Review by samonkeyuk

"Without a doubt the most boring game I have ever played."

I wont lie to you; I've never posted a review/written a review of a game in my life, preferring instead to play them rather than write about them, but not very long ago, something caused me to break this trend, and that something was “Harvest Moon; A Wonderful Life”. Now I've been a fan of Harvest Moon for a long while, I fondly remember the SNES version and the Playstation version, both of which I played a fair bit, and I'd be lying to you if I said I was not looking forward to the much delayed Gamecube version. And so I innocently treated myself to the Gamecube version when it was finally released, I ran home, overjoyed at the prospect of being able to once again sample rural life, and for a little while it was good.

For a little while I enjoyed rolling around in the soil and using bizarrely shaped tools to plant seeds, but after a few days the addictiveness of the game wore slowly off, to reveal perhaps one of the most shockingly monotonous games I have ever had the misfortune of playing. Now I realise this will probably make a lot of you reviewers furious, especially seeing as how Harvest Moon has received not one single bad review, but as much as I respect the opinion of my fellow reviewers, I have to ask them; “What were you thinking?!” Allow me to provide some reasons for why I believe Harvest Moon is so awful, using the traditional headings;

Story:

Something about your character being left the farm by his dead father or something, this is pretty similar to the other Harvest Moon games and quite unimportant. I'm not expecting an Orwellian work of fiction here, but I do feel a lot of the possible chances to involve the player with the characters and gaming world are completely wasted. Characters suddenly disappear without explanation, they wander about with unknown and perhaps slightly sinister motives, and about 80% of them do absolutely nothing but repeat the same lines to you year in year out. I've been told one of the delights and reasons to stick with the game is the lure to see all the little cut scenes, but I seriously doubt these will appeal to anyone over the age of ten. Witnessing the same red-eyed scientist repeat the same experiment five times in five years, and failing each time is little incentive to continue playing, indeed after the third time I was about ready to throw the game in the ocean. Especially after realising I had to walk back to my house manually in order to put my character back to sleep again.

Graphics:

The graphics are very impressive, it must be said. You can see for miles, the weather effects are really good and the water looks suitably pretty. Whilst it doesn't particularly stretch the Gamecube, it remains true to the style of the Harvest Moon games, and the animals have the traditional cute/cheeky thing going on, which will stop you from wanting to leave them outside in the rain for a year, and the young animals are so cute they are able to reduce a grown man to tears with a few blinks of their huge eyes. So well done there, everything looks very pretty, although some of the characters are quite chillingly disturbing; the homeless guy being high on the disturbing list. Shunned by the rest of the community, he is forced to beg and steal for a living, accompanied only by a swarm of flies that buzz around him at all times. Suffice to say I never dared to turn my back on him, and when my wife gave birth, I would always keep one eye on my child to prevent him from having anything to do with the homeless guy.

The Sound:

Now this is truly one of the most confusing and alarming aspects of the game. Rarely a day went by when at least one of my Bulls didn't let loose a roar of disapproval at my failure to stroke them with the brush, Cows go from mooing jovially to furiously bellowing at you, with no explanation as to what exactly you are doing to offend them. In fact all of the animals in this game are angry, and they constantly let you know it by repeating the same sound again and again, and they never stop, no matter how much you look after them, and I don't think I'll ever be able to forgive Natsume for that, I can still hear that Bull roaring at me now, and I sold the game ages ago. The music is mind-numbingly monotonous; obviously I was not expecting underground hip-hop, but I only ever got the choice of two tunes, and resorted to never playing either of them. But maybe I am being overly critical of the music, its pleasant enough for the first year or so.

Gameplay:

Now this is where things get REALLY bad, and I cannot emphasise the badness enough. Harvest Moon has always been about repeating the same tasks, tending to your cattle and chickens and crops etc, and slowly getting richer and richer. Previous Harvest Moon games made the repetition less of a chore by adding in interesting diversions and targets to aim for, so there was a point to raising vast amounts of money. In “Harvest Moon: A Wonderful life”, Natsume have removed almost all of the fun elements from previous games, and replaced them with pure tedium. Why on earth did they remove the festivals? They were clearly one of the highlights of the game, and broke up having to tend to your farm everyday. Where are the dog races and the whole town festivals and the cake competitions and the legions of other festivals that were in the old games? In “A Wonderful Life”, there is a harvest festival that consists of a few people sitting on a hill watching a hippy strum a guitar, and that's about it. Supposedly there is a horse race, but after a few years I stopped venturing into the town apart from when it was completely necessary, and so perhaps I missed that. What happened to the cooking? I was expecting a choice of hundreds of recipes, but I never got offered the chance to make anything more interesting than a light salad. In the bizarre “Harvest Moon” logic, a farmer need not live off his produce, but instead he can survive by simply eating random herbs he finds around the outskirts of his farm.

Now, much has been made of the “lifespan” of this game, and the way you could theoretically spend up to 120 hours playing it, which is an awfully long time, and an awful lot of potential for getting your moneys worth out of your purchase. But bear in mind the key word here is awful. Whether or not you will enjoy this game comes down to a single factor: “Do you want to spend 120 hours doing the same thing over and over again?” If someone offered me 120 hours of Zelda, I would be delighted. Granted, it would probably take me 6 months to play through it all, but hey, if you're enjoying yourself, then the game succeeds, does it not? I enjoyed playing “Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life” for about 4 hours, and then it slowly dawned at me that this was the entire game, and that to complete it I would have to repeat the same actions time and time again. Every animal you have will need to be spoken to and brushed at least once a day for optimum results, you have to collect all your hens eggs, you have to milk your cows, and you have to feed everything twice a day. And everything takes. so. long. Your character refuses to budge until he has given every animal a good 5 second brush, and a good 10 second cuddle, if you have 8 animals in your barn, that's a lotta brushing and cuddling to do, and the more he cared for his animals, the more aware I became that precious minutes of my life were slowly slipping away. Same with tending for your crops, your character refuses to water more than one square at a time, and the result is that watering a lot of crops can take absolutely ages, and you end up silently wishing he would just hurry up. And computer games should not be like that, they should be entertaining, they should not be a monotonous chore, playing Harvest Moon felt as though I was coming back from school, and going to work on a farm in the evening. Without being paid. It was like charity work but without the rewarding feeling you get at the end of it.

In fact, the more you play “Harvest Moon”, the more you realise Natsume are trying to turn players into social recluses. After an intense first year of courting, you marry one of the three girls “on offer”, and soon after she is pregnant and bam! A child arrives. After the hilarious naming of your child (calling him “mistake” raised a smile), he just runs about shouting badly pronounced English. That was where my playing of “Harvest Moon” ended, and my friend, desperate to see when something exciting would happen, took over. He bred cows, with soul crushingly pointless results, and he ended up sleeping for about 3 years straight in an effort to see if something exciting would happen. “Mistake” got a little older, but by then playing “Harvest Moon” was the last thing either of us ever wanted to do ever again, so I'll never get to see what career path the little guy chooses, but then its his fault, he should have helped his Daddy out on the farm a bit.

To conclude then: I hate this game. Its as if Natsume took a gang of kids crushed, broken dreams and turned them into one awful game. Feel free to ignore me and buy this game, but be warned, I don't think I have ever been so bored in all my life as I was whilst playing this, and if my kids ask me what I did with my misspent youth, “Playing Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life” will not be my response. My friend told me “This is the worst investment you have ever made”, and he was right.

1/10.


Reviewer's Score: 1/10 | Originally Posted: 05/17/04


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