Review by Sichan
"A Slight Disappointment but still a Good Addition"
Hi hi! I present to you a review for Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquility. As I said in my Island of Happiness review, I'm a long time fan of the series and have played many of the HM games out there: Back to Nature, Save the Homeland, Harvest Moon 2: GBC, Magical Melody, Harvest Moon (virtual console SNES version), A Wonderful Life, and Island of Happiness. I'm very familiar with the game's traditional flow. Out of the games I've played, I so far rate this as number three after BtN and IoH.
I want to give a brief guide to the math of this review. I personally assign each feature (gameplay, story, graphics/sound, replay) with a percentage depending on how important it is to me when considering a game. Then I score each feature from 1 to 10 and multiply that by their percentage. The resulting numbers get added together to give me a percentage which is then converted into a ratio of whatever out of ten to get the overall score! Its a little confusing, but I think its the fairest way for me to get an overall score ^_^. I know I could also just find the median...but that would only work if all of them were equal in importance to me, lol.
Gameplay (8/10) 30% of the overall score
I feel like the gameplay of this game is probably the best feature of this game. There is a lot to do and plenty to keep you nice and busy. Its not as challenging as IoH, but its still a bit of a challenge. With so many different kinds of livestock like ostriches, silkworms, goats, ducks, and the traditional ones, so many different types of plants, a good selection of wildlife/pets, fishing, friend-making, part-time jobs, and mining you ALWAYS have something you can do during the day. No day goes undone. In the beginning, since time passes inside buildings, it can be a little hard to fit it all in one day, but I think it adds to the realism and challenge of the game. When do you have time to do everything you want in one day? The new features, like changing your clothes, part-time jobs, making wild animals your pets, and the new animals and plants, are a refreshing change and something I think we all have been wanting, wondering why these weren't in past games.
Controls. They are pretty simple and easy to use once you get the hang of it. The motion controls are generally all the same but in all fairness, most of the motions (tilling, fishing, hammering, watering) all require the same action in the game and in real life: up and down. If you aren't up for getting physical in your farming, you have the option of using the classic controller or just pressing A to do the action instead. I liked that the motion controls weren't needed as they can be a bit hard to control and aim. Also, you can't control the camera angle which is really awkward and annoying...
One thing that everyone's been complaining about other than the camera angle is loading times. It is not really that bad. It definitely interrupts the flow of the game, but after a while, it becomes part of the flow of the game and is hardly noticeable. If you allow it to become part of the flow that is. Each new screen requires a bit of loading time and depending on where you're headed to, it can take approx. 3-6 seconds. That's not that bad unless you're a really impatient person. And if you look back on the older generations of games and recall the 30 sec.-2 min. loading times (if you were lucky), you can feel a lot more grateful that its only a few seconds. Someone also pointed out to me that games that are made early in a console's "life" tend to have a few glitches and longer loading times because the game makers are just getting used to the console. So let's cut them some slack with that, ok?
The only thing I will not cut them slack on is the Calvin glitch. Apparently, one of the bachelors is not longer eligible because his final heart event will freeze your game every time. Also, this glitch prevents female players from progressing further than the 10th level of the mine...After the delay, they still managed to have a major glitch in the game...
Story (5/10) 50% of the overall score
ToT's main storyline is saving the Harvest Goddess and Goddess Tree that has withered and died by collecting the ingredients to make rainbows. Seems pretty simple, right? Nope. Without a FAQ, you're pretty much in the dark on how you're supposed to go about getting these rainbows and recipes. The game does not specifically tell you how to do this, which was definitely annoying. But once you get the clue, its a lot easier and you can appreciate the heartwarming story it is. Its not a new story really. In fact, its almost identical to the story for Magical Melody where you had to collect music notes to save the Goddess. And of course, there is the usual farming, befriending, and family making.
But the storyline is pretty classic now, right? What's wrong with that? Well, my main gripe lies in the fact that they focused so much on the great gameplay that a lot of the story and characters seem really "tacked on". The characters seems really flat so far and tend to fall in some sort of stereotype instead of having any real depth. This is a lot different than in BtN and in IoH where by befriending them, you slowly learn more about their lives and wants. Maybe I'm wrong, but all of the characters feel really stoic, unchanging, and uninteresting; a lot like the characters in AWL. Also, the festivals and the heart events were practically taken out of the game completely...which is a shame because that was probably one of the greatest parts of the story and the main place where you got to befriend people and learn more about them. The only festivals are romantic ones and the heart events...I don't want to spoil anything so I'll leave that alone.
The only really good thing about the story is the character interactions. You now have the ability to directly speak to the characters outside of "yes/no" answers that influence how they feel about you (i.e. their affection levels). It provides a unique and interesting level to the game and to the story...too bad the characters are too flat to really make this pop out.
Graphics/Audio (8/10) 10% of the overall score
So unimportant to me, but still a vital part of the game for many others. The graphics in this game are beautiful in my opinion. The character designs are a stark difference from the old games. In this game, the character designs remind me of Osamu Tezuka (the maker of Astroboy) art, and I like it. For once, the characters almost look their age. The landscape and the animals all look realistic and vibrant; unfortunately because of the camera angle, you can't truly appreciate it. I guess because its the Wii, some people might have been expecting more from this game's graphics, but I think its cute and nice to look at.
The audio really blends into the landscapes and sets the mood. I like it. Of course, its no Zelda, The World Ends With You, or Final Fantasy soundtrack...but it serves its purpose. One new thing is that they have voice acting for your character! A lot of people says its sounds grating and annoying, like the character spoke into a fuzzy, bad DS microphone, but I don't hear it. Maybe its because I have a TV that's been working since about 1999 and its sound quality isn't up to par with these new-fangled, HDTVs and such...but I think it sounds ok. The voice really matches the way the character looks (though I only played as the female character so far...not sure how the male character sounds yet). Unfortunately, only the main character has a voice...I was hoping to hear something from everyone but no dice.
Replayability/Play Time (7/10) 10% of the overall score
I very rarely replay a game, so this is one of those things that does not influence my opinion. However, others do and if you are a replayer, I think you'll like this game. There's a worth playing through again in almost any HM game, and the same goes for this one as well. Unlike IoH though, there isn't a TON to try to accomplish in this game, so you'll probably end up replaying it sooner or later. This game is innovative in HM games in that they allow you to replay as your "child". Its called "new game +" and after going through with some demands, you get to start the game over with all of your possessions. You're supposedly your child...but its really just the main characters (if your child is the same gender as you, then they'll look exactly like you). A bit silly...that had potential but they didn't follow through with it.
Overall, this game was definitely a bit of a disappointment. After the long, long delay, I expected a lot from this game but it fell short, mainly in the story area. But, its still really fun and addicting, just like most other HM games. The gameplay was really the saving grace for this game. With so many new features and things to do, I'm still finding it entertaining and fun. I think its a great game for those wanting to be introduced the the HM series. It presents a lot of the traditional game mechanics in one game and also has new features for the new generation. For veteran fans like myself, you may or may not like the game depending on what you're looking for in a game in general. If you want a slow-paced, fun game to sit down and relax to, then this is your game.
The math gave the game a 6.5/10. However, I rounded it up to 7/10. It has a lot of problems but it can be overlooked if you want to overlook it. If you don't want to, try to see if you can buy the game used for a lower price.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 10/07/08
Game Release: Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquility (US, 09/30/08)
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