Review by orendt
"A groan of tedium escapes me: Setting the Review Record Straight"
I'd like to start by saying that I've read about 7 of the reviews that are already on here. I love the Harvest Moon series, which is why I picked this game up instantly and without question. It didn't seem like a mistake at first, but it got harder to bear as time wore on.
The game starts, farm cleared, full field of grass, you already have a cow, and some creepy dude named Takakura (which I think is Japanese for 'huge eyebrows') lives on your farm.
The graphics are absolutely stunning. Everything about the way this game looks rocks, except for the characters' expressions. I didn't enjoy the squinty 'happy' eyes all that much.
The sound is very nice and is intended to convey a sense of realism and environment. It does this well by not having much music playing. The only time you hear music is right on your farm, when you are in buildings, and when you go near the bar or the guitar-playing guy. The music is wonderful but sparse. You can change the tunes on your farm anytime, but you only start with 2 records. I dug one up once, and I have read that you get many more by connecting with the stellar HM: Friends of Mineral Town. The other things you hear are "nature sounds." Birds chirping, babbling brooks, rushing tides, and clanking metal/buzzing electricity. Wait... what? Yeah, there are a couple screwy characters in the game the have odd sounds coming from their homes rather than delightful music.
The gameplay, outside of actually working on the farm, is merely O.K.
The controls just feel... screwy. The analog stick is ridiculously sensitive, to an annoying extent. Pushing the R button positions the camera behind you, yet in the most awkward way possible. It literally just instantly is behind you. I like the camera to actually rotate around the character (rather quickly) when I hit a button that is meant to do that. You don't really need to use that feature, though, so it's not all that bad.
The farming:tending to your animals (dog, cows, chickens, sheep, and a couple secret animals) and planting/caring for crops. Pretty standard for a FARMING GAME, especially Harvest Moon. It is beyond-words tedious to do these things. You can only till, plant, and water one square at a time ever, even after getting the best tools. The camera switches to a fixed position anytime you walk on prepared soil, which can be annoying if you don't plan on actually doing anything with it and are just passing over. To care for cows and sheep, you have to be in nearly exact positions to do anything. Everything that mus be done daily must be done twice: watering, feeding, milking, etc.
The characters: fun for the first couple days of the game. Seriously, really fun. I loved them all. Very distinct personalities. A smelly bum, a mad scientist, a muscular and mo-hawked metallurgist that calls flowers 'sweet, a hippy dude with peace signs on the seat cushions on his floor, etc. There are, however, only 3 girls to marry. The characters say the same things day in and day out. At least when you give them something they don't really like, you can keep it. Anyway, after the first couple days, the characters get horribly repetitive. The girls show as much emotion when accepting a proposal as you would when the news comes on. A few of the characters are jerks, including one of your potential brides. This just makes them annoying.
There are countless translation errors and plenty of just blantantly misplaced info. Dig up some "pretty ore" and try to give it to a townsperson. You'll hear something like "That looks tasty" or "You've got some good food there." I can't remember the last (or first) time I enjoyed chewing on a huge, jagged crystal. And I have a great memory. You'll find errors like "too," instead of "tool" constantly. I, personally, have never used the connectivity feature, but everything I've read points to red flags. You literally almost need an FAQ to figure out how to connect.
There are no festivals, the town is as sparse as they come (it's huge, but there are like... 5 buildings), it's a pain to get from here to there (until you get the horse), and they give no explanation as to why you can't go up the road to town, you just aren't allowed to. Very few shops, as well. Huge Eyebrows goes to town and picks up any of the things that you order, including tools, animals, and some items.
At this point, I'm going to go into the good things about the game, and the reasons why I gave it a 3 and not a 1. You can ride the horse anywhere. That is awesome. You can set up shop in the middle of town and sell literally anything you own that you can carry around including (but not limited to) your in-game music, tools, flowers, etc. The setting up shop is my favorite part of this game. You can whistle to characters to get them to come over, and you can give them deals to make them like you more. It would really shine if were a more detailed experience and if there were more characters to visit you.
The mining experience isn't really an improvement or a downgrade, it's a mixed-bag. It's not mining anymore, it's diggin. It's *drum roll*... archaeology! You no longer descend into the depths of the earth, floor-by-floor, ladder-by-mysteriously-hidden-ladder. Why were the ladders there in Back to Nature, and did someone sneak into the mine the instance you left to cover them back up with dirt? Anyway... you can dig up fossils and other old/strange things, as well as some other event-items. It's not very fun, and it's almost as tedious as watering the crops has become. At least you don't have to descend forever like you do in Friends of Mineral Town.
I think if you buy this game, probably the best things to do with it are turn it on and just listen to the nice sounds, enjoy the beautiful environment, and use it to get good stuff in Friends of Mineral Town. Sounds like I'm talking about a coffee-table book or something...
Normally, I wouldn't feel right reviewing a game without knowing it well enough to write an FAQ about from memory, but if you play a game as much as I played this one, and still can't get into it, then there is something wrong with it. (I feel that it is worth noting that another reviewer made a similar comment to the one I just made. I felt it was worth repeating.)
I've been into Harvest Moon since I saw the SNES version in Epic Center back in the earlier days of Nintendo Power. I've logged countless hours in Back to Nature, and also bought and almost instantly sold Save the Homeland (the PS2 version).
Gameplay: 6 at first, 1 after an hour. Abysmal, to say the least
Graphics: 9 - One picture of this game is worth ten-thousand words.
Sound: 9 - Wonderful music, wonderful nature sounds, strange misc. sounds.
Replayability: 1 - I might put it in to connect with FoMT.
Story: 1 - I didn't touch on this. It's basically "PLAY FOR FIVE YEARS, END!"
For figuring my overall average, I count the sound and graphics as a single 9. This is because they are merely half as important as the other categories. Go play Harvest Moon: Back to Nature and tell me which one was more aesthetically pleasing. Then tell me which one you'd play again.
My score reflects the good and bad in the game very literally. The game is 70% nice-try, 30% what-happened-to-all-that-potential. Worth a rent at best.
Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 03/20/06
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