Review by Reverent
"Taking Harvest Moon another step up"
I think Harvest Moon really speaks about the personality of anyone who is addicted to it especially Magical Melody. Anyone who loves this game is a workaholic. The entire series is based off of the simple idea of building up your farm to be the best it can, with extra features like marriage. Magical Melody boasts the most amount of work that I have seen in any of the HM games I have played so far, and is the most balanced as well. Unfortunately, this game could have used another month or three of polish and more polling of the general gaming market of what they would like, because the pitfalls of this title could have been easily avoided.
Story 6/10 Let me just say that this is a Harvest Moon game and that an extraordinary story line CANNOT be expected. The basic premise of this game is that you are trying to revive the Harvest Goddess, which is easily obtainable by the end of your first year.
The general dialogue is a little weak as well. There are some characters that do say appropriate things, or even something that is a little interesting and speaks of their personality. However, most of the towns people suffer being a glorified tutorial for the beginning of the game, and then only progress into being 2-dimensional people that only talk about what their work is, or something else just as shallow. Get used to hearing the same thing over and over again. I wish that Natsume would pay the writers to come up with a LOT more dialogue for the characters.
Refreshingly though, the cut scenes with the characters are all decently written, so they stand out as tiny jewels of story.
Where the game receives its BIGGEST hit in my opinion is that the towns people do NOT get married in this game. The Japanese release had this feature, but it was taken out for some odd reason for world release. I find this to be a huge disappointment since the translation probably wouldn't have taken that much longer, and it would have added to the experience.
Graphics 8/10 This game almost looks like a cross between Animal Crossing and Wind Waker. Very cute, anime graphics that allow for just enough detail on the characters faces to give the exact emotion that the writers wanted portrayed. The town and crop graphics are also cutesy and appropriate. The only reason this game isn't a 10 out of 10 in graphics is because they aren't stellar, cutting edge graphics that would be needed for a 10 score. This does NOT hinder the game play what-so-ever, mind you.
What does hinder the graphics score is the occasional pixilation problems that can occur most notably in the mines and the immense slow down the game can have from one to many things being on screen. Neither pose a major problem, but the slow down can get a little annoying.
Sound 6/10 Prepare to hear the same song almost all month long. They're decent songs that can be tuned out, but they get old fast. I almost want to put the game on mute. Why couldn't there be like a cycle of songs for each season? Ugh.
Most of the sound effects are okay. Some perfectly set dogs barking, cats meowing, smashing rocks but others are just irritating. I put the television on mute now when I am going to be doing a lot of shipping since it bugs me that my characters backpack sounds like a saw that was just wiggled. A little more time spent here would have helped.
Finally, the voice acting there isn't a lot of it, and most of it is well done. However, some of the eligible men and ladies are made much less attractive if their voice is annoying. This is reasonable since I don't know how many people could stand a person with an irritating voice in real life, but it does end up detracting from game play.
Controls 10/10 The controls are blissfully good. After playing for an hour, everything becomes fluid. Just as a tip, it's easiest to flip between items in your pack with the c-stick. There is also a great function in the menu to go home immediately. The learning curve on the controls are low even for a new player, and since this is one of the primary points of the game, I'm glad that it was nailed right.
Game play 10/10 I cannot think of a single thing that could have been improved in this category. 11 different spouses to chose from, five house upgrades and a massive amount of land available for purchase is just the beginning.
With just the house alone you can buy various pieces of furniture with different styles to chose from, and then arrange them how you see fit. If you later decide you don't like where something is, including your house or barns, you can move them again later, so noob mistakes are gone.
The town also grows as you do things. Participation in festivals unlocks new characters, while not talking to someone will cause them to leave. Stores will either strive and expand if you shop there, or close down due to lack of business if you don't. You have to ship some items if you would like to get certain things to be in stores, and characters won't just let you buy anything you want without them liking you first. Though it feels odd to be in COMPLETE control of a town, it's actually kinda cool and definitely a plus.
There is also a wide array of things you can do, allowing you to be the kind of farmer you want to be. There are two mines, tons of plants, many different types of animals to raise, and you can actually make a decent living just collecting things off the ground, fishing, and cooking. Speaking of cooking, there are tons of recipes, and, thankfully, about 90% of them can be unlocked by just buying the item that you need to cook with (pot, frying pan, etc).
Each character in town also has a large list of things that they like and dislike, and though some of them are strictly profession/personality based, there are also some subtle food preferences too. This makes it a little easier to get someone to like you, especially when an item or two a character loves may be hard to come by.
Money making in this game is easy really easy once you get fertilizer but it's scaled by how much there is to actually buy, so you won't be left sitting around wondering what to do with it all.
Finally, the best thing yet you can play as a girl if you want to without having to buy a completely new game. Thank god they finally put into consideration their market.
Playtime 10/10 There is a lot to unlock in this game, and if you consider the fact that the game can be played over 22 times to see how each different spouse is, this game can be played for a near unlimited amount of time.
Overall 9/10 The real meat of this game is covered and done right. Again, only a little bit more polish could have made this one perfect, but this title is light years ahead of A Wonderful Life. The more I play, the more it feels like an expansive Friends of Mineral Town, and I like that. This is a must buy title for anyone who loves Harvest Moon games, and if you have kids, this is a perfect, kid friendly game that even adults can enjoy.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 04/24/06
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