Review by Chaos Control
"Where there is love, there is a wonderful life"
Natsume certainly made huge improvements to their Harvest Moon series, making every aspect of the game more realistic and fun. The result of this is Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life, which combines everything from past games like Harvest Moon 64. What's more, you can hook up this game with Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town for an added experience! There is so much you can do in this game, like fishing, digging, and picking weeds to give to other people. This is probably the best Harvest Moon game we'll see in a while because it shows just how wonderful life can be in a small town.
The game play hasn't changed much, but there is much more you can do in the town. The goal of course, is to raise a successful farm, get married, and have a son who will have some career. The weird part is, you don't really have to do anything to beat the game. Your character can just stand there in the middle of the road for 10 game years as long as he agrees to marry. That's the beauty of Harvest Moon. You can do anything you want with nobody telling you what to do. The game grants a feeling of freedom. Your character can stay up all night caring for animals, or fishing till dawn, or sleeping the years away!
The main point of the game is farming to earn money for your farm, although most of the time will be spent not farming. One easy way is to go fishing, which can actually be frustrating because you have to press buttons with correct timing in order to catch fish and if you miss it once, you lose the fish. There are 2 types of rare fishes that will make you rich if you are lucky enough to catch them. Fishes serve for more purposes as well. They can be used in recipes your character can cook to feed himself with and give as gifts to appease others. Fishes can also be given as gifts and use to feed your little puppy.
Another non-farming feature of this game is raising animals. You can use your money to purchase animals like chickens and cows. Cows will provide milk which you can give as gifts, drink, or sell for money. Milk is divided into ranks like S and A ranks depending on how well the cow is raised. If you order a bull, which serves no purpose except soak up resources and impregnate the cows, you will get a calf, which you will raise to become a cow and repeat the cycle over again. Same thing with chickens. You can order a rooster who will make chickens lay eggs. The next step is to incubate one egg at a time and do whatever you want with the rest of the eggs. A good idea would be to sell your extra animals if you need the extra money. Of course, with many animals on the farm, you have to care for them. That means that every game day, you need to brush your cows, pick up your chickens and put them down (which they like for some reason), pet your horse, and so on. They need to be fed as well. Horses and cows need fodder which you must cut with a sickle and chickens need to have feed ordered for them. As you can see, taking care of just the animals on the farm can be quite tedious, but that's not all, because there are more things you can do in this farm.
There is also the option of going digging at an archaeological site, although it is only available at a certain point of the day. You can actually dig up some pretty interesting stuff, like ancient tablets. Other items you find like crystals are perfect gifts for certain people and have a monetary value.
Probably the most important part of the game is making friends with people, which is really easy to do because all you have to do is give each person something they like. Befriending people will allow you to see special scenes with that person. I just befriend people because some of them give out quite interesting items to people they like. Gaining the perfect friendship with some villager may even help your future son find a suitable career for himself. Timing is extremely important with these people, because some people only initiate a certain scene in a very small time frame. It's a good thing that you can ride your horse around the village since it takes too much time to run from one end to the next.
The most important people to befriend are three women, one of whom must be your future wife in order to continue with the game. Some people may be groaning about forced marriage, but just think of it as domestic training. Each of the three girls have their likes and dislikes, so just keep giving them their favorite stuff and they will fall for you in no time. It's too bad girls aren't as easy to pick up in real life. The three girls are named Nami, Celia, and Muffy, and they each have very different personalities. After reaching a certain level of affection (which you can tell by the number of hearts a girl writes in her easily-accessible diary), you will initiate four different scenes. Each of the scenes will require you to pick one of two options, so you can either greatly boost your relationship with that character, or the complete opposite. You will receive a Blue Feather item which you will use to propose to a woman.
While all this marrying business sounds fun, there is actually a lot of seriousness. Some of these scenes will make you feel like a puppy kicker if you choose the wrong response. One such situation is this: one of the girls is extremely depressed, running away from her home and all. She goes to your farm and basically asks to be married to you. Should you choose to reject her, oh boy, it's gonna get really ugly. Harvest Moon actually provides some valuable lessons regarding girlfriends in real life.
There is just so much to do in Forget Valley as you can see, because we haven't even talked about farming yet! In your farm, you will have one patch of land, which probably contain more squares for planting seeds than you need. You need to know some basic farming techniques to ensure a bountiful harvest. One example of a farm technique is not planting a seed in every square, but to space it out so that each seed as enough soil around it to soak up enough nutrients. The most boring part of the game is watering the plants. You must water each plant individually, probably multiple times if you want them to grow stronger. As the crops dry out, you must water them again. Once your pail runs dry, you have to run over and refill it. There is no such thing as a mass-watering pail. Like farmers in real life, you will be very happy when it rains.
Economics is also an important part of this game. Every month or so, a traveling salesman will arrive in the village and put up shop. You can buy some cool stuff from him, or you can sell him your junk because he buys everything. When he is not there, YOU can set up shop too, and whistle for people walking by to look at your goods. They will see something they like and offer a price for it. You can accept it or haggle some more. This is yet another aspect of the game that will have you running all over the place, but it is really worth it to see your farm grow to be the envy of the village.
The story is kind of confusing at first. It seems as though your father, who is now gone, wants you to inherit the farm. You do so, with your father's close friend helping you. I only understood that when I played the game a second time. Otherwise, the story is just to get married, have a kid, and a wonderful life. The story is split into several chapters, in which you will see the people of the valley grow old, children grow up, and much more. People do die in this game, so it would be a nice idea to treat them well while they are still around!
Graphically, Harvest Moon is surprisingly good. The environment changes really well as the seasons come and go. You can really tell the effects of spring, summer, fall, and winter. All your animals have kind of a goofy, comic book appearance, even more emphasized by the little speech bubble with hearts in it. The people are surprisingly realistic, although they are chibi. One thing to note is the river, which actually does look like a river because the river runs so realistically! Although you can't actually see any fish in it, the river and the waterfall looks quite pretty.
In the sound department, Harvest Moon is still above average. The sounds of the environment, like the path you walk on, the chirping of the birds, and running water all sound natural. The mooing of the cows, clucking of chickens, and the gallop of the horses all sound exactly the way they should be. The sound effects are nice, too. Overall, there is nothing much to complain about.
On the other hand, I didn't really like the music. There is a record player in your room which will play music that somehow carries very far, and most of the time I have no background music playing because it's more realistic.
This game has a high play time because it is still very fun despite all of the work. I found myself playing this game for a couple months because I find something new every time. That said, the replay value is moderately high, because you can follow a totally different path. Have your child follow a different career, or marry a different woman. Other factors that add to replay value could also include hooking up this game to the Game Boy Advance game and seeing what new changes occur. The possibilities seem endless, partly because this is the most complex Harvest Moon game I can think of.
While a game devoted to farming and caring for animals may seem boring, I recommend that you buy this game anyway because it provides a very solid gaming experience. Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life has been completely revamped, even though there are some spelling errors and a few glitches. Those who have previously played Harvest Moon games should definitely not miss this game and buy it since I hear it's pretty cheap nowadays. Newcomers are still recommended to try this game out because you never know what life will throw at you next.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 05/30/07
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