Review by Gamecuber Delux
A completely un-biased review from a Harvest Moon ROOKIE.
I'm a rookie Harvest Moon gamer. Perhaps that makes the best circumstances for a review for this game, because I haven't experienced the other games and can give a review for this game. Not a comparison to the rest in the series. So get off your butt, throw on some overalls, and come with me to the farm!
Everything is up to you in this game. Put all your effort in to the farm and be a big shot, fall in love and get married(with children), be a po' boy and eat the weeds on your farm to survive, you name it. Now you may be asking, "Farm work? What kind of game is that?" To which I reply, "The most charming game I have ever played".
Time is split up in to several chapters. Days are 24 real life minutes long. Seasons are 10 game days long, and years are 4 seasons long. Some chapters are one year long, some can be up to three years. It's a good system, and I don't know if it could be better. It makes for a very long game. The events and cut scenes are spread out far enough to keep it interesting.
The plot of this game is unlike any other. You are a character who is given control of an abandoned farm. The goal is to turn this run down place in to a prosperous, money making... well.... farm! That's right. No killing. No stealing cars. No prostitutes. You are supplied with a few tools and a cow. Not a lightsaber or an AK-47. You plant seeds and milk cows amongst other things, and then you sell your goods. Use your money to buy better tools, animals, and seeds to plant. Before long, you can create a mini-empire.
Your farm isn't the only area. There is an entire town nearby. This town is filled with life. Everything from a hippy to some pyrotechnicians can be found living here. There is also a seed farm on the other side of the river. And a Waterfall. And a mansion up on a hill. And a beach. It's all very lovable. You'll wish you had more time to spend with all the people and places.
But farming isn't the only activity you can participate in. There is a very deep cooking system. There are actually quite a few recipes you can create with different crops. You can also go to the local bar and have a drink. That's always entertaining. Not your scene? There's always a quiet evening of fishing to be had. You can almost completely avoid the farm and just be a bum.
Goal #1 is to find a wife. There are 3 young women in the game that you can befriend. A quiet farm girl, an outspoken bartender, and a loner. All 3 are very interesting. You convince them to love you by giving them gifts and spending your time with them. Nothing like real life!! But seriously, it's a fun and entertaining system that will keep you busy for the first in-game year.
As you play through the years, people get older and some even die. You'll have a child. You have influence on your child's future like a real parent would. His interests can depend on who you spend your time with in the town. My best friend in the town was an archaeologist, and I took my son to see him often. He started to become interested in that field of work. It is so in depth that I had to play through more then once because I didn't know that half these things were possible, so I missed out on plenty of cool experiences.
It's all very refreshing. I've never played a game that made me feel so good. The story of Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life is so charming. Such a much needed break away from today's gaming trends. I've really been missing out on a fantastic gaming series if the others are anything like this. I'm glad I still own my N64 and my SNES.
The A button is used for most of the context sensitive actions. There really isn't a lot to say about the controls. It can kinda get frustrating when you accidentally water the wrong piece of ground, but it's nothing too bad. The controls are just very simple.
A lot of the charm comes from the graphics. It feels like an in between N64 and Gamecube game, but not in a bad way. So... cute. The effects are amazing. Every season is beautiful. You could just stand in the middle of town for hours and look at all the people, places and things. Watching sunsets on the beach in the summertime is almost as invigorating as it is in real life. I don't know any other way to describe the graphics then charming.
The sound is pretty stale. It gets damn repetitive. The sound of your feet on the ground is enough to drive you mad if you walk around for too long. Same goes for the dog barking all the time on the farm. This game needs more variety in the sound and music.
Play time is very high. Each year took me a little more then 10 hours to complete. Each chapter is 1-3 years and there are several of them. The game is very repetitive, though. I made it through more then 5 years on 2 different occasions, so thats at least 100 hours. That is unprecedented.
I recommend this game if you have a lot of free time on your hands. It is a very captivating experience, and everyone should give it a try. This is one of the best games I've played in 2004, and my pick for Gamecube Game of the Year. So what if it's not about killing people. Milk is way cooler then murder. Never forget that.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
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