Review by And1Viper

"A Wonderful Life Indeed"

Harvest Moon is one of the most unique and appealing game series of all time. Back from the SNES days, Harvest Moon caught on quickly around the world and soon became a craze in America. Now, its no Zelda or Final Fantasy, but Harvest Moon has entertained a few generations with its laid-back farming, its creative system, and its wonderful adventures, and now, after the long wait, the newest entry into the Harvest Moon trilogy has final arrived: Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life!

Graphics: 10
When you first see the graphics on this game, you may be wondering why I gave it a 10. You see, Harvest Moon has never been the most beautiful game in the market. Graphics aren’t everything; however, the graphics on this baby are pretty damn good, especially for a Harvest Moon game.

You can find yourself one morning sitting on your farm, and looking up at the dark sky, watching the stars as the moon passes overhead. The sun rise and sun set look great as well, as well as everything else. The grand Forget-Me-Not Valley is in full 3D, and is all one area, a great one indeed. You can rotate the camera as much as you please to draw in the breathtaking scenery, and you can switch to first-person view to stare down those slowly-dropping leaves, leaving behind shadows. Shadows loom around every object, whether the light source is the sun or the dazzling, glowing flowers in the Sprites’ spring.

The player models are excellent as well, in full 3D once again, and your character’s expressions change depending on his feelings. Animals now have more animations, crops have more appearances, and your farm is as magnificent as it ever was. Water is beauteous, and overall, the graphics far exceed the expectations of any true Harvest Moon fan.

Sound: 8
There’s not much to complain about the sound. You now have a record player in your home, which can be turned off to stop the farm music. On the other hand, you can collect records to play more music, including some classic Harvest Moon themes and change things up! You will find yourself returning to your farm just to hear those cheery tunes.

Sound effects are crisp and clean, from the mooing of your cows, to the whining of your bulls, to the clash of thunder during a hurricane, it’s all there. You won’t be disappointed with the sound, but nothing too impressive, something that Harvest Moon games don’t really need to be excellent.

Control: 8.5
Many people have complained about the controls, but the truth of the matter is, you’ll get used to it. At first, you might have a tough time, but after a day or two, you will master it. You might begin accidentally trying to milk your cow when you just want to talk to it, or watering the ground instead of that juicy watermelon, but you WILL learn. You move with the control stick of course, the A button is for actions that you will see in the upper right corner (similar to the Zelda games), X is normally for your rucksack (including placing items into it), Y is for misc. controls that you also see in the upper right corner, L is to centre the camera, and R is to whistle. I don’t need to be a talking manual for you, so you get the picture. Controls COULD be less sensitive, but as I said before, after a day or two you will master them.

Story: 9
Your father recently passed, and left you his farm. Nothing too unique to the world of Harvest Moon. You and your late father’s business partner, Takakura, are left to turn a finally clean farm into the grand vision your father once had.

The story is divided into chapters, spanning over 30 years, each chapter divided into varying lengths, with varying “objectives”. Of course, there are no real objectives in Harvest Moon games, but a very early and obvious example is that you’re “objective” in chapter one is to marry. The story is much vaster than the previous “clean up your father’s farm and make it successful” stories, but the real meat is in the gameplay, not much so in the story.

Gameplay: 10
The real deal, the most important part of any game, the big money… you get the picture. The core of the Harvest Moon series and in AWL of course, is the gameplay. In AWL, the gameplay is vastly different from any before it. Natsume and Victor Interactive Software have taken a big risk to remove some key elements of the Harvest Moon series, but have done an outstanding job otherwise.

Now, seeds only cover one square on land, and produce one product. This results in additional planning, and more creativity on your part. There are much more vegetables and fruits you can grow, such as watermelons, apples, grapes, bananas, peaches, and oranges. Fruits, a new addition, you grow by planting trees. Trees, unlike any vegetable crop, produce more than one product, but are more expensive and require additional care. The hoe, watering can, and sickle return to help you with the crops, along with the new fertilizing option, which determines the quality of crops (along with which one of the 3 fields you use). A few key tools were missing, however, namely the axe and the hammer.

The axe and the hammer, favorites among many players, are no longer needed. The farm is crystal clear, and you no longer require wood. You receive upgrades either automatically, or by ordering them. This leaves you time to do other things, such as the now improved fishing, where you can catch many, many more types of fish, the dig site, which is a variation of the mine, or just take care of the animals or other matters at the farm.

The animal system has extended beyond believe. You can now have hens, roosters, chicks, male and female ducks, normal cow, normal bull, brown cow, brown bull, star cow, star bull, marble cow, marble bull, sheep, goats, a horse, your trusty dog, and a cat.

Now, instead of having just chickens and just cows, you must manage your animals more. You need a rooster to fertilize your hens’ eggs, you need bulls to mate your cows, and you must decide on the type of cow you want. You can raise four types of cows, which vary in price and have slightly different kinds of milk. Sheep are generally the same, goats produce milk like cows, and your dog/cat are loyal companions. Your horse, which you can finally ride out of your farm, will prove to be an extremely important aspect of your life. You can get a lot more done when you travel around on horseback.

You must feed some animals twice a day, some once (you must feed them by hand if they do not eat), and you can now talk, nuzzle, brush, wash, and push them. Your dog will scare off intruders if fed properly using and type of food, a great way to get those annoying characters off your land without needing a shotgun!

As for the girls, there are three to choose from. Yes only three. Each, however, has such a unique personality, that there’s someone for everyone! Your child and your life will be extremely different depending on who you marry, so choose wisely! You have the cute farm girl, Celia, the beautiful flirt, Muffy, and the intelligent and shy Nami to choose from!

There is so much to talk about the gameplay to talk about that it’d be best for you to find out most of it on your own!

Play Time/Replayability: 10
For each real second, one minute goes by in game. That’s one real minute per hour. You sleep exactly 6 hours a day, therefore there are 18 real minutes in each day. There are 10 days a season, which works, trust me, and four seasons a year. You play 10 of the 30 years the story spans (you skip a certain number of years between chapters), which totals:

18x10x4x10=7200 minutes=120 hours.

Wow, 120 hours! Even the best of the best games sometimes only have ~20 hours at most! And get this, this is EXCLUDING all the time you spend in menus, conversations, or time you spend bargaining with Van, the traveling salesman! You spend approximately 6 minutes a day where time does not travel, that’s one third of a day! So…

120x1.33=160

160 hours! And that’s for one game file! If you decide to start again and marry someone else, have a different approach on life, and have a very different experience… that’s… 320 hour! Amazing… What’s that? You want to marry the final girl? Ok... 480 hours!!! Point made hopefully…

Final Recommendation: BUY!
I hope after all that, you make the right decision to buy this wonderful game. The fun factor is off the roof, and it’s highly addictive. You need no previous knowledge of any Harvest Moon game, not one bit, and die-hard Harvest Moon fans will receive a refreshing experience. Renting this game only means you get this game 3 nights later and you lose a few bucks.

Final: 10 (Not an average)
This truly is… A Wonderful Game.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 03/21/04


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