Review by HandCarvedStar
"I've never been so disappointed with a game."
I'm no Harvest Moon player that has been with this game since the SNES days, but I'm not a rookie, either. I absolutely loved Harvest Moon 64, More Friends of Mineral Town & one of the older games for the GBC; I apologize for being too lazy to go upstairs to check which game it was. These games were the most addictive games I've ever played. I played HM64 for 7 hours straight, and was up until 4 a few nights ago playing MFOMT. So, naturally I was ecstatic for A Wonderful Life. I had thought this would surely be the best HM game; I couldn't even imagine how much activities & events & new things would be put into this one.
Sadly, I think it's safe to say that this may be one of the worst HM games ever.
The point in Harvest Moon is to work up to the point where you're this rich, award winning farmer that started out with nothing on the farm except for a bunch of weeds, stones, and tree stumps. However, in this game, everything's basically done for you before you even start. The farm's all cleaned up, and you've even already got a cow to take care of. Relieving? Yes, but if you're going to be trying to build up the farm the whole game, how long are you possibly going to be entertained? If I remember correctly, I didn't even consider buying a cow in the past games until nearly Autumn.
So all you basically do is plant crops that you have to water twice a day. Oh yeah, and you only water one at a time. Your watering can will never upgrade so that you can water a whole 3x3 patch of crops in one action. You also have to be positioned a realistic distance away from the crop in order to water it. If you try walking up to it, you'll end up watering the land behind it. Very frustrating. It seems to take forever to water your crops. You can also only plant one seed at a time, which adds to the frustration. Hmm, I thought games were supposed to be fun? And you can't sell your crops whenever you want. There's no shipping bin, there's only one for your animal produce. You have to wait until Van comes into town to sell them, and I think he tends to rip you off. It's not worth it.
Next, the animals. Most likely even more irritating than taking care of the crops. You have to again, be in an exact position before you can do anything. I can't tell you how many times I accidentally milked a cow instead of trying to talk to it. If you milk a cow too much, it'll get pissed at you. So I'm pretty sure my cows hated me. Taking care of them is relatively easy, and I was pleased with the little button you could press to make them all go inside instead of having to push every single one of them into the barn. A single thing of chicken feed would last for days; another plus, as in the past I always seemed to have no chicken feed the day the store was closed. Although, of course, there aren't really any stores in AWL. The horse was cool. You could actually ride it around town in this game. I did like that.
Gamers these days want realism. AWL supplied this with the breeding system of animals. In order to get chicks, you must have both a chicken and a rooster. They may have tried too hard, though. Cows take forever to give birth. I didn't play this game very long, but I only found one fertilized egg the whole time; it was too difficult. In fact, this whole game was too realistic. Watering crops two times a day, having to breed animals, etc. I will say I think they could've made the animal system a lot more enjoyable, because it really would've added to the game.
Besides taking care of your farm, there is absolutely nothing to do in Forget-Me-Not Valley. I swear that I just let my character sleep half the game in an attempt to try to get to something exciting. Sure, there's people. They're fun to meet and talk to the first couple of days. But you slowly realize that after a few weeks, they'll never really become friends with you or reveal anything about themselves. All they'll do is comment on the weather, day after day. Of course, some people will talk about things to do or how bored they are, but that's not much fun, either. There are no shops, unless you count buying seeds from the other farm or getting stuff from Van. You might as well sleep half the game.
As in nearly every Harvest Moon, there is the task of finding a girl to marry. For me, this was half the game in the HM games I've played. I liked it. The possible wives had depth; you had the opportunity to learn more about them. They also took half a year to a year to really like you. You couldn't get married until at least Autumn at the earliest in HM64, unless you cheated. AWL girls, however, are absolutely pitiful. First of all, there are only 3. You would think, with so little choice, that Natsume spent a lot of time perfecting these girls. In truth, they are just like every other person in the town. They will say the same stuff to you every day, although their lines have a little more variety. But they will not ever really reveal anything about themselves. There are little cut scenes you can work to achieve, but they're nothing special. The girls are also way too easy to woo. Just give them flowers for a week or so, and they'll be ready to marry you.
I'm sorry to say that I did not have enough willpower to play this game long enough to experience the events with the baby your wife gives birth to later on. It was most likely one of the only strong points of this game, since your son will actually grow up & choose a career path under your influence. Quite a nice touch; it's probably the only reason why I'd even consider attempting to go through that game.
Another thing this game lacked was festivals. Festivals were my motivation in HM64 and MFOMT. They kept you playing, aside from the fact that the farm work in the other games was much, much less of a chore. There's no festivals in AWL, unless you actually count those little scenes of everyone watching the hippie play his guitar "festivals." The people in this town are no fun. They do nothing.
I will say that the graphics were absolutely beautiful for a HM game. The grass moved with the wind, you could see the lightning in the sky. The water looked real & the animals looked as though they too were real if it weren't for their faces. The character design was not exactly the best with this environment, but the scenery was beautiful. Sound and music, however, was disappointing. You have to find your own music for your farm, and the tunes aren't that great. However, in the town, there isn't any music at all. There's birds chirping, and you can hear the water running, if I remember correctly. That's all. The sound effects were allright. There were some voice samples, such as the ones used in Zelda: Majora's Mask, but much more limited. The animals had decent sound effects, although the cow's angry moo sounded much more like a roar.
If you're trying out Harvest Moon for one of the first times, I would suggest renting this game first, then buying it if it appeals to you. It isn't a horrible game, especially for people who have no experience with previous HM games. However, I dare you to try to play the first few seasons and be able to claim that you were not bored out of your mind at least once. I have played HM64 over and over, but I couldn't find the strength to play past even the first year. It was that boring. Friends of Mineral Town/More Friends of Mineral Town is a much, much better buy. Now that game, is like a drug. You will be addicted.
A wonderful life? I don't think so. 4/10.
Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 08/03/05
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