Review by squalldaman

Reviewed: 03/23/04

A game about the small pleasures in life.

For the last few months, I’ve been clamoring about the new Harvest Moon. About how it’ll be great, so much fun, etc etc. My friends would go, “Hey SDM, what game are you talking about?” When I told them it was all about farming, their general reaction was “wtf, that sounds lame!” And indeed, it should sound lame. I mean…farming? What’s that all about? Give me fighting an ancient evil, combating in huge robot mechs, or uncovering a government conspiracy! Anything but farming! However, Harvest Moon is one of the most charming, addicting series to have been released in the last decade, and Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life shows exactly why. It’s impossible not to love this game, where you do so little yet so much.

The first thing you’ll notice about Harvest Moon is that there really isn’t much of a story. You inherit a farm from your dead father, whose last wish was to make it big with his best friend, Takamura. You’re given the task of making the farm successful, and in the meantime, developing relationships with your neighbors and even getting married. It’s the same as every Harvest Moon, essentially. But with a game like Harvest Moon, you don’t have to care about the story. Harvest Moon is one of the few games where there is more conversation about the gameplay than there is on the story. So you shouldn’t care about the story when playing this game, and you definitely shouldn’t factor it into whether or not you will buy it.

The controls are okay. It’s all very pressure-sensitive, so watering crops and doing anything with your land will become annoying at times as just a tap of the joystick will make you water crops that have already been watered, plant seed in land that hasn’t been hoed, or chop down a plant that is still growing. When you interact with characters and your surroundings, the controls are fine. Everything is assigned to the A button, and the X button will helpfully show you a menu of everything you are holding so you can access things at ease. The controls work, for the most part. No major complaints here.

After that, we get to the gameplay. The game is just a behemoth in terms of things to do. You have to plant crops, tend to your animals, make friendships with the townspeople, get married, and somehow make a profit; and this is all given to you on day one. The game spans a massive 30 years (10 of which are playable), and shows your character at different stages of his life. Harvest Moon is amazing because it is the little things that give awards. To see a plot of land with many crops growing on it, and harvesting the vegetables makes you sort of smile to yourself and admire your work. You walk down the street and people look at you when you walk by because you’ve given them flowers in the past. You talk a little extra time to wash your cow, and hear the grateful moo as it becomes squeaky clean. These are the little things that in real life wouldn’t be as fun, but all tie into your objective of making other people happy. There’s no great evil to kill, no giant robot mechs to fight, and no corrupt government to overthrow. The fun of this game is having your quaint little farm, and bringing happiness to the people around you through the things you do.

I’d buy it, definitely. Each day is 24 minutes long, and you’ll play at least 18 minutes of it. All the things you have to do will take a long time to complete, and there’s no way you could finish it all in a rental unless you play it nonstop from one end to another; in which case you’d still need to play 50 hours just to adeptly beat it.

Harvest Moon is one of the best games I’ve played for the Gamecube, and one of the best in the series. It will keep you entertained as long as you have somewhat of an attention span, and will want to stick around to see the fruits of your labor. It’s not the most exciting game, it’s not the most intense game. But it is the most rewarding game to be released recently, and is a valid option for anybody who’s sick of playing the role of heroes and heroines, and merely just wants to fill the shoes of someone closer to themselves.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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