Review by ThirstyThirstin
"Possibly the best one yet. Certainly the most time-consuming."
I do loves me my Harvest Moon games and from the ones I've played (A Wonderful Life, Magical Melody, Mineral Town, Rune Factory) Animal Parade is probably the best one out of all of them. It lets you choose between playing as a boy or a girl because it's finally caught on that no one wants to by the same game twice in order to play as a different gender. You can ride any of your animals and you can ride an ostrich (after a very very long time).
The biggest problem is everything just takes too long. Most of my time involves walking over tremendous acreage to get from place to place. The graphics in this game are decent at best so the scenery isn't so lovely that I need to take leisurely strolls down the overly long paths to enjoy looking at it, I just want to get to where I'm going. The actual farm that you live on is enormous and everything is ridiculously spaced-out. It takes like three minutes to reach the end of the farm area to get to one of the other areas. But then when you get to one of the other areas, there's another long long loooong path and a bridge and a path after the bridge before you get to your destination. I guess this is to make us want to ride our animals around, but why wouldn't we want to ride our animals? It's one of the main hypes for this game.
Also when you change locations or go into a building there's a long drawn-out fade-to-black and then it has to show a subtitle for the location for a minute and a half and then very very slowly the place starts to fade in. There are many long drawn-out fade-to-blacks to accommodate the fact that the game developers didn't feel like showing the animation. But there are some fades that just seem unnecessary like bringing up a menu screen. There's a mine cart that you can ride between the mine area and the town area as an attempt to make a shortcut and when you click on the mine cart it immediately does a long fade-to-black with a small loading screen and then after it slowly fades back, it asks if you want to ride the mine cart. Of course I want to ride the mine cart. I wouldn't click on the mine cart if I didn't want to ride it. And then when you click yes, instead of animating you climbing into the mine cart or just animating one of your ninja leaps like you do to ride your animals, it slowly fades to black yet again and then you're in the mine cart. Next comes a short-but-still-long-enough-to-be-irritating unskippable cutscene of you riding the cart followed by another fade so you can get out of the cart. This all may seem a little nitpicky, but put all these things together and you get a whole chunk of playtime of just waiting to get to where you're going.
Other than all the time-wasting things, Animal Parade is like any other Harvest Moon. You plant seeds, they grow, you give people presents to make them like you, and you engage in borderline-creepy virtual dating. Animal Parade, unlike other Harvest Moon games, makes the first real attempt I've seen at having an actual plot. You move into the town and discover that nature is out of balance and you're tasked by the Harvest Goddess to to ring each of the elemental bells to turn everything back to normal. You're also given a Harvest Sprite as a kind of Navi the fairy type of character but at the VERY LEAST does not bark orders at you all the time. It just follows you around everywhere you go in a sparkly ball that is kind of off-putting to me. I'd rather not feel like little sparky magic boy everywhere I go. As for the bell-ringing, it really just serves as something to get in the way of playing the game. There are a large amount of things you can't unlock until you ring the bells and certain characters won't appear until you ring the bells and the process for the ringing the bells dictates what you do in a day. There's one bell where you have give the lady who sells seeds 10 lettuce heads because she's having trouble growing her crops because the forces of nature are out of balance. So instead of her giving you the seeds you need to grow them for her, you have to buy the seeds from her and then grow them. And she also won't accept decent quality, they have to be at least "good" quality which is randomly determined when you pick them. You end up not thinking about how you want to run your farm, but how you have to run your farm in order to ring the bells so that you may get to the point where you can start running your farm.
But the farming is only a small portion of the game. After you've fed all your animals and watered all your crops and given presents to all the people you want to be friends with, there's still about nine hours left in the day. The only productive use of this time is either fishing and earning peanuts, or mining. You'll spend more time mining than you will anything else (except of course walking around and sitting through fade-to-blacks). The mining in Animal Parade is sadistic. It's fairly easy to find the valuable ores, but more then every other rock will have some sort of gas shoot out of it to mess you up. There's confusion gas which makes your controls reversed and there's darkness gas which makes you unable to see anything, so you're forced to leave the floor and try again. There's sickness gas and sleepy gas which have permanent negative effects on you that you have sleep off sleepy gas and buy over-priced medicine from the clinic for the sickness gas. There's the undodgable poison gas that just lowers your health for giggles. There's slow-down gas and then there's the gas that will set this game free: speed-up gas. If only speed-up could be harvested and pumped into the atmosphere. But no, it's only where you don't want to move like a heavily caffeinated gerbil so you can't aim the stinking hammer properly that the game decides to let you move at the pace that the tremendous landscapes outside demand. And just to be completely insufferable, there is healing gas and power-up gas that appear and disappear over a fraction of a second which is just enough time for the human brain to react to the noise and try to dodge, then realize the color of the gas implies it's not a threat and then watch it disappear.
But I mean, oh well. Once you find a bunch of the stamina berries, the mines become no problem and you don't even need the beneficial gases. As long as you get the valuable ores. But "oh" says the game, "are you really just going to sell the ores unrefined as is? For a small fee you can get your ores refined into precious stones. And you can't upgrade any of your tools unless you refine the metals." "Okay," you say, "that's a good idea." Each bit of ore you refine has less than a 50% chance of actually turning into something good and you will no doubt turn the majority of all your hard-earned ores into useless chunks of glass and scrap metal when you could've just sold the ores and made more money then all the scrap and glass. But in spite of this, it's still worth it to refine everything because the precious stones appear more often than you would think. It's just a very unfortunate process that cause constant disappointment and then pleasant surprises and then disappointment again. It makes me feel very manipulated when they could've just changed the system to something like: You need 5 red ores to make a garnet, you need 10 red ores to make a ruby. Something along those lines would've sufficed. I hate the whole chance thing.
Overall, I still have a good time playing Animal Parade. Once you get passed the first 4 bells, you quickly make massive amounts of money each day and happily start upgrading things. It's a relaxing little activity to do at the end of a hard day sitting in a comfy chair. You certainly need to get comfortable have to allow yourself a lot of time to relax.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 03/15/10
Game Release: Harvest Moon: Animal Parade (US, 11/12/09)
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