Review by SafaiaRyuujin
"An honest review by a long-time fan."
Harvest Moon is a classic series that's been around since the SNES days; from then it's been quite the cult series, and up to now--excluding the game that have/will follow it--has kept its fans quite pleased. Unfortunately, with this instalment, the many changes have really thrown fans off, causing many to lose hope in the game. Rest assured, though, Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life is not a completely bad game, it's just different and takes some time to accept.
Gamplay: 5 / 10
Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life does take quite a bit of time getting used to for even the long-term fans; its gameplay is quite different, but one should be able to learn the controls and the general flow of the game within minutes if need be. To start, though, there are many aspects of the game that have changed: farming, tending to animals, the family, making friends, getting married, etc. Each of these has to some extent changed, not necessarily a great amount, but enough to confuse players.
Farming: This time around crops are practically useless, and yet there's a lot more to them. For one, you usually end up having to water crops multiple times per day (usually twice), crops now come in packs of one (not 9), you can now grow trees (do not need to be watered), and you may only water one crop at a time; there are also hybrids, but that's another story. Though this may not seem like much, the real issue is that you hardly make any money off the crops for all the work you put into them: you may make 35g off a crop that cost 30g to buy. More or less, the actual farming part of the game has gone downhill since it's become so useless and only a waste of time and effort.
Animals: This time they are again similar to before, but now have new animals (goats and ducks), multiple classes of cows, and the animals need more care. The new animals are quite interesting to anyone who's wanted to see some more animals in the games, but they're basically the exact same as the others; the ducks lay eggs just like the chickens, and the goat gives milk like the cow. Additionally, before animals can make a profit they may have to meet certain requirements such as cows giving birth (it takes a few seasons for the cows to grow up, then they must be impregnated and you'll end up waiting another few months before they give milk for about 40 days--hardly worth it), or having a rooster for the chickens. Adding on, you will also have to nuzzle the animals and wash them on a regular basis to keep them happy, and the quality of their produce can change without warning. Lastly, cows can be milked twice a day, providing multiple bottles of milk each time (this will vary), and are, at best, only good for a short while; they're hardly worth the costs.
Family: Probably the most interesting part of A Wonderful Life is the family structure, which seems to only improve upon the other games and has no real cons. For those that have played the other Harvest Moon games and wished for a chance to actually get to interact with the child on a meaningful level, now you can. You can buy toys for your child, read his diary, watch him grow up and become an adult, watch him set his own goals in life and choose one of several careers (such as an artist), plus give him gifts and be an actual father to him. Likewise, you can grow old with your wife (which you do) and give her gifts as well. It feels like an actual family this time. As the game progresses your son will even get his own room and both you and him will engage in several scenes to show him growing up. This is probably the best aspect of the game and many people may even buy it for this alone.
Lastly, getting married has been dumbed down and can be done within 3 seasons without much of a hassle. Tying into this, making friends has also been dumbed down as there aren't many events with them--atleast none of much depth (excluding the girls)--and it's more or less just a matter of giving them a gift a day and hoping they like you. The same goes with getting married: you give them a gift a day and sooner or later you can propose to them. Now this may seem similar to before, but one must keep in mind that there are few in-depth events and thus it can seem very dull.
Story: 6 / 10
The story is basically the same as before: you take over a farm and want to make it prosperous. In Marvelous Interactive's defense, though, not much could be said about the storyline and it would generally end up being the same anyhow. However, the storyline has been used to death already (they did spice it up this time, but it's basically the same), and therefore does not make it that great of a storyline, but it is the best for the actual game. Moving on, as the game progresses you will get to see the farm become successful, your family grow, your house become expanded and the town itself change.
Graphics and Sound: 7 / 10
The graphics in this game are by far the best in any Harvest Moon game to date. They make the game absolutely beautiful and show the potential of Gamecube's graphics. Now, many may complain that Harvest Moon does not have great graphics compared to, say, Metroid Prime, but the graphics suit the game to a tee and--excluding only a few very common graphical problems--they are perfect. Very little can be done the graphics, and they are fine as they are. The rain and weather effects make you feel what it would be like on a farm under the conditions; the night and day feature is very gradual and seems very realistic; the seasons gradually change allowing you to literally stay and watch the seasons change throughout the year without any jumps--they are all gradual and flow perfectly. There is little more to be said about the graphics, but keep in mind that they do fit the game and what it should be.
The sound, on the other hand, can be very repetitive. You are given two records to play at first--most people will only ever have these two--and after hearing t he same song over and over again for a year's worth of gameplay, or maybe 10 (approximately 10 hours of the same song) it does get a little annoying. In fact, the music can actually make people not want to play because it's so repetitive and makes the gameplay seem very boring. Sound effects, though, are done quite well like the birds chirping, but can become annoying after hearing a "moo!" sound 12 times in a row (taking care of 4 cows).
Playtime / Replayability: 4 / 10
Playtime through A Wonderful Life will vary greatly depending on the amount of time you put into your days and whether or not you use the alarm clock. From my experience, a good estimate of typical gameplay (playing about 2 days an hour--yes, they are that long) would account for nearly 200 hours of gameplay. That's a lot of time, and most of it is very repetitive; note that the playtime will vary greatly, but this is what I've found to be, so it should end up being over 100 hours atleast if you play the game properly. Another note is that the game takes many a good month or two to actually complete, and this will take up a lot longer than any other game you may play. So if you're looking for a game that will last you a long time, this one's for you; if you're looking for a game that will be a quick burst of fun than this probably isn't.
As for replayability, there are three wives, three different children and many different outcomes so if you have the time this game can last you quite a long time. Keep in mind, though, that most people can barely make it through a single file, so although the replayability value is high it's also quite doubtful that you'll play again.
I would personally suggest buying the game since it's almost impossible to beat with a 3-day rental and it will take you a long time to actually beat if you do but it. Furthermore, the game, although this review may sound negative, is actually a lot of fun! You really just have to find something fun to do in it and keep yourself entertained, unfortunately many people don't give it a chance and automatically assume it's boring. Lastly, if you're new to the Harvest Moon series I would suggest a game such as Back to Nature of Harvest Moon 64 first; the classics are always the best to start with.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 12/17/04
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