Review by Wraith10x
"Another Farming Cult Classic"
Once again Natsume delivers another smashing success in their popular Harvest Moon series. Gamers of all ages will be glued to their machines as they immerse themselves in the alternate life of agriculture and courting.
Clearly the best set of graphics yet seen on a harvest moon game. The harvest moon series is renowned more for its detailed gameplay than for graphics but natsume has clearly put the gamecube's superior abilities to good use. The textures on the ground are beautiful and the scenery is engrossing. Buildings contain all sorts of details that make them realistic and fun to explore, there are even little puffs of dust that trail behind your feet while you run. In some spots however the graphics are detrimental, particularly when you are found looking through the branches of a tree or a building. Also it is sometimes difficult to see the bobber because there is so much detail in the water that it doesn't provide for as much contrast.
The sound gets repetitive after a while. You can upload new sounds if you have a gameboy advance but otherwise you may be out of luck. Your farm has background music that gets tedious after a while and you have one other record to switch it with, unless you accidentally gave it away like I did. There is generally no background music walking around outdoors and the lack is noticeable. Walking sounds and effects, such as while fishing, are all wonderfully done. Many characters' houses have background music playing in them as well. Personally I preferred the seasonally changing music of past harvest moon games along with the music signaling a time of day change.
Not being able to adjust your view indoors is a definite minus in my opinion. It would be so much easier if you could just look behind you. It would also be nice to be able to pan the view with the c stick. You can however switch to a first person view, however you cannot walk around like that. The overhead view is often annoying if there are trees with overhanging branches around; it is useful for tilling fields though. I think overall the controls are fairly sharp, though it takes a bit of getting used to to make sure you use the right action when there is more than one. Gamers who played the chao gardens on sonic adventure 2 battle will recall what it's like to have more than one function mapped to the same button and have to get the correct one to appear before you can use it.
Gameplay is what harvest moon games are known for, their non-linear nature. You can go anywhere and do anything you want. Just remember, even though no one is telling you to feed your cows at 6am on the dot doesn't mean you can safely forget about them!
The map takes a bit of getting used to without getting lost; the town layout is far less easily laid out and intuitive than in previous games. An overlay map you could call up would have been a nicer touch than having to go to your inventory screen all the time.
Sometimes it is unclear how you should proceed especially in the beginning when you have little in the way of supplies, more of a tutorial on how to buy equipment and seeds would have been a welcome addition even for veterans of the series.
I preferred the previous games' time management where time stopped while you were indoors, it allowed you to get far more done in the day even if it was less realistic.
By far the best improvement over previous games is the expanded inventory. Players who remember other games in the series will recall what it was like to always have a full inventory and never be able to do anything. Some items have also been made stackable, this is a whopping expansion to the game and well worth the extra memory block slots.
Having to eat is a bit of an annoyance at times. Your character will complain of being hungry and will get dizzy a lot. While you can pick up almost any edible item by far the best way to sate his hunger is to cook a meal. That's where it gets tricky. In the beginning you can cook two things, but there are no instructions for what ingredients you need. After many failed attempts and unknown dishes I have still yet to find anything that works out.
Another less than intuitive factor is when you put things in the shipping bin. The money does not go to you automatically, you have to read the ledger to retrieve your cash, I thought I had been ripped off at first.
There are definitely numerous less than intuitive factors and a bit of a steep learning curve but that doesn't do more than create a minor annoyance. The gameplay is still rich and rewarding.
With so many things to do and so many ways to do it I'm sure you will be enjoying this game over and over!
Overall this promises to be one of the best games in the harvest moon series and you owe it to yourself to at least try it. If you liked past harvest moon games you won't be disappointed and you should definitely purchase it!
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 03/24/04
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