Review by Sichan

"A Challenging Addition to the Series"

First, I'd like to take the time to point out this is my first official review of a game. Yay. Also, I'd like to point out that I'm a big fan of the Harvest Moon (HM) series and have played Back to Nature, Save the Homeland, Harvest Moon 2 GBC, A Wonderful Life, Magical Melody, and a little bit of the original SNES game on Virtual Console (I think that's all...), so I'm very familiar with the series and how it generally flows ^_^. Out of those games I've played, I'd have to say I think this is the second best so far after BtN. Its very cute, very fun, and most of all, VERY challenging.

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 and divided by 100 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.

(If it makes you feel better, for this game both of the methods yield the same solution in the end, which was 8/10)

Gameplay (8/10) 30% of the overall score

Like I said, Island of Happiness (IoH) is a challenging game. Its much harder than any of the previous games I've played. The number one obstacle I think is in money making. Its pretty difficult to get a lot of money quickly in this game. The crops are hard to grow thanks to a new system where you need a certain amount of light and water to get them to grow right. One bad season could seriously set you back. But once you get the fishing rod and the mine, it gets a little easier. And then after that, you can get livestock which are refreshingly reliable compared to the crops. The problem then lies in time. Time passes very quickly in this game. I got this game last week and I'm already half way through year 2. And because the villagers will leave or stop accepting gifts if you don't talk to them for a while, there's no ignoring them while you get your stuff together. So you have to schedule your days really carefully. And then there's the stamina and fullness (hunger) bar which have to be the worst part of the game. Your stamina drops really quickly (I think it drops faster as your fullness goes down) and your fullness can drop at any moment. It can be annoying, but overall it gives a new level of difficulty to the game that was never there before in the series. If you didn't like previous HM games because they were too easy, then you'd probably like this game.

Controls. This was the one thing that made me hesitant about getting this game. I heard so many bad things about the controls that I was scared it would really hurt my experience of the game. But when Tree of Tranquility was delayed, Rune Factory started boring me again, and Tropical Storm Hanna knocked out my power, I decided to go out and give it a shot. And its not that bad at all! It can be a little difficult at times (like when I throw away my animal feed instead of putting it back in the feed dispenser...) and there are definitely some kinks in it...The Touch Screen sensitivity is difficult to get used to and sometimes I have to tap or move things two or three times before the Touch Screen actually gets it, and then its not always accurate because of it. But overall its easy to use. Of course, its not going to be for everyone; so if you don't like using the stylus of the DS, then this might not be the game for you.

Unlocking some of the other features of the game can be hard too and so far, I'm having a bit of trouble winning contests, getting these "Wonderfuls" to upgrade my tools, and unlocking the grains and sheep, lol. But I'm sure these are kinks that will be worked out as I play. This game requires a lot of patience which I personally have never been good with.

Another new thing is mini-games you play with the animals to pet them, milk them (cows), or shear them (sheep). I have a lot of fun playing these games and I think they're adorable, but some people are aggravated by this feature. So it definitely depends on the person.

Story (9/10) 50% of the overall score

The most important part of a game for me. I really liked the story for IoH and its a new take on the HM series. In this game, you are basically building a civilization from scratch starting with only 5 people: Taro, Felicia, Natalie, Elliot, and yourself. As you progress, everything else progresses too! There has to be at least 80 different characters in the game and about 30 main characters. Its sorta like MM in that as you play the game and accomplish new things on your farm, new people will come in, but its been expanded to include a wide variety of people and services who can come in. Since I've only had the game for a week, I can't tell you how deep these characters are, but so far they seem like they'll be interesting to learn about in the long run. Its a lot of fun to watch the effect you have on the game...

Aside from that little "the island that grows with you" feature, its the classic HM game. The basic story is about farming, finding love, and starting a new family. A new addition to the "finding love" part is the fact that you apparently effect the heart events (the cutscenes between you and your boo at each heart color change). During the cutscene, you are given questions to answer and your answer effects the event that happens at the next heart level. That's pretty much all I know about that, but its a nice change to I think knowing that I influence the story that much based on what I do and say.

Overall, I think its a heart warming story that any HM fan would love.

Graphics/Audio (6/10) 10% of the overall score

Graphics is the very least important thing for me when playing a game...I don't put much importance in the graphics of a game but if I did, I don't think I'd be too happy with this game. Its a bit choppy and blocky and when running, there's this weird glitch thing where some sort of black...thing...flickers in the corner of the screen. But its still pretty good considering its a handheld game. I absolutely love how the livestock look, especially close ups of the chickens during the petting mini-game. Since you can barely see the characters while walking around, I also appreciate having an anime-esque snapshot of characters' faces while you're talking to them and the art is pretty cute. I'm just glad they don't all look like babies and toddlers like they do on MM...they still look pretty young for their age but all HM characters have looked young in all of the games. The environment was done pretty well though; I loved the inclusion of butterflies, bugs, and frogs.

The audio was repetitive but cute. I liked all of the sound effects, but the music left a little something to be desired. But I'll admit, after playing RPGs like Zelda, Lunar, and Final standard for game soundtracks is a bit high. And after playing The World Ends With You, I now know that the DS is pretty capable of quality sounding music and voice acting. I would have liked a bit of voice acting in this game...some "hi"s, some groans, some sighs...they would have been a nice addition. But then again, with everything else in the game, its not odd that they weren't able to include it. And its still good without it considering most other HM games do not have voice acting. The music doesn't really capture the atmosphere of the season in this game like it has in others, but its still pretty nice to listen to nonetheless. Its not something that will aggravate me as I listen to it every time I go into town or walk around my farm.

Replayability/Play Time (7/10) 10% of the overall score

Another very unimportant thing for me when I'm playing a game ('cause I usually never replay a game anyway). However, for those who like replaying a game, like most HM games, its definitely worth playing over and over again, trying to get different heart events, trying for different girls/boys, playing as the opposite gender, etc. But..there seems to be one obstacle in this so far: this game seems LONG. It seems so far that it will take a good bit of time to get the island to 100% and to unlock all of the things of the game. In most HM games, I have my prospective husband/wife to at least a Yellow heart, have at least two of each animal, have made about 100k, and have upgraded all tools at least once by this time of game play. But I've just barely touched the surface of these things in this game. But this isn't a bad thing. The one thing I hated about other HM games is that it was always too short and I could get everything done within two weeks of playing it and then I'd have nothing left to do. This game will keep me for awhile. Though because I'm an impatient person, its also a bit irritating, lol.

Because there's so much to do in the game, its long, but once you're done, it'll be worth playing again.

Final Recommendation

In the end, this game gets a 8/10. It has a its flaws, but I've yet to find a game that didn't. It's been very enjoyable so far and its kept me entertained during my free time (and sometimes my not so free time when I should be doing homework >.>). I really recommend this for the HM fans out there and think it would be a nice addition to the series to add to your collection (if you have one). BUT! I do not recommend this as your first HM game to play if you're a newbie to the series. I'd suggest trying a slightly easier game to get you used to the series before getting into this game.

This is a good game and I think its a great add to the series. Can't wait to see what they do with ToT!

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 09/15/08

Game Release: Harvest Moon DS: Island of Happiness (US, 08/26/08)

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