Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life
Review by ziggyme
"Why'd they let Marvelous make it again?"
Now, sure, go ahead, call me harsh. Yes, I am giving this game a 6. I can't say I really think it deserves more. I enjoyed this game to a certain extent, but too many hyped people came around and decided that this game was the best in existence. To try to counterbalance the insane fanboyism surrounding this game, I write this review.
Now, I thought this was a nice game and all, and slightly above average, however, Harvest Moon is a prestigious game chain, and this needs to measure up. To be fairly blunt, it doesn't.
I am giving this the highest rating because whoever did the graphics had some vague inkling of what they were doing. The graphics are beautiful. Everywhere you go, it is highly detailed. The graphics are easily the best from the entire game series.
Oh, and it includes the option of using the Z button to do first person. Then it really shines. You see, I stared up guessing that I would see random constellations. I saw actual constellations, rather than lots of little blips on a black map. That showed me how awesome the graphics truly are. The characters are detailed (at least on the outside), the graphics are beautiful in general, the fishing system is great. The only complaint I really have resides in the bit where sometimes the gameplay and the graphics don't match up. For instance, when you water your plants mroe often than not the water graphics will go on a different square than the plant is. A bit odd.
Oh... The gameplay...
Right. It works like a charm, assuming a charm stays around for a couple centuries while it rots. The gameplay will be interesting, to say the least. It has a similar set-up, although you can't train your dog, like it claims. It has shortcuts and makes farming more or less easy. Of course, it still has yet to produce a watercan that will, I dunno, water more than one plant at a time, but that's pretty minor.
The real complaint lies in the fact that the tedium may very well make your brain knaw its way out. Sure, you get through the first year, and all is happy, you learn the ropes, everyone is your friends, you have a bit of cash.
You do the exact same thing the second year.
Come to think of it, you do it the third year to.
Actually, screw that, you do that for the remaining years of the game.
See, other Harvest Moon games had a goal that you continually strived for. Something that was out of your reach, and that if you worked hard enough, maybe, just maybe, you might get it. It always required a long, long time of franticness and trying to get everything done.
AWL gives you the opposite problem. You have nothing to do. Sure, you can try to get hybrids and all, but what do you do with the remainder? If you profiteer, the game does not reward you. The only skill you need in this game is lots and lots of patience. You don't need these alleged reflexes. Nope. Just patience. See, in other Harvest Moon games, you needed to get the hang of it, and work like crazy. This one is a bit of a sedative. All the villagers can be befriended quite easily. Wooing goes very quickly. I mean, in some other games I can remember that grabbing a wife required several years of work. I kinda did the same thing and I realized Celia had four hearts by the first day of summer. Almost all villagers will get on your good side with ten straight days of work. That's it.
One of the most common complaints on the message board is that everyone profiteered or cheated to get tons of cash and now there is nothing to do. Sure, you can buy the mysterious milking room, but glitches abound in it, and it eventually just royally screws you. I could've bought it early in my third year, no cheats. In other Harvest Moon games, this wasn't the case. You have to find a way to kill time, essentially. The irony is where you bought the game to stave off boredom.
Now, the villagers say two, maybe three things tops throughout an entire season. this alone wouldn't be so bad, except that it doesn't change yearly. Chapterwise it changes, but not yearly. Oh no. Lumina will say the same thing to me after a complete year goes by.
Oh, and the marriage system...
Normally I'd tell you not to get me started, but apparently that won't work. You see, you are married by default. Now, I understand that you have to raise your child and all, but this is ridiculous. 40 days to choose your wife. That's it. Then you can easily woo them in, like, ten days. Yup, ten days. You heard me right. It takes almost no skill to woo your bride.
Then there's the childraising system. This was probably the best done, although it was still slow, but so is everything else in the game. The only real problem I had was that for the most part it was shrouded in mystery. You ahd to work incredibly hard at it. Incredibly. But it narrowed it down to skill, which I actually enjoyed.
OK, now most games have minigames to keep things fresh, this game is no exception.
There is a triangle minigame, but after a while you realize there really is no prize and that as soon as you play it, you are already the loser, even if you win. It hurts to play.
You get to polish a gravestone. Now, as to what the developers were on while they made this mini-game is beyond me, but apparently in Japan the hip thing is to work hard on polishing gravestones with a set time limit! Yeah, you would think that the dead wouldn't be all that impatient, but no... they have to have their gravestones polished snappy!
Fishing is perhaps the best waste of your time. Harvest Moon sports a wide range of fish depending on season, time, and all that fun bosh. Depending on where you fish you might also get a rare fish and score big cash. Excellent.
Replay: 2/10: They try, they fail. The only thing worth replaying is raising your son. That's it. Don't try to replay anything else. In all likeliness you spent the last 300 hours in tedium, and you don't want to do it again. If for some reason you liked the first 300 hours, congrats, go play it again.
OK, normally the sound is horrible, as several of the voices sound like they have serious issues, but the change comes in linking. You see, Linking is what they sported on the version, and it rules in sound. You see, it gives you the option to play tons of tunes, including some pretty nostalgic past-times, like the original Harvest Moon music for the Super Nintendo. Now, that simply rocks.
You farm. Get it? Yup, you farm, while some old guy narrates your life. Normally I'd fail this right here, but it gets a tad better.
It develops. The characters grow, things change. Yes, there are events, the town grows, your child grows too. The story I say is excellent relative to the rest of the game, which isn't saying much. However, by the end I just wanted most of the characters to die a slow painful death. I put it slightly above average because of the child raising thing.
The only perfect score, because Harvest Moon is always original. It is rarely a good thing, but it is always original. How many times do you get to experience polishing gravestones and playing ridiculous minigames for a living? Yup, no cave trolls, no orcs, no goblins. Just plain Harvest Moon. It has almost no violence at all, and that is a pleasant change.
Rent or Buy?
Rent, unless you like it, then you can play this game all you want, although I wouldn't advise it.
Verdict: I personally love the series, but this just didn't measure up. The tedium is the cause of complaint for oh so many newcomers to the game. If you want a nice relaxing game, go for it. If not, don't.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 03/15/05
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