Review by Sephiroth101

"Flawed, yet still an excellent game that returns to the roots."

I hate lengthly introductions, so lets make this short. Magical Melody aims to return to the roots of the Harvest Moon series and get away from the way the more recent installations (Save the Homeland/A Wonderful Life) work. In other words, back to putting farming back in the spotlight instead of the socialization factor. While it works excellent for the most part, there are a rather alarming amount of major flaws, mostly from the result of a rushed product. The intro to this game is like the others, of you coming to the farm and how you got there. This involves having to rescue the Harvest Goddess from previous games, who is mysteriously encased in stone. This involves collecting musical notes, and hence the title of the game, Magical Melody.

Gameplay - 9
Magical Melody plays a lot more like the SNES Harvest Moon and Harvest Moon 64 than the games on the current generation consoles. This means you have a sizable amount of property and plenty of ways to make cash from farming crops, raising animals, foraging, and mining. A new aspect is a visible stamina and fatigue meter, though it is MUCH shorter when compared to previous games. This tends to limit physical activity in a very large way. If you plant say six fields of 3x3 crops, it will take all your starting stamina to water it. You must then work by eating random things to bring it back up. The limitation here is massive and impacts the game drastically, though it is needed because of some following points.

Crops in the game are significantly cheaper than in the others. Most crop seeds will be bought for 20-60g at the store. In turn, this can plant up nine crops. Each crop can then sell from 100-300 on average. On average you can make 45 times more in profit than what you spent. This makes the game extremely easy if you decide to load up on crops. Grass costs 50g, only one-tenth of that when compared to the previous games. Money flows in Magical Melody.

Animals are much better and more balanced. Bringing them inside and out is relatively easy. They have a high initial cost and will not produce any significant profit for a long time. One thing that seems odd is that chickens will not lay eggs outdoors. They do eat for free, but it seems that they are destined to be indoors 24/7. You can bring them out in the morning and put them indoors at night to get the best of both worlds, but it takes a significant amount of time to do so. There is also a significant framerate hit when a large amount of animals are on the screen.

Mining in this game is an even easier way to get gold compared to crops. Even mediocre ores will sell for vast amounts, and when winter rolls around, you can leave will your pockets overflowing with money. Mining takes a good amount of real world time though and patience to help counter that, plus the limited stamina.

Moving onto the rest of the game, it doesn't flow in real time. People do not walk from location to location, but teleport to where they should be if you leave the screen and come back. Fishing is for the most part much improved, and is done much like in Animal Crossing. There are a significant amount of fish and places to fish year around. Individual townsfolk are so-so. There are a total of 21 people to marry (10 girls, 10 guys, one guy/girl mix) and each one varies a lot from the previous one. Unfortunately, dialogue and cutscenes are few and far between compared to previous games once again. Each person has one to three lines that they say for each level of friendship. The character pictures that you see next to dialogue are also missing from the game. Each person you can marry has a rival, though for some reason only one scene for each couple was shipped with the U.S. version and the couples also never marry each other. Once married, you can have a child though it doesn't grow up, much like the SNES/N64 games.

Music/sounds - 4
One music track plays for each season (Winter/Spring/Summer/Autumn). It gets rather repetitive and is a throwback from A Wonderful Life where you could select from a large amount of songs to play. Sound effects are good, though each character has only one or two "sounds" they make when you talk to them, most done in a rather comedic tone of voice (things like "Hi!" "Hey" "Ugh" "Ma!"). Overall it is pretty good, but the very limited selection of music and sounds devastates the score.

Replayability - 10
There are a LOT of ways to play this game. You can be a rancher, a farmer, a miner, a socializer or all of the above. You can spend all day fishing or all day foraging for goods. You have control over who moves into town and who leaves by your friendships. You can deweed the town or deforest it. There are a large amount of properties to buy in the game and an even larger amount of friends to make. Let us not forget that you can also choose to play as a boy or a girl. There is also the main goal of the game, to save the Harvest Goddess by collecting music notes. These are things simple like stay in the sun for X amount of hours or more challenging like make X amount of friends. Collecting them all or as fast as possible leave plenty of challenges for replayability. There are also a few multiplayer minigames if you got a friend to play with.

Execution - 4
While the game itself is very fun and massive, there are many flaws and missing things that can't go by without mention. These include things like the limited sounds, the limited dialogue for each character, the extreme ease of making money, the lack of a real-time world, which nearly every Harvest Moon before had, the total lack of rival marriages and more cutscenes, all which were in the Japanese version but cut for U.S. release. Localization teams also censored all instances of alcohol by replacing things like wine with soda but left the ability to axe your pet and the townspeople. Small things like the lack of the greenhouse nibble away at the score.

Overall - 7
Do the flaws hurt the game? Yes. The game made many leaps forward but too many steps back. None-the-less, it is an excellent game with a rather large amount of replayability. The game could have been perfect, but when release dates have to be made, things will get cut. Rent it or buy it, the experience is worth it.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 04/25/06

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