Harvest Moon: Magical Melody
Review by Hyper Shadic
"A Superb Update - And yet a return to the classics.."
Introduction: Harvest Moon: Magical Melody is the most recent Harvest Moon for the Gamecube, taking quite a radical change from previous Gamecube title, A Wonderful Life... Then again, with how different A Wonderful Life was from the previous titles, Magical Melody is a return to the basics of the genre in a lot of aspects.
Story: The game's start is pretty simplistic, but such is common for this game series. It's quickly introduced in the game's introductory sequence, but done decently well. To put the story outline in a nutshell: the Harvest Goddess has been turned to stone because people have "turned their back" on her, and pretty much stopped during what she's wanted them to, so you, the lucky farmer who can notice Harvest Sprites, gets to fulfill the requirement for magical notes to eventually restore the Goddess to her former self. Collection of the notes is pretty much just a way to give the player 100 goals to reach in order to complete in game fully, but it works well. (7/10)
Graphics: MM took quite a different graphical approach than A Wonderful Life, which is a shame, because that game was very pretty. The game goes for more of a simplistic, chibi style, but as such, loses the amount of detail seen in it's brother Gamecube title. The backgrounds for the most part are rather detailed, but the male farmer that you can play as (as compared to the female, who is considerably more detailed) is a bit too simple looking. I really like the look of some of the live stock though, the cows probably at the top of them all. There are some pretty effects in the game too, such as the heat distortion that you see during super-hot summer days. (7/10)
Gameplay: The gameplay has returned quite a bit to the classic elements of the series that A Wonderful Life skipped out on. Marriage is no longer required of the player, and camera seems to be more vertically positioned over the player, making the common element of splitting the land into "little squares" easier to see.
The changes go much further than that, however. Farming and gift-giving is still what most of the game focuses on, but there are certainly some large differences. First of all is the land, you actually get a choice as to where to start your farm, getting to pick between a large property near the ocean, a small lot convienently located close to town, and the riverside, a mix between the two, essentially. However, what lot you pick doesn't lock you there for the entire game; you can actually buy additional lots of land (and upon close friendship with the town mayor, almost half the town!)
The town is huge, and has a lot of characters to fill it. Not everybody and every store is there when you start, you actually over the course of the game (with appropriate actions) can about double the starting roster of the town. The player actually has 11 choices of who to marry based on gender (Well, your rival Jamie is.. Slightly ambiguously gendered, but able to be wed regardless of gender) which is a huge amount! In the previous Harvest Moon games, picking your partner wasn't much of an issue, because you just picked the one with the basic personality type that you desired (And they weren't exactly detailed.) But now you've got more than just the typical "Shy Vs. Tomboy Vs. Stereotypical Blonde" approach that was a bit disappointing in the past.
The first real annoyance with the gameplay will most likely be the stamina bar. There is a lovely little green meter at the bottom left of the screen telling the player just how much energy that they have before they pass out from exhaustion! At first this can very well be annoying, but as the game continues, you are able to upgrade your tools to be more efficient, doing bigger tasks while wasting less energy, and you can come across power berries, lovely little things that lengthen your power bar as a whole... The first one that you get of these is a GREAT improvement.
Crops and animals are obviously back, and are as central to the game as ever. The nice thing is, you don't have to make your farmer do it all just to stay o top, you can specialize in animals or crops, or even just specific types! A lot of of new types of crops have been added to the game, although the previous ability to create hybrid-crops has been removed for A Wonderful Life. An interesting note is that when you buy new livestock, they're always in their infant stage. This allows you to befriend them before they hit adulthood, although it would be nice to have a choice. You can make a living purely through your cows, horses, or you could just stick to a single type of crop a season... Winters may force you to change your style a bit, however.
Speaking of Winter, during this ever-snowy season, a lake west of the town freezes over, allowing the player to access a mine full of expensive gems. There's another cave on the northeast edge of town, but this one is a lot more profitable than it's easier-accessed counterpart. The patient can even mine diamonds, which sell for a LOT of money! That's the beauty of the games, that there are so many choices! Of course, Harvest Moon games in general are slow paced, so those not accustomed to the series many not enjoy it too much. For those who have been fans of the series however, this one more or less has all the gameplay that you've been wishing for in the series! (10/10)
Controls: There's not too much to say about the controls, although some handy options have been implemented. The C-Stick allows for quick, easy cycling through your items, so that you don't have to stop the action every time you want to look at what you've got on you, and you can scroll through to make sure that you're withdrawing the right item. The Z button shows a highlight of what property you own, the R trigger puts a blue square around what square of land you're currently targeting, and makes the player move around almost like Link would while Z-Targeting in Ocarina of Time. The controls sometimes feel a little bit laggy, but overall, do their job decently well. (9/10)
Music: The music in this game is simply a case of quality of quantity. There aren't a lot of tracks in this game, but the songs in the game are rather good. A few songs get stuck in my head, which is probably because both of how often they play, and as a testament to their quality. (8/10)
Reviewer's Tilt: Magical Melody is a very different game than A Wonderful Life, but is a great return to the classic elements that have stayed so popular within the community that enjoys these games. The game takes all those classic elements, and builds ontop of them with a very large cast of characters, a sizable town, and the great amount of possibilities and open-endedness that has made this series classic. (10/10)
Reviewer's Tilt: (10/10)
Actual score: (Calculated): 8.5 Rounded: (9/10)
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 12/12/07
Game Release: Harvest Moon: Magical Melody (US, 03/28/06)
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