Review by amharper1010

"Jimmy Stewart would be proud..."

Gameplay -
The gameplay is solid with a few kinks, but the good news is most of the kinks go away once you have played a while and are used to the controls. Simple things like watering, taking care of animals, and moving are held back by small problems. The new watering system may not be perfect, but it improves significantly over previous Harvest Moon games. A yellow box now surrounds the tile that your character is targeting for work which eliminates watering or chopping down the wrong crop, unless you're working fast. Sometimes you will accidentally milk your cow instead of pushing it if you move slightly in the wrong direction, which can get annoying. But this can be easily avoided by simply pushing your cow with the joystick and using the c-stick to steer the steer (heh, get it?). Movement shouldn't be a problem, unless you're using an old controller. Using old controllers often results in your character walking slowly even though you're pushing the stick all the way. Besides those minor complaints, gameplay is very solid. The focus on making cash has been taken away from the crops and placed on the shoulders of your livestock. This kind of bothered me, seeing how crops are nearly obsolete unless it's a tree. But now you can do cross-breeding and make some funky looking crops which make the veggies more fun.

Story -
There isn't much of a story, but hey, it's a Harvest Moon game what do you expect? Harvest Moon games are always based on the same story: in some shape or form you inherit a farm, and it's your job to make it successful. But this game adds a twist. You're now pressured to make friends (who become friends-with-benefits when you're in good with them, but not THAT kind of friend-with-benefits), which can develop more story about them and their family. And guess what? Life actually CHANGES now with the chapter feature. Your life is separated into different chapters, and after each chapter, things change. Someone may die; someone may move away, someone may move in, the town changes geographically, people age. It's a great addition to a game franchise that has been plagued by repetitiveness ever since the first game came out.

Graphics -
The graphics in this game can be good or bad, depending on how you look at it. The visuals are unique and often add subtle graphical touches. Everything from the reflection of the water, to the greenish tint on the water in the ocean, to the single leaf that slowly floats off a tree, everything is done well. But the graphics aren't top-notch quality. It's not so bad though, you shouldn't buy this game solely to see a tomato in high-res.

Sound/Music -
You only have 2 songs to play in this game from the start, which can make you want to mute after a few years of the same 2 songs. But the upside to that is you can play them whenever you want instead of waiting for a song's respective season. The upside is you can link up with Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town for the Game Boy Advance to get more tunes. But I guess it isn't an upside if you can't do that. The link-up is good, because you can get a bunch of songs from previous Harvest Moon games. The biggest plus is that there a few songs from Harvest Moon 64; arguably the best Harvest Moon game audio-wise.

Play Time/Replayability -
Unless you're an avid Harvest Moon fan, this game won't hold you for too long. But if you love the series as much as I do, you'll be playing for hours on end. I guess you could say this game has good replayability, seeing that you do basically the same routine everyday.

Buy or Rent? -
If you've never played a Harvest Moon game before, or if you're not a fan of the series, I would definitely rent. Even if you're skeptical as to whether you'll like this game or not, rent it. But if you can't get enough Harvest Moon, just go ahead and buy it. It's priced at $40, so it's cheaper than most games anyway. This is the biggest and best Harvest Moon ever, and it will keep you playing longer than any other Harvest Moon game has before. You're family will age as the years go by just like everything else, so it's rewarding seeing your son grow up. Nudging him on one of the many career paths is ok too; just don't pressure him too much. ;)

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 04/08/04

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