn't have much to say, just begging my forgiveness, wanting to have my babies and so forth. Then, he guided me to a demo console, playing the newest Harvest Moon: Magical Melody. At first I let out a roar so mighty, everyone in a 2 mile radius immediately soiled themselves, but then I started playing it. It reminded me of something. While not perfect, it shared a lot of qualities with my favorite game: Harvest Moon 64. It's definitely the better Gamecube Harvest Moon game.

Satisfied that the Harvest Moon Franchise was back on it's feet, I left silently through the wall, and flew back into my bat cave, waiting to avert further gaming tragedies.

-Dougmoto (And that, my friends, is how I saved Christmas)


Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 08/31/06


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