Review by orporg
"A solid addition to the Harvest Moon series"
First off, I'm primarily a Back To Nature player, so most of my comparisons will to be to that game though I have dabbled with Save the Homeland and Harvest Moon 64.
I'd give this game a score of 7.5 out of 10 overall. It builds on some of the strengths of the Gamecube but is dissapointing in some ways.
The graphics for A Wonderful Life are a welcome change from Back to Nature and Save the Homeland. Instead of the squashed sprites from Back to Nature we have fully rendered 3D characters. The characters lack very fine detail but they get the job done and most importantly, they get the mood of the characters across. I do miss the anime style still portraits from Back to Nature but not much. The lighting and transparency effects are used very well. While the graphics aren't in the same league as Unreal or Final Fantasy X they don't hurt the overall game at all. High res graphics are never what has driven Harvest Moon.
This is the area that dissapoints the most. I think good sound effects can add a lot to a simulation game but in A Wonderful Life they are barely adequate. They give you the audio cue you need to find out if an action has been performed but not much more than that. I would have liked to have more ambient environmental sound affects but alas, they aren't there. The music for the game is nothing to write home about and it gets repetitive fast. But, you can turn it off and in a game like Harvest Moon the music is just filler anyways.
This is the heart of Harvest Moon and where the game really shines. It's hard to describe why it's so much fun to milk your cow and water your crops but it is. Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life sucks you in and doesn't let go. Overall, the gameplay is superb, but let's get a few of the negative out of the way first:
The control needs polishing. The A button, which performs most actions is context sensitive (i.e. what function it performs depends on where your character is physically positioned in relation to other objects in the game world) which is fine, but it's too senstive sometimes. The only time when this is really a problem is when you're cutting grass. Cutting grass is a real pain thanks to the A button sensitivity. You'll spend more time looking at your sickle than you will cutting grass. This grass-cutting annoyance is by far the greatest flaw of the game. The A button finickiness does also come up when dealing with critters and characters though it's not as bad as the grass situation. Still, it can be frustrating.
Also, the festivals have been deleted which really is a shame as they were so much fun. You still get random cutscenes however.
Lastly, you character could use a little more speed when walking. He doesn't move agonizingly slow but I do wish you could make him run faster.
Ok, now let's get on to the good parts of the game. All the elements you love from older Harvest Moon games are pretty much intact. Some things have been complexified (such as selling crops) and you now have to water your plants and tend to your critters twice a day, instead of once. Also, time does not stop when you are in doors. Which never made sense to me anyways.
Courting a bride is still the blast its always been though I was dissapointed to find only 3 girls to choose from. Dealing with your neighbors is also just as fun as alwyas and you now have a more eclectic mix of folks to socialize with.
You'll still have plenty of crops to choose from and new animals to raise.
If you've enjoyed the previous Harvest Moon games at all you'll like A Wonderful Life just as much, if not for. It adds enough differences from the other Harvest Moon games to make the experience fresh and keeps the elements that made those games a blast to play as well.
If you own a Gamecube, I suggest picking this game up.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 03/19/04
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