Review by buruburu1

"Your Wonderful Life is Too Precious to Spend on This Game"

Graphics (12/30, judged by system)- When you start playing, at first you get the impression that there was some decent attempt at visuals. As with most aspects of the game, there is just the feeling that time ran out, so it was time to ship the game. The game features nice cast shadows, something you don't always see in Game Cube games, and this is a great effect, since the game is largely about time passing. As the sun and moon swiftly travel across the sky, the shadows change and lengthen, which helps to sell the idea.

Likewise, a lot of time was spent carefully plotting out the skies and lighting of the sun and moon as they change throughout the day. Evenings are really quite pretty, and when you walk into town as the sun is setting, with cherry blossoms in bloom in the Spring, it is really a sight to behold.

But it basically ends there. Animations are often crude. This is a slow game, and the sloppy choices are noticed early on. To exit every building, your character awkwardly reaches towards you, presumably to an unseen door handle, opens the door and walks out. This is odd-looking, and worse, it's incredibly slow. Within your first hour of playing this animation will grate on you. This game is also about character interaction, but the character animation is so boring that you hardly want to talk to anyone. This game features animal tending, but collision detection is awkward, and you will accidentally try to milk your bulls with your bare hands, or you will accidentally milk your cow an extra time, upsetting it. This game has a heavy emphasis on farming, and you will find that the camera shifts as you approach your fields—whether you intend to work on your crops or not—and this will mess with your movement trajectory. This game is about discovering life in a small town, but it's a stifling, small place with little of interest, and whereas the Game Boy Advance version of the game released in tandem with this had many events and social interactions, this game features hardly any. Where the hand held game features an interesting archaeology mini-game, complete with different levels, this one features a small, cramped underground room.

There is simply not enough content here to stay interesting. Somehow, though Animal Crossing had even less happening, graphically, the game play created more reason for me to enjoy the limited surroundings. But more on that in a minute.

Sound: Fx/Voice (3/10)- There's precious little here. It's a pretty quiet game. This is not a good thing.

Sound: Music (2/10)- Part of the reason there is little sound overall is because there is hardly a soundtrack to speak of. You'll get a couple of tracks you can play, jukebox-style, while on your farm. They aren't very interesting. There are a few extra tracks you can get by linking up to the hand held Mineral Town title, if you can manage that. On top of which, I can't imagine playing two Harvest Moon titles at the same time.

There is some music when visiting with neighbors. Any other time you are out and about away from your farm: crickets.

Game play: Length (15/15)- This series is for the slightly obsessive-compulsive. Time passes on a one real-minute per in-game hour clock. There are 120 days in a year. Minus 6 hours of sleeping that's over 30 hours of gaming, and I played through a year and a half until I shelved the game, disappointed. Had this game been polished, I could have seen an upgrade path so compelling that I might have played 60 hours. And though all of these never-ending life simulation games eventually end with you bored, I muscled through far longer, already bored, than I should have. Realistically, I was fighting to finish my first year to get married.

Game play: Story (2/5)- Neighbors move in, neighbors move out. Some even die. Year by year, you're supposed to care, while you build your life. Harvest Moon is supposed to be more interesting than a real small town. It isn't.

Game play: Game Design (10/30)- Having played two earlier games in this series, I was completely stumped as to why some design decisions were made. First off, and most importantly, farming is broken. In earlier games, and even in the Mineral Town title, your tool upgrades allow you to hoe, reap, and water increasingly large patches of land, up to a 3x3 section at once. As time goes on, this makes farming less tedious and allows you to be more productive. Here, you are never allowed to work more than one square at a time, no matter what. This makes farming incredibly tedious, especially since you will want to water your crops twice a day.

As mentioned, you just find that you don't care about your neighbors. There are only a couple of triggered special conversations you can have with each, and you will not want to randomly talk with everyone often until you find them. And if you intend to farm much, you won't have time to anyway.

Even pursuing girls—arguably half the game—is less than interesting. The game overall feels like it lacks as many triggered events. Even when you marry, there is no ceremony you get to enjoy watching. Suddenly, your gal just ends up in your house, with a kid. Whereas earlier games in this series would show great hand-drawn portraits of characters you're speaking with, this one skips them, I suppose thinking a close-up view of each is sufficient. It's not as good.

Raising animals, waiting for calves to be born, all of this is slow going. To raise money, I ended up fishing while doing something else—not how a video game is supposed to be played.

Simply put, this game is half-baked. There are even buildings on your property that look like they should have been functional, but aren't.

Final Thoughts: The Nintendo 64 and Advance titles are far superior to this. If you've never played a game in this series, start with those. Just avoid this one.

Reviewer's Rating:   2.0 - Poor

Originally Posted: 11/19/12

Game Release: Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life (US, 03/16/04)

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