Review by GCX
"Who Knew Farming Could Be This Fun?"
Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life, is the next installment of Natsume's hit farming and life simulation game for the Nintendo Gamecube. It has added a lot to the Harvest Moon formula, with the most outstanding addition being that you can actually grow old and die in this one. You can also have a son that grows older and depending on what he is exposed to, he can grow up to be like any number of people. There is much to be done in this game besides farming also. There is mining, fishing, tending to animals, and you can even hold a farmers' market of sorts. Now I will get into how the different sections of the game add up.
Harvest Moon: AWL has some very average graphics. Nothing in the game looks horrible, but Natsume could have made the game a lot more appealing given what the GCN is capable of. The player models look very plain, with only a few distinguishing characteristics between them. The animals are done very nicely though in my opinion. The horse gallops along and hardly ever misses a beat, and the chickens eat their feed by pecking at the ground. The best looking thing graphically in this game would have to be the water effects. The rivers and streams in the game look so real and lifelike; you just expect to see fish jumping in them. The rain has a very realistic effect also. Overall this games graphics are probably on par with the rest of the GCN lineup, not lagging behind but nothing to gawk in awe at.
The audio serves the purpose in this game. The music on your farm is produced from records that you can find there. There are some catchy tunes, but they eventually become monotonous and boring. You have the choice of playing no music at all if you wish. All of the animal sounds are on par. The cows moo, the chickens cluck, the ducks quack, and so on and so forth. You might think you were on actual farm with all the noises going on. The rain makes a very convincing sound as it pours down on your farm also. Overall, the animal sounds serve their purpose, but you might want to turn those records off after an hour of gameplay.
This is where the game really shines. If you purchased this game, you probably already knew how the gameplay goes. You inherit a farm, and you have to run it. You can plant array of vegetables, from turnips to watermelons. In this one, though, you can also plant a variety of fruit trees. There are apple, orange, banana, and grape trees and maybe one or two more. You can tend to chickens that lay eggs, sometimes even a rare golden egg. You can have cows which you milk twice a day, and sheep that you can raise and sheer their wool. There is also a social factor to this game. You have a choice of one of three potential wives, and after you marry one you have a kid that will grow up with you. Depending on the people you know, your son can have one of six different jobs. If you can't make money farming or raising livestock, you can go mining or fishing. Unfortunately, both these activities are pretty mundane. Fishing is about as fun as it is in real life. You sit there for what seems like an eternity waiting for the fish, only to lose them when they do hit. You can also socialize with the townsfolk and give them some of your fresh produce, which adds a nice social factor in the game that can reward you with new tools and a wife. The gameplay is very good in this game, but it seems to go by a lot slower in this game than in other versions of Harvest Moon.
The controls in the game are very simple and easy to learn. The A button is used for most all of the actions, from talking to people to milking the cow. The Y button is used to shift through your backpack's contents and the X button lets you eat any foods you are holding or pet the animals. The control stick, like in just about any other game, controls your character, while the C Stick is used to rotate the view. The L trigger centers the camera behind your character and the R trigger is used to whistle for your dog. The Z button is used to get a first person perspective from your farmer. The only semi-clunky part of the controls comes with watering the plants. You could be standing directly over one plant, but a yellow square will be around the other and that is the one you will water. It causes you to do some unnecessary watering sometimes, but it is the only fault I find with the controls and it is very minor. The controls fit this game very well.
There is no multiplayer to be found in Harvest Moon, but then again it has never really needed one. Plus, I don't believe Natsume has found a fun and engaging way for two players face off in the realm of gardening. It can be connected to Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town for GBA via a link cable, but since I do not own HM:FoMT or a GBA link cable, I cannot comment on how well this works out.
Overall, this game is above average, but it may not appeal to every gamer. Not everyone thinks of tending to a farm as good quality entertainment, but you would be surprised. It has improved in many ways over its predecessors, yet some parts of it go to slow to keep you engaged for very long periods at a time. Given enough time and an open mind, though, and it will quickly become very addictive. I would suggest anyone that has ever played and enjoyed a previous Harvest Moon game should definitely buy this one. If you never played one before, I'd strongly suggest you rent, because it might just grow on you. Pun intended.
OVERALL RANKING: 8/10
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 06/15/04
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